Tag Archives: drawings

Revisiting Italy…In My Mind and in My Work

DSC_0748Today’s post is a preview to my upcoming exhibit on display at Boswell Mourot Fine Art February 28 – March 5 and again March 21 – April 2, 2015. Upon completion of grad school, I briefly wondered what would drive me to create a body of work in addition to my commission business. The answer presented itself as I applied for, planned, and attended an artist residency in remote southern Italy. The experience provided enough inspiration to last a lifetime and fuel countless bodies of work.

So I see this show as a scratch in the surface, as a beginning to a lifetime of visually exploring ideas I’ve contemplated for many years, ideas that Italy poignantly highlights in a lavish display of architecture, art, sculpture, monuments, ruins, and relics. IMG_4053 DSC_0880DSC_0907 DSC_0381DSC_0087    DSC_1000

 

 

 

This body of work is an attempt to consider and communicate ideas. Specific themes surfaced repeatedly during my travel research: the passage or suspension of time; the strong influence of history in daily contemporary life; and, visual cues contrasting the ancient with the modern. For example, several paintings examine the presence and participation of inanimate objects (see below left image and consider the statue, the key, the chains underfoot, the cell phone, and the purse), such as religious relics and sculpture, in contemporary life. DSC_0755

In Italy, I began to see the omnipresent visual references to history as beacons of light. Details in stonework, in sculpture, in ancient relics and ruins allow the past to shine on contemporary life by guiding us with ancient clues, philosophy and lessons. This body of work examines visual evidence that seems to contrast modern life but actually surrounds, shapes and embodies today’s inhabitants of Italy. DSC_0742

Viewers of this new body of work can consider ideas about history in our their own lives. The work integrates figurative imagery with layers of text, pattern and drawings in a manner that both hides and reveals information, causing viewers to seek answers and ponder the abstracted space in which the figures exist. My hope is that the work invokes thoughtful contemplation for viewers, as it did for me during the creative process.

And if that all sounds like a bunch of artsy talk, take a look at the above painting and I’ll show you what I mean. I hope you will want to study the figures and ask, “Where are they? Are they together and do they know each other? What is their relationship? Is he in her past, present or future? What is that book in her hand? What is he writing? What does that text say in the background around the woman? Who are the faded figures and are they people in his mind, his memory? Is he writing about them? What are those architectural drawings fading into the background?” There are not always answers to these questions. The point is to consider the work, apply it to your own experiences and ask questions that keep you engaged in something, in anything! There is a Robert Rauschenberg piece at Crystal Bridges Museum and the label states his work is about “the effort of searching for meaning rather than specific meaning itself.” Look at the images in your world and in the art you see, and think. You might reconsider an issue on your mind, or see something in a new light. If my work can provoke this type of exploration, then I’ve had some measure of success.

Thank you for visiting! And please visit Boswell Mourot Fine Art in Little Rock, AR if you’d like to see the paintings in person.

 

 

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A long awaited visit to the David Lusk Gallery in Memphis

IMG_4826After years of hearing about this gallery and admiring the artist roster from afar, I finally got to visit the David Lusk Gallery this past weekend. The two current shows, by artist Mary Sims and artist Tyler Hildebrand are great examples of the effectiveness of seeing art in person, as opposed to viewing online photographs of art. First, seeing the materials in both shows had a much greater impact on my perception and interpretation of the work. Second, viewing the work in person allows the size of the pieces, which are for the most part larger than life, to impact the viewer’s feelings and alter the relationship between the viewer and the presented figures.

Mary Sims angelThe vibrant work of Mary Sims (1940 – 2004) combines what appear to be conflicting images, mythology and historical references in the current show “Zuma and the Bible.” There is a tension between people, and perhaps between races, as figures appear to be either dominant or subservient in each composition. Religious iconography appears, such as the yellow halo (seen above in “Dream a Little Dream”) but the woman stares boldly out at the viewer, changing the mood from holy to defiant, as if she were being forced to dress up as an angel. Each painting contains multiple pointing devices moving our eye round and round, which is helpful, as there are details to discover with each rotation. For example, I initially somehow missed the tiny people at the feet of the woman in “Her Daddy Gave Her Magic” (below) and my awareness of the little figures completely changes my perception of the large central figure. IMG_4807

These paintings are full of tension and contrast: the rich colors contrast the messages of indulgence, power and dominance; the intricate patterns and fabrics reference multiple cultures; the clothing within each painting indicates various periods of time (see the Egyptian head dresses with the garter belt and high heels below); and the strange interaction between animals and humans is at times comical as well as disturbing (see the little dog in “Ship of Fools” below). Viewing the paintings of Mary Sims is a way to feel simultaneously uncomfortable, bewildered and mischievous. These are each works one could spend a lot of time with, as if the paintings could change and grow with a viewer. As an artist, creating imagery that prompts discovery and rediscovery for a viewer is a personal goal and is one that Sims acmary sims.potapher_cornutohieves with provocative panache. ms.ship_of_fools

Tyler Hildebrand, an artist based in Cincinnati, delights, surprises and then disarms viewers with his show, “Granny Whitey: New Paintings, Drawings & Film.” The tone is set upon entrance to the gallery with actual shag carpet covering the floor and the presence of an old television, chair and full ashtray in the center of the gallery space. Visitors immediately know that we are trodding in someone’s memories of 1970s Americana.

Many of the paintings combine some type of consumption to the point of harm with a comical edge. IMG_4804Perhaps it is the presence of a child like drawn line that gives the pieces a certain humor and light mood. Additionally, most of the paintings are on found objects such as imperfect cardboard and old Dunkin Donuts boxes. But then the thick, bludgeoned, and sometimes bleeding bodies present a dark element. All of the figures are distorted with either enormous, elongated necks or no necks at all and bulbous bodies that seem to expand in uncomfortable proportions. It is as if the heads (our brains) are shrinking and the bodies are expanding causing the gross destruction of ourselves and each other. th.bowieAs I reflect back on the paintings, my smile at the quirky details fades and I realize how many of the pieces have hitting, bleeding, and fighting. For example, there are multiple images of guns, in collage style application or childish drawings. See the piece titled “Bowie” (here to the right): why does the man in bed have a machine gun? And what to make of “Wastin Away Again” (below)? Hildebrand provides these hints: the figure is too big for the enormous canvas, he has a tiny angry face much too small for his body, he holds a TV remote, and there is an empty speech bubble. th.wastin.away.again

My intention was to write more about the materials, such as pieces of scrap paper imbedded in the paintings, but the drawings and paintings on top of the found papers and materials dominates my response to the work. And finally, it occurs to me. Hildebrand is able to tackle a topic which I tried and failed* in my own work during an assignment in grad school: the portrayal of American consumer culture and what we are doing to ourselves physically and intellectually as we embrace fast food and immediate gratification. Perhaps because of my own preexisting interest in the topic, I am prone to see these themes in the work of Hildebrand. But the more I consider the details the artist presents (text such as “Where’s my Playstation?” and images of Waffle House, Cracker Barrel, beer cans, cigarettes, and violent acts when the figures don’t get what they want), the more I realize the brilliance of Hildebrand’s images and style. He doesn’t preach to us, he simply lures us in with a childlike technique that initially seems fun and light-hearted. However, stay a moment and consider the details – the visual hints such as blood and brand names – and the fun, youthful approach serves as bait luring the viewer’s thoughts to something pervasive and dark.

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Now that interstate construction is improving, I look forward to visiting the David Lusk Gallery for future shows. If they are a fraction as provocative as the work of Mary Sims and Tyler Hildebrand, it will be well worth the easy drive from Little Rock to Memphis.

Up next…

Lately, I’ve shared museum and gallery experiences in this blog. For the next entry in early March, I’ll write about my own recent body of work and will report on how the opening night lecture goes. For now, I better run put the finishing touches on “An Italy Experience: Reflections on Past and Present” scheduled to open Feb. 28 at Boswell Mourot Fine Art. Thanks for reading!

*here are two failed paintings where I tried to address manufactured food issues – I was told they are pedantic and offensive, which was not my intention.IMG_4832 IMG_4833

A quick visit to the Blanton, worth every minute

I have the pleasure of driving through Austin at least once a year and one of my first stops, straight from I-35, is the Blanton Museum of Art on the UT campus. In need of a coffee and a walk, the moderately sized facility never fails to satisfy and is always a reprieve from the long drive. Add the varied special exhibits, and it becomes a slice of heaven after too many billboards and fast food signs along my route.

IMG_4567So, with only one day in Austin last week, I found myself making plans with my daughter and niece. When brainstorming good rainy day activities, I gave the Blanton a hard sell. Fortunately, these two budding artists were enthusiastic about the plan and off we went.

Sadly, by the time I post this, the exhibit, “James Drake: Anatomy of Drawing and Space (Brain Trash),” has only a few more hours for viewers to experience as much excitement as I’ve ever seen in drawings (the final day is today, Jan 4). The exhibit showcases, pinned to the wall from floor to ceiling, 1,242 individual drawings which were the result of Drake’s commitment to produce at least one drawing per day for two years. At times the multiple drawings form a cohesive image and idea; other times, the individual sheets of paper flutter autonomously and create a random snapshot of the artist’s stream of consciousness as he moves from one subject to another, or repeats one item or type of subject in an effort to practice and better understand the object.

IMG_4569Often, Drake incorporates text into the drawings, which either emphasizes or contrasts the visual images. Sometimes the text appears in the form of commercially printed material and is glued directly on the drawing paper and used as a background underneath drawings. Some words are large and stenciled, some are tiny and hand written, reminiscent of a journal entry or personal reminder. The longer I stood in front of each large wall, filled with papers, the more I realized the vast variety of mark making – variety in subject matter, variety in value, and variety in materials. Drake seems to be working hard to determine the most effective materials and methods to communicate. He even uses some type of scientific graph paper with mechanically made lines measuring something (someone’s heart rate? some sort of geological movement?).

This variety reminds the viewer that meaningful marks can be made in infinite ways with multiple materials, all in the name of drawing and communicating. His work inspires me to think about how old the concept of mark making is…on walls, then tablets, then paper. As old as it is, drawing is as modern and futuristic as it is ancient. Drake manages to capture historic, traditional elements as well as contemporary applications of drawing, which I find to be one of the most fascinating and enjoyable results of the display.

IMG_4568Along that thought, what delights me the most, is the combination of traditional figurative work and all that other mark making. The presence of such variety creates an engaging and complex contrast. Yet, with all the variety, there is a simplicity, a calmness or orderliness to the chaos. There are few colors, mostly varying degrees of black and white, though sepia tones and red are integrated from time to time. And there is plenty of white space – empty areas that serve as calm spots amongst the high energy of the drawings. At times, Drake reminds me of the great artist and drawer, David Bailin, whose energetic compositions are unique due to an extreme and fearless fervor of mark making. Both artists are able to create abstractions and complex spaces in their drawings using a strange combination of figurative representation with lines that I can only categorize as “other” (think of the above mentioned graph paper with the seismograph like lines).

Had I stayed longer and more closely examined the drawings, the text, and the collage style imbedded papers, I would surely have a more thorough and thoughtful response to share. But the two little artists were hard to corral and off we went to the second floor* after immersing ourselves for a little while in the mind of James Drake.

Thank you for reading, and good luck getting to the Blanton before 5:00 pm today!

IMG_4585 *Regardless of the museum’s special exhibits located on the first floor, the second floor holds alluring treasures worthy of repeat visits, such as an exquisite Alice Neel painting, a meditative Adolph Gottlieb, and the installation show here, by artist Cildo Meireles.