Tag Archives: paintings

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

How Looking Closely at Life Provides Artistic Content…and so Much More

When working on my recent body of paintings, a common thread appeared in my thoughts and observations: closely noticing things in our lives makes me feel more grateful. Compositionally, I capture moments that seem mundane or ordinary but once more deeply observed or considered, these moments become complex and provoking and can feel like little gifts.

DSC_0901What I didn’t realize is how watching closely in order to find painting content would morph into something much bigger and, for me, profound. By slowing down and doing a better job of listening, looking, and acknowledging my surroundings, I not only developed imagery for artwork, but a gratefulness practice that impacts my every moment and the way I view my world. Life becomes art and art becomes life, indeed!

At risk of straying off topic, I’d like to write about a recent experience. As I list the following kind moments, they might seem unrelated to my career as an artist and to the process of painting. But here’s the thing about it: as an artist, EVERYTHING RELATES TO PROCESS. These examples are an ongoing part of developing work and ideas. I also see them as a consequence of my gratefulness practice heightened through painting.

For those who like the image of a dark, suffering and brooding artist, get ready for an annoyingly optimistic one instead. Without further adieu, here are some lovely moments I noticed on a 4 day trip to New York City.

A young man (in his 20s) on the subway who was headed to an interview downtown kindly helped me with directions and then asked all about my southern home state (my country bumpkin’ accent was an immediate giveaway).

A man at the Museum of Natural History walked up while I was in the ticket line and gave me his extra ticket.

I tried to help a woman with three suitcases get up the subway stairs but her load was too heavy for me to carry up. This brawny arm reached forward from behind me. A big dude asked if we needed help and proceeded to carry the heaviest suitcase all the way to the top.

Again on the subway, a man gave up his seat for my daughter and me during rush hour. He was then smothered in the crowd during the rest of his ride which included several more stops.

UBER UBER UBER: Friendly drivers, good prices, spotless cars, fast service.

At the Brooklyn restaurant, Talde, every staff member in the place was aware of my daughter’s seafood allergy and made extravagant efforts to provide her with plenty of safe dining options. (note – in addition to extraordinary service, the food was delicious)

We arrived at the Beacon Hotel on Broadway and the desk clerk found a room so we could check in three hours early which significantly improved our day.

Two cleaning crew guys at Grand Central Station showed us the way to the restroom and teased us about looking utterly lost there during rush hour.

A college friend whom I rarely see invited us to her swell apartment for a home cooked meal with her family.

The aforementioned friend offered to connect me with an art dealer who specializes in contemporary figure painting. Really? Yes, so very thoughtful.

The bellman at the Beacon Hotel who stored and later retrieved our luggage was friendly and helpful.

The man who showed us to our bikes at Central Park Bike Rental, pointed to my daughter and said, “Come here, shorty.” She thought it was hilarious. When we returned the bikes later, he gave us perfect directions to our next destination.

When my daughter put a dollar in a saxophonist’s tip jar in Central park, he responded, “Thank you, little lady.” I know, I know, some might say this should be expected. But he did not have to say thank you at all. And he did not have to say it with such meaning and kindness in his voice.

The doorman at a friend’s apartment enthusiastically showed us how he works the manual “lift.”

We took a break in the foyer of the New York Public Library. As we ordered cold drinks, the salesman asked my daughter a few questions and said her answers reminded him of this little girl.

When checking my daughter’s shopping bag, the security guard at The Met talked with her about her soft and fuzzy new slippers and pajamas. She could have just rushed us forward or stared coolly into the bag. I guess this exemplifies most of what is on this list: human interaction and taking the time to care and connect, even in massive crowds, even when busy, even when working hard.

Though I have known her forever, the generosity of an old dear friend and her husband never ceases to amaze and humble me. They welcomed us into their Brooklyn home and into their busy lives and made us feel like nothing was more important than our time together (even though they have plenty of pressing tasks each day).

Every police officer was kind and helpful. In fact, everyone we came in contact with was actually nice…I mean really nice. People gave us directions, held doors open, answered questions, and said things like “Have a wonderful day!” It was like manners and helping each other was en vogue.

Even our experiences at LaGuardia and throughout our flights was better than I could have imagined: there were no long lines, the security check was short and sweet, the American Airline employees were jovial (yes, I just used the word “jovial” when describing something about air travel), the woman at the magazine stand was friendly and smiled. Other travelers looked and acted relaxed and positive. I wonder, have I become so jaded that I am absolutely stunned by the persistent loveliness we experienced at each and every turn?

So the next time you assume something about a person or a place, try to show a little kindness and appreciation. You might just get it back ten-fold. Without considering people and ordinary moments for my paintings, I migIMG_3451ht not have noticed and appreciated all the little, yet valuable, human kindnesses we experienced in New York. Thankfully, kindness, as well as artistic inspiration, can find each of us just about anywhere.