Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Brittany Steigert – Paintings – MassMu Studio M

Before I get into this specific show, let me point out that museums are air conditioned! In these hot summer days, take a cooling break to go to Mass Mu, Canton, Akron or even Cleveland to enjoy hours of free cold air and quality entertainment. No crowds, no greasy foods, no screaming kids, no telephone talkers behind you (hopefully) and no deep pockets needed. Even the local college campuses and our own arts district have spaces with air conditioning so stay inside, but not at your own house.

Okay, I broke my own rule. With this review I have included an image from the show by the artist herself, Brittany Steigert. Why? Because first of all I make the rules, second because some rules are meant to be broken, and third…..because it is not often that one is stopped in their tracks with the “gift”. The “gift” as I have said before, is the talent given to someone that is beyond their control, the natural abilities they have been blessed with upon birth just as some people can shoot a hoop or play the drums far better than others. Ms. Steigert has the artists “gift”. Being young (she graduated Malone University this past spring,) she has years to develop her talents to their fullest ability, which should not take too long, perhaps a decade or so, but she is well on her way.

A decade?! Why so long? Because youth allows for the time to experiment and explore without being slotted into a category of style or imagery as will happen once she finds her true voice. For now, she should sing every song that appeal to her in the genre she has chosen. This show focuses on oil painting with some ink added every now and then. The statement lists fibers, wax and bleach as part of her media as well, but I did not find them in evidence. Granted, the oils may be mixed with wax or bleach as I am not an oil painter (can’t handle the fumes and toxins) so how those combinations would perform is out of my realm of understanding.

The show contains 18 pieces which present a consistent and well mounted show of color, scale, and presentation that read as one body of work. Personally, I would divide it into two and focus on the stronger 10 images that deal with light and reflection, but as an up and coming artist, that will happen in time as the voice becomes clearer. Both directions are strong and have merit, but the one is …and I don’t use this word lightly….stunning. Hence the image above as that is the word I wrote in my notebook. Not only does it capture light, but the depiction of time and dust and the vantage point of the artist/viewer all come together in an effortless presentation. Well done.

Others that are among her best are “I’ll Miss Fishing at the Cabin” with its hint of rolled papers and how light catches the edges of her elements and the far left panel of “Generation of the Depression Era”. Those bits of light tell the story and create the emotions that are relayed by the title. You all know how I feel about titles! The middle and right panel of the latter painting are not needed and detract a bit from the strength of the left panel; this is where editing comes into play.

There are no frames on any of the works which I like in this case. The sense of time and space are enhanced by not stopping the images with a frame. The tones of the gallery walls work in harmony with her color pallet. I found the rough surfaces of the canvas, the soft edges of the objects and the diffused light within them to all work together to add mystery and make her story telling that much more intriguing. The surfaces are in most cases “smooth” in their layering, more staining than impasto. To do that, an artist must be confident in their mark making, know what the media will do, where it will go and how it will react. Ms. Steigert learned her lessons well but I suspect she had the ability to trust herself before she was “taught’ to do so….that is the “gift” speaking.

It was refreshing to see a show that once again focused on the basic elements and building blocks of composition as well as one that did not reach for shock value or some weirded out explanation of the time / space continuum to justify subject matter. I can hear you out there asking, okay jk, what did you not like? Well, there are a few which I did not find as strong as some others, but so what. I did find them interesting to look at and explore, like the sewing machine and manual typewriter (ah, the good old days….). As I pointed out, her voice and vision are well on their way and she will be quite successful someday, no doubt about it, if she pursues images likes the one above.

Kudos to the Studio M of Mass Mu for providing a space to see work of our next generation of artists….skip the Bravo TV show, our locals are far better than that bunch of media miscasts.

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