(Full disclosure, I have a piece in the show which won an honorable mention in the category of acrylic paintings.)
Like several other folks, I stopped by the Little Art Gallery to pick up my rejected entry. Unable to make the opening due to a wedding weekend at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend (awesome I must say), I did not know about who won what awards or any of the details regarding the jurors or number of entries. The gallery was empty when I arrived, but after making my first pass, I sat on the bench to reflect and in walked three teens, two girls and a boy. They ignored me but I certainly latched on to them and their conversation. They apologized for disturbing me but I jumped at the chance to talk with them and we ended up discussing the show and the pieces for 45 minutes. The teacher in me could not resist. The young man who had professed to disliking art became my target. Once he understood how to view the pieces, he was hooked. I don’t think he liked “art” any better, but he could appreciate it and genuinely seemed to enjoy himself.
At first I was hard pressed to find what I wanted to write about in this show, but their reactions to pieces now makes my job easier. We started with Robert Gallik’s first place piece, River Marker #5. To the clueless, it is a pile of rocks and some wood and some wire. The teens made fun of it, much like they would an odd classmate, more out of ignorance than to be mean. And so it began…how is wire screening like water? It has mass and strength, yet is easily passed through. The gravel is the river bed, it rises into the wire water, but also settles below. The corners of bent wire are like ripples and waves, the tall wooden spikes, burnt on top, are the river grasses reaching tall to the sun. Once they read the title and walked around the piece, it became a favorite.
We discussed how and why an artist would choose a certain frame such as the light wood on Dan Chrzanowski’s best in show graphite drawing. Again, it was a piece dismissed until the difficulties of technique were explained, how some surfaces are hard to achieve, smooth yet showing the artists hand and how that process differs from the smooth surface of a painting that does not. I asked them to show me which pieces showed evidence of risk and thought and chance and which ones did not. On what did they base their choices? Interesting answers from a generation raised on computers and technical media overload.
We looked at the overall room and decided why certain pieces are placed where they are so as not to detract from or overwhelm another, giving each one its due. How sometimes a piece next to another one will make the weaker of the two look better than it really is. I asked why “that one” (pointing out mine, but they did not know it) was hanging by itself, alone on a wall…the answer, by the more savvy of the three, was that it is “like a punch in the face”. I kept mine straight. I guess that beats being a kick in the pants.
Having watched their first circle around the room, the one with the cigar, Breaking Through by Mike Uhren, was not noticed. I walked them back and we read the title. Then they saw it…the hands coming through the paper, figuratively of course because he drew it that way. This ah-ha moment lead to their roaming the room again reading titles. Looking for Truth from across the room does not work, but once challenged, they got it. They asked my favorite and I asked theirs. The girls based their choices on what they could live with forever and enjoy…a good reason. The young man was more about what the prices which once clarified that most works, if broken down, would be less than minimum wage earnings, did garner a new appreciation for the bottom line.
I chose two pieces, both by Lisa Vincenzo. Rain Cloud/Sea Green Ocean is a classic “page from a sketchbook” style piece. The raw yet delicate drawings, artist notes and again, that hand of the artist feel, are captivating to me. Maybe I am too old school from my own good, but direct observation and artist to surface contact right from the soul will win my heart every time. Her other work, Muddy Water with Beach Ball is just as fresh and sparkles with spontaneity.
The jurors’ statements were very helpful in that they explained their process of selection. No names, genders, titles or other baggage. It seems that every year I see new names and wonder when I will encounter their work again. The occasional repeat entry shows up as well and some longtime established talents are missing in action. Overall, I think the patrons of the library will enjoy the show without filing any complaints to management this time.