Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ya don't say!

My favorite book of all time is the dictionary, followed by the thesaurus and a synonym book I had to buy in 1975 for honors English class, long before it became known as “language arts”. Writing may be an art form, but like all good dishes of any kind, too much spice and sauce can’t hide poorly cooked pasta.

My husband knows that I won’t cook something which has a long list of ingredients. I won’t read a comic strip that has more words in the block than picture space, and I don’t like deadwood filler in my son’s academic papers. My high school English teachers were exceptional and our experience with writing and composition far different than what is taught today. With only an electric typewriter, paper, a plastic template inserted to line up footnotes, and some correction fluid, our version of cut and paste meant you wanted to cut your throat and eat paste each time a typo occurred. We learned to say what we had to say in a simple, direct and with a to-the-point perspective because Ms. F had a hundred papers to read and if you had deadwood filler in there…….public humiliation was par for the course. None of this self esteem crap. Red pens ruled!

As I come upon my one year anniversary of this blog, well…okay that would be Nov. 15th officially in case any of you whopping 19 readers even care, it is time to reflect upon what purpose Snarky Art has served to me or anybody else. Since we are all so busy and constantly bombarded with electronic media that mesmerize our minds and demand our attention, my intent with this site was to make what I write simple, direct and to the point just as Ms. F demanded.

Words can be like a Chinese menu, the old cliché of choosing one from column A or one from column B even though (like Mexican food) it is all the same stuff just listed in a different order. So what follows is my version of the expression selection. Decide for yourself which tastes better. I am sure some would consider this a choice between fast food or fine dining, but when one eats to live rather than living to eat, a quick digestion of the facts is all that is needed.

Mundane or sublunary; nice or fastidious; radiant or effulgent; enticement or inveiglement; (these are all synonyms by the way….) learning or erudition; assurance or effrontery ….okay, you get the idea. This is not the ACT’s or the Readers Digest word power page. I especially like inveiglement! Perhaps I can be inveigled into eating that brownie still on the counter. If tell someone I was inveigled today, they might advise me to call the doctor. My point is that as much as we all should and can value the richness of our language, to be overly clement could just lead to a state of confusion. (Which some of our youth probably think lies someplace west of Nebraska).
“It has often been said
there’s so much to be read,
you never can cram
all those words in your head.

So the writer who breeds
more words than he needs
is making a chore
for the reader who reads.

That's why my belief is
the briefer the brief is,
the greater the sigh
of the reader's relief is.

And that's why your books
have such power and strength.
You publish with shorth!
(Shorth is better than length.)"
— Dr. Seuss

Monday, September 27, 2010

Exploration and Return: Art Quilts by Carole Pollard

On view until November 5th on the second floor of the Stark State Student Center are 12 stunning works of fiber art worth several return visits. I happen to love art quilts, fiber works and things that required extensive hand work along with mental gymnastics to make a piece seem effortless. If I could work in another media, it would be fabrics. However, as with watercolor painting, when others can do it far better, stay in your own boat and just appreciate the view.

Carole’s bio and artist statement are posted so I won’t go into how they influence her work. An obvious connection exists and when you go see the show (which you will with an opening party on 9/29/10 5-7pm) my not telling you will allow for personal exploration of the intricacies of her craft. I was chagrined to find no dates, but thrilled to find titles. Her first ever quilt is in the showcase on the landing so it is easy to see where her work “begins” and where it is going.

Each piece has something fascinating to find so allow me to begin at the far left and walk along the walls telling my own story of discovery. Being a volunteer quilter, I can contribute my fair share of squares to an overall project, but to take a piece from ….ummm…pieces, to product seems daunting. The first to hang and an early project is “Little Blue Sister” with a companion next to it entitled “Quandaries Solved”. Both are similar in design and color using a peacock feather-like fabric print while utilizing both value and pattern as part of the curvilinear composition based on a standard 2” block layout. (Now doesn’t that just sound like I know what I am talking about!) In addition to standard quilting stitches, top stitching is part of the overall composition, a technique that explodes in significance as the quilts progress.

Next is “Wheel in the Sky” where flame-like shapes break the plane or format of the quilt itself. One corner is rounded. Yes, one definitely sees a swirling (though graphic in nature) star or other such cosmic entity spiraling in space. A majority of the “background” fabrics are of the same pattern, micro dots, but the blocks (the 2” squares which also form the basis of the design) transition in superb watercolor tradition with almost no hint of a break in the fabric line. I had to get really close (no touching!!) to see the seams.

“Things Fall Apart” still uses the quadrangle concept of the previous three pieces but really breaks away from them in technique. I found this one fascinating to see the rough and frayed edges of the border as well as hand stitching attaching net appliqués over watercolor fabrics to create subtle color changes. A vein of red crosses the quilt in both directions, leaking out a streak of intense color from behind other fabrics as if an open wound is bleeding. Pretty cool!

“Chi” is her logo piece which appears to be a compilation of various techniques and images found in all of her pieces, plus personal symbolism. “Odd Man Out” is a clever color block quilt based on a window pane layout using optical art concepts and incorporating one square that is relevant to the title. The way this section is done is part of the charm of art quilts as is the unevenness of hand stitching. As much as a person tries to get perfectly even stitches, it is nearly impossible and that very quality is what makes hand work so personal and special.

“Awakening” is the piece depicted in the paper last Friday and not done justice by that at all. One needs to see the dyed cheesecloth, pinked edges and beads which inhabit the surface of this pseudo crazy quilt. It is her first along the wall to really go laser cut (a patch design term meaning the edges are “cut out” and irregular, not confined within a standard format). Next to this one is the first of my two favorites, “Outrageous” which is a large piece based on optical block art, much like the show by Chepp at the Canton Museum. At first it seems simple, but the process of laying out the various values and intensities as well as the scales and the shapes of each block of color must have been quite difficult. Sometimes the simpler something appears, the more challenging it was to create, but what absolutely is essential to the success of this quilt is the use of rainbow thread. This additional color story brings another dimension to the work.

My second favorite and probably a personal best in show is “Bloom Time”, a true art quilt in every sense of the definition. To me, this piece is Carole’s personal story as it incorporates an orderly side that utilizes fabrics printed with words that transition to a more organic and flowing side that feels as if she has set herself free. One metallic leaf may be her inspirational spark or a seed of creativity that never left her soul. Masterful watercolor shifts of pattern and color are interspersed with the color blocking and appliqués found in the previous pieces. A tree in basic compositional usage is customarily symbolic of growth over time and leaves as parts of one whole, yet each different… I could go on with symbolism but you will understand when seeing the work up close.

Three final pieces that work as a series are on the last wall. Of the three, the center one caught my attention the most because it is most true to the traditions of quilting and not sculptural like the other two. Find the hands reaching across the top and how positive and negative shapes come into play more so than anywhere else in the show. I’ve reached my word limit so all I can say is that this show is stunning and I shall go back again to appreciate many of the details I have missed on this first visit. Good thing Carole retired so she can make many more of these creations for us to enjoy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blog Clog

I am thinking that Blog Clog is somewhat like writer’s block, lots to say, just no way to get it down from the dendrites. Rather than providing an entrée, I shall indulge my inner ADHD and give an appetizer menu of thoughts and observations.

First of two great shows to go see at the Canton Museum is the one by Fredlee Votaw. Pass through the watercolor show and enter his dreams. It is an impressive array of media and skill hung chronologically (and how do we know that? He dates his work!!) that allows one to see his development of thought, images and technique over an expansive career. To be able to see a work from 1985 and one from 2004 which are similar depictions of a quilt and a child could allow me a dream indulgence of my own that these figures were related but of different generations. My personal favorites are his graphite drawings. Being a former drawer myself, I could appreciate his sensitive handling of the media and the patience required to do it well. The sculptural horse with all the nails driven into its surface is also a piece worth your time to go see. There is plenty of meat in this show (not the Gaga kind) so make sure you think about his titles while viewing the pieces. Having a marital connection to the horrors bestowed upon European citizens during WW2, Dr. V’s images of that era are haunting.

The next gallery exhibits 8 pieces by Mark Chepp. I will defer and refer you to the review by fellow blogger Tom Wachunas posted 9/12 on his site which is very good at making sense of the way this artist used the computer for his pieces. I could see the influence of Chuck Close in both scale and imagery. What fascinated me the most was his manipulation of the grid as an element of composition, almost mocking the use of grid enlargement techniques all too prevalent in art education nowadays. His 3 panel “Facebook” really allows one to see the variety of surfaces he is able to create via brush marks and color for a delicious dish of tactile treats. Some of his pieces are so supersaturated and textural that the image almost dissolves off the canvas (on purpose). I wrote two big words in my notebook, energetic and optic, and worth the time to really look at the pieces both up close and far away to appreciate the concepts of Mr. Chepp. Oh and one more thing, he dates his work too!

The Massillon Museum is having its one night silent auction this Saturday to raise funds for a vintage photo booth via the selling of over 80 pieces of donated artwork. The same concept of donated art work was held last night at 2nd April Galerie to raise money and awareness for the Stark County dog pound. (I must admit, I am not used to painting with a hundred pound pit bull sitting right behind me…..). The Canton Repository and Independent will be running an online auction of art to raise money for breast cancer in October. An upcoming project utilizing the talents of local artists will benefit the adoption and foster child programs in our county come November. What is my point? That artists are a generous lot is one way of looking at it. Another would be that people may be tired of spa packages and gift baskets in exchange for their hard earned dollars. Art is a much better long term investment. A third point of view could be that our economy demands creative ways for artists to get their work into the public eye and generate interest so a donation here and there works to benefit of all of us. What are my concerns? Well…I have several. Some I have mentioned before and others I will save for a future blog.

I need to go drink a big cup of “Brain-O” and flush out the fog caused by so many ideas and projects swirling through my mind and stirring up a dust cloud.

A big thank you to all the people who turned out at Porter for my recent presentation. To hear somebody tell me that they the never laugh out loud, but that night they did for the first time in a long time….well then what I do is worth even a little bit of pit bull breath now and then.

Monday, September 20, 2010

No title for this essay. I decided to write about work that is “untitled” since I was asked that question… (Actually I was asked what my problem is with untitled work).

First question, did it bother any of you that you had to read just a bit further to find out my content or make a connection as opposed to having some starting point of reference? (To decide if you want to continue reading about fashion or some unrelated non-art topic.) Second question, do you buy a book with no title or a piece of music with no title? That would seem weird. How to you recommend a book to a friend if it has no title? Even dances are given titles. Labels of many different kinds are how we as a society process and categorize information. Okay, before anybody gets their shorts in a snit over the issue that art should be able to stand on its own without such constraints, I agree. The issue I have is with untitled work exhibited in shows.

Several years ago, the director of our local art museum and I walked through the galleries discussing the topic of untitled work. In a show many years prior, an artist had so many pieces untitled, that it was impossible to “hang” the show without much confusion and therefore also appearing unprofessional. The director went ahead and gave the unidentified pieces some working titles so the staff could figure out what was going on…names like opus one, pink tower, whatever, just associative titles to figure out which piece was which. Even simple labels such as “construction 1”, “construction 2” and so forth can be a big help.

I don’t’ give a rats ass if a piece is untitled in the studio, but going through a show program with several “untitled” pieces is just annoying to me. And like I have pointed out before, I write about what annoys me at times. How hard can it be to call a piece of work by what it is made of such as “metal sculpture number one”. At least I will know going through the gallery that I am going to see a metal sculpture by so and so. My personal opinion is that to submit a piece as untitled is just lazy. Now don’t anybody take that personally, because I just said it was my personal viewpoint. Consider the gallery visitor who is a total newbie to art. This is your chance to entice and educate someone especially in non-objective or abstracted art pieces (which seem to be the majority of untitled works). The left-brainers appreciate a starting point. Call your assemblage of driftwood anything you want, but somehow get that viewer’s brain in gear to stay engaged with your work. Imagine this scene….
Tour group in a gallery encounter a sculpture. ---”Untitled? It looks like a pile of firewood to me. Stupid artists think they can just put a bunch of junk in a pile and call it art. Guess the guy couldn’t cut it in the real world. Who do they think we are? Bunch of idiots and gullible enough to pay THAT for stuff I have in my back yard trash pile? This is what infuriates me about my tax dollars and donations, it goes to some yahoo that nails some wood together, adds a rope then sets it in the middle of the floor.” --- Okay, so calling it “driftwood one” would be of no help to this imaginary guy, but maybe “All that is left” would spark some type of thought process in his limited creative capacity. Yes, I can hear it now, the arguments that we have a right to not name our work, that it should stand on its own, titles are too limiting, etc… but who is buying our work? Fellow artists may understand our esoteric inspiration, but in my experience, those with the padded wallets prefer to know what they are buying up front.

When submitting numerous works to a juried show via a CD, even the “untitled’ pieces have to have an associated and corresponding number for identification purposes. It is a way to organize and classify work. Now, do I not appreciate a piece that is untitled? Nope, I look at them and contemplate them, but I don’t “value” them as highly as I do something that is given a “name”. (Personal opinion, even the Mona Lisa left untitled would annoy me) As artists, we make one-of-a-kind creations, as a mother, I did the same twice, and both got a name. May of us think of our works as children in an odd sort of way, I just feel that artwork should have some relative standing in the world. If a piece is made for a reason, give it some purpose and significance and value. A title does not have to add to the work in any way; just give it some acknowledgement in the universe, some context in the span of a career or even just an order in a series. Was this piece number 7 of 20 such creations? When we are dead and gone, how will our kids know where to place it in our personal history? Symphonies have numbers so we can keep track of the order. Computers date our photos and writings so things can be kept in an orderly manner. I am sure that someplace in all artists’ studio records (or should be) is the date of each piece ever made to the point of completion and if a piece is on exhibit, one assumes it is completed.

I guess my issue with untitled work is that it is really only one step away from being untitled while still being able to remain untitled (or without a title that is descriptive, additive or clarifying) and yet make the display of the piece more professional. One number, one letter, a word….anything to elevate the piece to the next level beyond the pile of other untitled’s that may be back in the studio. Think about it, if an artist has two pieces or more in a show, and all are untitled, then they become “untitled number one”, “untitled number two” and so forth whether the artist likes it or not and even if it is printed that way in the program or not. Staff and viewers will categorize work so the artist might as well keep the power and do it himself. Have a bit of fun with us all and call it “untitled 745” and impress the heck out of people with your power of production!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Unwrite-ables….

I love both long distance driving and cutting my grass because both are mindless activities where one’s inner voice can wander off into Camp Creative and light a fire. Concentration however must remain intact unless one becomes the subject of an unwrite-able essay. Unwrite-ables are those issues, observations or subjects that I would really like to spout off about, but a cooler head prevails and I stay on the snarky side of the line rather than going from meaningful to just plain mean. Driving and grass trimming (I hate ratty grass, the time when it gets all uneven and becomes longer than the neighbor’s) allow me the time necessary to write really long essays in my mind that will never come to fruition via the use of our alphabet. When it comes to brush strokes however, all bets are off. So what are my recent unwrite-able rants?

The first would be about those drivers (I would use the word morons but that is not very nice) who don’t know why there is a little stick on the side of the steering wheel. It is not there to balance the feng sui of the steering column. It is actually connected to a wire which is connected to a light. If one touches this stick with any force, either up or down, the little light will go on and off until the wheels of the car turn in the direction of the blinking light! Amazing!! I know that these people can’t see the little light, but people behind you can, and those who may want to pull into traffic like to see it too. It is really pretty going on and off in that flashing red color and quite useful. But alas, the purpose of the lonesome little stick is lost on most people, especially if on the phone, reading the phone, touching the phone, putting on makeup, eating, reading (really!) or are just plain dumbfounded by the complexity of cars. I cannot write about these people because I would use bad language. The same type I use when I encounter them while out driving myself.

Unwrite-able number two is about objects not normally found in certain locations but which suddenly appear, thus becoming art because somebody said it was. This phenomenon happens in all kinds of cities and towns all across our country. I like to have my picture taken next to one when I find it while on vacation in case it is something really famous and I just don’t realize it. Lots of times a plaque or a fence or some official designation will be located near the object or “thing” telling us it is an important thing. I saw a TV show where a group of artists built a cube-like thing in a park and gave it a really cool name and a big crowd came by and got the art talk. So if you see something sort of out of context someplace, and it has a sign on it, it could be art…or it could be nothing, just some stuff on the curb waiting for the garbage man. I put an old mattress out on the curb last night, and because I am an artist, and it was in front of my house, somebody asked if it was going to be an art piece. I bet that person is steering wheel stick ignorant as well.

Marching bands that don’t march are probably not a good thing to write about either. Maybe it is just me, but the word “marching” means one is moving in such a way that their feet are going up and down in a rhythmic pattern. “Band” means that a group of people are playing instruments and making music of some type. So if “marching” and “band” are next to each other in a sentence, as a modifier of course, then one probably gets the impression that those who are playing music are also moving their feet at the same time! Brilliant deduction on my part is it not?! Evidently not everybody sees it my way. Yet again I had to sit through a half time show where the “marching” band either put their instruments on the ground or at least up in the air, and then proceeded to jump up and down, flail around as if attacked by a swarm of bees, or do some kind of dance routine while not playing any music….on purpose! (They even had some guy on a ladder directing this mayhem). However, a few times this “band” did bleat out some type of sound, the louder the better evidently, while flailing madly. People applauded so I guess the “marching” routine was supposed to look like a band of raving maniacs on Red Bull. Writing about such a thing would not be very nice though because our band marches, dances and plays in tune all at the same time so I am a bit biased. Maybe their show was a performance piece of art and I just missed the message.

Oh well, since I have nothing to write about, I guess I will wind this up. Too bad the grass isn’t growing very fast anymore, I need to let off some steam about……………………………. (Go cut your own grass at this point; I am sure you will think of something to fill in the blank!)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

33rd Annual Ohio Watercolor Society Show at the CMA

Full disclosure required first. I used to be a watercolor painter from the earliest days of my professional career until I turned 39. After exploring several different directions, I finally realized that the media was too limiting for what I wanted to say. Sure, I had success on the national level of competition including an OWS show way back when, but Ohio is saturated with watercolor painters. If one can’t be as good as the competition, then find another sport, so I did. The long time arts critic to our north did a full review of the show in a recent edition of the Akron BJ and I am sure it is online someplace. I viewed the show last week and don’t feel I can match (nor do I want to) her in depth analysis.

Ohio has a long and rich tradition of illustration and graphic arts due to the number of businesses located in Cleveland that relied on traditional imagery. Water media is a staple of the realists’ world. I say water “media” because that is where I will focus my essay on this show. But first, before my snarkiness gets the best of me, let’s hit the highlights.

I was delighted to see a piece by a long time Cleveland area artist whose work I have admired. He has always to my knowledge been primarily an acrylic painter so to see his style in transparent (not saying watercolor and I will say why shortly) media was refreshing. George Kocar’s “Behind the Curtain: Pablo Looks at Judith” is a fun piece and thankfully divergent from the frankly boring pieces that occupied the gallery. I counted the following: Street scenes (5), Figures (16), Items and still life (7), Landscapes (24), Animals (3), Floral (3), Abstracts (10), Groups (1), Boats (1), and “creative” (8). A whole heck of a lot of these pictures used some type of projector or scanned image so as to draw the picture first before applying the water “media”. When a pencil mark is even in tone (no hint of change of pressure as in sketching), no eraser marks disturbing the surface of delicate paper (which paint would pick up) and not one false use of color or a tone outside the lines, one can clearly see the fill in the blank nature of painting. Personally, I feel that sucks the life right out of a picture. Sure, I used to sketch out an under-drawing, but somehow that base picture was not the one to finally occupy the page. I had a professor that called the unpredictable nature of water media as being the source of happy accidents and those accidents led to richer work. The images in this OWS show are for the most part technically perfect. Not a lot of happy going on, but they do make you ooh and ahhh over skill! It is an impressive show as far as the depiction of people, places and things, it just does not have much to “say”. If this were a restaurant, then the menu has plenty of meat and potatoes, some with added garnish, but as far as gourmet selections….not really. A few delicious desserts are scattered throughout, but one can scan each category of menu options rather rapidly.

Some more pieces of note belong to Mary Ann Boysen, Gail Peters, and Billie Richards. The piece by Kit Dailey is much like Kocar’s in its tribute to the joy of color. Why am I not giving you the titles? Frustrating isn’t it? My intent with this blog is to get people to go see the shows I write about. Give you enough information to intrigue or piss off and then you have to go see what I am talking about. My opinion as to what is good or bad or boring is not from any viewpoint that I am imbued with some knowledge to justify that I know what I am talking about. I don’t have that ability or that level of training; I just want to ripple the waters enough to bring things to the surface. (and I like to write too!)

On to my big beef with this show….labels! Every single one listed the media as “watercolor”. No no NO!! The works were made of transparent watercolor, gouache, acrylics, inks, sprayers, collage, casein and a few things that must have been watercolor pencils and pens. The show application did not require artists to list the media used to make their work (I looked it up to be sure) which is a huge disservice to the viewing public. The CMA had no choice but to list them all as watercolor. What a shame. How can one expose children (or anybody for that matter) to the different possibilities of a media if no “media” is listed? It is insanely obvious that an image done on a slick paper with inks is not the same as a collage or an acrylic on canvas (shame on that one….the rules said framed and under plexi so how an acrylic on canvas got in there is beyond me). So if the entries to the judge have no basis upon which to judge the use of the media then I guess it all came down to the quality of the image itself.

Second beef is with dates (again). The prospectus only says that work must be three years old or less and as artists we sign the form stating we understand the terms and are begin honest that our work is our own and meets the time frame. With very few (if any that I could see) works dated on the piece near the signature, it is fairly easy to slip by that little detail. Who is to know? How can one check? A piece could be long past its expiration date but still get in the show. I respect an artist who puts the date on their work. The reason that many watercolorists do not is that commercial reproduction companies request that dates be left off. They can market a piece easier if it is not dated. The buyers (often hotels, restaurants and card companies) don’t want dated work, it must appear timeless. But if an artist has been painting pretty much the same images over a 20 year career, how does one know where the piece fits into the big picture? I find that little tidbit of info rather relevant.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

“Paint –Clay - Fiber” at the McFadden Gallery

Three women using three media from three different career paths in the arts have come together for one cohesive exhibit at the Malone Campus McFadden Gallery through October 8th. To really see the works as one unit, requires walking up and down the long hallway several times as the pieces are interspersed with each other. Sometimes in group shows, the works of each artist are separated and displayed in one area for each artist, but in this case, the pieces are relevant to each other in one form or another and are much stronger being separated by work, not artist. A viewer can appreciate each work on its own merits without interference from a similar work close by. To make my viewing relevant to any readers out there, it is easier to discuss the pieces by each artist as one group however.

But first, let me share an interesting observation. Having been chided for being a bit obvious with my notebook (goodness knows I fade into the background without one…..) I will continue to carry it openly and with as much “importance” as I can muster in certain situations. Why? Because it made people who would otherwise have walked on down the hall, oblivious to the art, stop and mimic my careful reading of the tags and statements. Quite a few people would wait for me to move on to another work, then walk over to scrutinize what it was I was writing about. Their body language seemed to indicate that they were intrigued by my actions so what the hell, I put on quite a show of squinting, scribbling, head tilting and doubling back so as to give the impression that this is something worth seeing, not just glancing at in passing. Which it is of course, don’t get me wrong, it is a show that requires reading of the tags and standing back to get the full flavor of a pattern. By the time I left, several clusters of students and adults were truly looking at the work on the walls with some thoughtful consideration. I could have been writing a grocery list for all they know, but by acting as if the art is not just for filling space, perhaps some new awareness was born. Perhaps I should employ a stage name and get a phony press pass. Until then….on with the show.

Ellen Dieter has 6 pieces on display, Laura Donnelly has seven and Emily Vigil has 8. Emily is “paint”, Laura is “clay” and Ellen is “fiber”. Let’s start our visual journey with Emily Vigil’s works since she may be a bit occupied about a month from now. You may recall her recent installation at Anderson Creative called Constellations of Women, which was comprised of smaller units of imagery combined to make one large statement. A similar concept is used in this show. Her exhibition notes posted here references different vantage points and how we are capable of viewing our surroundings from multiple ways. The canvases on display are groupings of smaller units that are then connected sometimes physically edge to edge, sometimes by color, sometimes by content, sometimes by all of these and at times seem almost capable of being rearranged from one grouping to another. I was reminded of legos in the sense that some sets come in a kit for a specific object to be created, yet one can also take the various parts and combine them at will to make new things. I found it rather fun to go from one canvas group to another and back, mentally taking a piece of one and putting it someplace else. Not a bad way to introduce a young child to the joys of visual art. A few standouts to mention, “Closer, Closer, Closer” in my opinion, referenced New Orleans and the rising flood waters. The twin bridges are much like the two that span the Mississippi River. I enjoyed the murky atmosphere of the imagery. “Reverberation” is richly textured with warm and cool reds and purples giving the work a feel of both night and day at the same time. “Accumulation” has a section with an aerial perspective (not the art kind, but the airplane type) which has strong connections to the work of Wayne Thiebaud, one of my all time favorite artists. It will be interesting to watch how her work develops over the next 18 years.

Laura Donnelly works in clay but also mentions that inspiration can come from anything at anytime. Her mother was a quilter so the art of craft is ingrained in her blood. As I have mentioned in past postings, I personally hope to never touch clay again, I find it frustrating and time consuming, but when somebody can do it both well and creatively , I can respect that and appreciate it. The wall hung piece “Flying Geese” to the non-quilter would be a bunch of triangles and people would be looking for some reference to birds. Flying geese is a quilt square pattern based on triangles. Fabric is included in the piece as well to help make the connection. I found it witty and goodness knows I like that sort of thing. A set of oversized (supersized?) ceramic thimbles sit in a case nearby. They are patterned and textured and reminded me of a canister set for sewers. I never could master the art of wearing a thimble and sewing at the same time so most of mine are decorative too. One of my favorite pieces in the whole show is called “Pass the Salt”, which again contains witty references for those in the know. The piece consists of ceramic plates on a canvas with some fabric pieces along one edge. The fabric patterns are reminiscence of the affect that salt has when added to a watercolor wash. The glazed images on the plates start geometric then become very curvilinear…could this be the affect of too much salt in the human body? Notice too how a design is woven through the 4 plates that echo stitching. I hope others who looked after me found the same connections.

Reaching my limit so on to the large textiles of Ellen Dieter and the intricacies of her masterful weaving, another class that gave me fits for an entirely different reason. Loom weaving is difficult and to create such subtle shifts in color and rich textures if amazing to me. According to her statement for “Woven Passages” , the overall series centers on the transitions found in the lives of women worldwide. She creates this message not through pictures of women or events but through shapes and patterns and colors. Small diamonds woven in the overall tapestry are made from larger threads and added volume that are incongruous to the underlying pattern much like a disruption within the flow of life. Female forms are visible but referenced by geometric shapes not images so the women are part of the pattern, part of the fiber, and part of what holds everything together. A second series entitled “Just Passing Through” uses ribbon type forms for a more festive and energetic feel. The overall format is squarer while the earlier series is long and narrow. Embedded diamonds of different threads are still a part of the concept perhaps referencing the fact that as women, we adjust to life’s disruptions, don’t care as much the older we get, and will party on regardless of what happens! I enjoyed my journey down the hallway and am glad to have found this gallery space. Hopefully more people will discover it as well for the exhibition space it truly is worthy of being.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

“One ringy dingy (snort…) two ringy dingys…is this the party to whom I am speaking?”

If you are old enough to remember this skit from television, Ernestine the telephone operator, then you have probably experienced the three T’s…telephone technology trauma. I was forced into an upgrade on my cell phone yesterday which I enjoy about as much as going to a doctor. Something I never do either unless the wound is leaving blood splatter on the ceiling, then I at least think about it.

As I recall, the telephone was invented to communicate verbally between two parties located some distance apart. My needs therefore were simple at the phone store and perplexing to the young man who drew my name. Since when do we sign it at the reception table and wait to be called? Can I have a glass of wine too while waiting for my table? So the poor suspecting young man approaches my son and myself (my son being the interpreter because I don’t speak fluent techno-geek), drooling in anticipation of another overblown commission and I simply hold up my ancient flip phone at eye level, the one that is only a step beyond the antenna version and looking well loved (or frequently lost) and his eyes widen in shock. “How….how long since a….you know…..” he stammers. My son replies, she needs an upgrade, I’ll be over there. Before the drooler can even try his sales pitch on me, I give him mine. No text, no web, no cameras, no internet, no games, no projectors, no videos… see young man, I want to call people using the numbers 0-9 and I want people to call me, get it?

He shows me two flip phones as if going to the dirty movie section of a video store. One has a camera, one does not, but because one comes in red, I’m sold. Good enough, let’s go. (I buy cars that way too; they must be red and have 5 wheels). Son must interpret all the paperwork part because I am too snarky to deal with it. Rebates? Why not just cut the price right now? I embarrass him with my “ignorance”, a ruse I maintain so as not to be too distracted by the possibilities of technology that would take me away from actual art made with a brush. So why am I such a snit when it comes to phones? I don’t even like the ones with cords which I stubbornly maintain in my kitchen with a cord so short I can’t even reach the table to multitask. My main reason is that people don’t know when to shut up. Say what you have to say, ask what you have to ask, and then hang up. Long conversations are nice, but I tend to start doodling and stop paying attention and then have no idea what the person is talking about on the other end. Next thing I know, I am in charge of some event that is going to soak up all my free time.

I don’t need a camera on the phone. What if I am talking on the thing and see a really cool image I want to take? I can whip out my pocket camera and shoot while still listening to you (or not). I don’t need that text stuff. I told my son that when he is at college, he will call so I can hear his voice and we can have a conversation of merit because all the little snippets of life which will have been written down on a notepad to be shared, not tossed out as text treats every few hours. Also, he needs his freedom and independence like we had at his age. Call when you leave, call when you arrive, check in and so forth. I don’t need to helicopter over his every move and decision. He will gain life experience one way or the other as we did. I get people who say, but what if there is an emergency? Well, if I am driving and I get interrupted with a call that there is an emergency, then we will have two on our hands because mommy would probably panic and crash. Best to check for messages upon arrival, 911 is there for a reason, call them first, not me.

I don’t need to watch a movie on a 2” screen, I don’t need to play games or take videos…I like watching actual reality around me. I can check the weather by looking at the clouds. Remember when our grandparents taught us how to read the sky, listen for the insects and birds, or look at the leaves on a tree to know what weather is coming? I wear a watch to tell me the time, the kind with 12 numbers on it that goes around in a circle. I check email and snail mail when I get home. Paying attention to life around me is where I get my creative inspiration.

And ringers? Geeze….do we really need a different tune for every person? My son set mine to ring, like a telephone rings (how ancient is that?). I borrowed a phone that was set to make cricket noises as a ring tone. 5 women in a car panicking that a cricket is loose is not a good thing. Too bad the ringers can’t be voices like my navigator system. I’d love to overhear one say “hey moron, answer your pants already will ya?”. My favorite would be to hear “one ringy dingy (snort) two ringy dingys… and then just tell Ernestine to take a message, I’m busy driving, reading, painting, eating, having a glass of wine on the deck with my husband discussing our day, having dinner with my sons and catching up….I can call you back later because I know you will answer anytime, anyplace.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ashley Barlow at Anderson Creative: On the Rocks, Re-Imagining the 50’s

Thursday night was the preview opening of a delightful show at Anderson Creative Gallery. Let me first mention however that it was a theme event as far as dress, 50’s attire encouraged, so does that mean everybody at the preview show for the upcoming Censorship show will be naked? Just a thought….

A year ago when I reviewed the Blind Date show, I mentioned that this aspiring artist needed her own solo show….seems like others agreed. Craig Joseph and Kevin Anderson assumed the big brother / mentor roles and guided this young lady (she’s 25 so I can say that…..I could be her mother) to push and explore and develop a body of work based on her passion for the 1950’s. Her brief gallery talk was enlightening more about her than about her work (a comprehensive statement is on the wall as is Anderson’s style…the type set is getting bigger too, thank you) which introduced us to a very warm and personable woman that can present herself well in front of a crowd. I found that refreshing as so many young people are ill-equipped to verbalize cohesive thoughts with genuine passion. Her training in the arts, not that that is a necessary component for any artist, consisted of 5 classes in college, printmaking being her favorite.

The exhibition presents 18 or so works, depending upon how one counts them, displayed in and around vintage 50’s furniture and accessories. My husband spotted his grandma’s table right away. The hanging window pieces and a packed flashcard clothes line divided the space so that one seemed to walk a floor plan rather than a gallery. How many young people even know what a clothespin looks like anymore? That is where I found several pieces with the most obvious humor, “Girl”, “Play” and “Make” the latter of which is ironic because it has a phone cord hanging down. Ironic because the building across 4th street used to be the Ohio Bell building where my Dad worked as a supervisor of a thousand telephone operators back in the day when 8 feet of spiraled cord was all the privacy distance anyone had on a telephone. Images of my parents seemed to be in many of the collaged figures found within her work, cut from vintage magazines and then embellished with paint, fabrics, feathers, stamps, thread or whatever other material would enhance her message.

In Craig Joseph’s remarks, he called her work fun and whimsical but with a darker edge. I agree with two out of the three. Darker is not the word I would choose. I’d say snarky but that’s mine so let’s try edgy. In my notes I wrote that the work is like a wound with a scab on it. Okay, bear with me here….. A scabbed wound is a sign that a surface has been disturbed, something has taken place, much like the creative process, it probably involved a bit of pain. The scab itself is textural and sometimes colorful, uneven on its edges, hiding something deeper, not that your soul would leak out should it open up. Scabs itch, they beg for some attention. Some people can resist, others cannot, just like her work. Some can be easily interpreted and others require one to stop and scratch the surface (not really, Craig might slap you). If one gives into the itch and pulls away part of the crust (I apologize if you are eating something right now, which is really bad because you could spill it on your computer) then the wound (image) will seep and bleed and sting and get your attention. That is the beauty of intellectual humor and wit, it takes a bit of digging to really understand the message. I was drawn to her imagery and her statement because of this aspect, a spirit I share with my own work.

I am coming upon my word limit so let me hit the highlights. Look carefully when you go. I almost missed the pants hangers used for some two sided flashcard “mobiles” (flashback of Clair Murray Adam’s 2-sided pieces). The words are the same on both sides of the piece, but the settings are different, one home and one work; read it and think about what that means. Those hangers were used to keep creases in dress pants back in the day, much like the illusion that lives were neatly presented, crisp and clean. One only has to move down the wall to one of my favorites, “Whether I say yes or no, I’d still be lying”, a work based on the concept of paper dolls, grown up style, or the other direction to “TV Machine” which is cranking out perfect couples for public consumption to understand how life was represented on both sides of the scab.

One of my two favorites was the elevator piece (of which I neglected to write down the title, but hey I’m still learning this writing stuff….) that told a full story and had a black and white floor. The scale of the canvas and the simplicity of how the concept was done, all fit together. It could have gone too literal which would have taken away from the charm of the vintage imagery. The other piece is the one depicted in all of her local PR, “if I say no, no one will believe I am honest” because of its scale, color, message and signature thought behind the whole series. I imagine that it is difficult to find vintage pieces at such a large scale due to printing processes in the 50’s. My advice to her (Craig and Kevin got their say after all) would be to get cozy with Kinko’s color copier and enlarge some of the cutouts for even more possibilities as this series continues to develop.

I am fond of referring to an artist’s voice. Ashley Barlow has found hers for now and it will continue to grow and deepen as she explores different methods of expression. This show has a wide variety of ideas that speak to her exploration and possibilities. It is not time to edit, it is time to push. Push scale, push media, push use of materials upon which to create work. Branch out into the influences of the cold war and the growth of rock and roll. She has a long and successful creative career ahead of her and with the guidance of other artists (and an understanding husband, invaluable I must add) we will surely be hearing about her in the future, all the way from Minneapolis (sorry, I could not read my own abbreviation!)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Julie Friedman at the Fountain

Two delightful shows are on view in the same building right now. I knew of one gallery space, but happened upon the other so that show gets to go first for posting. I have to spread things out a bit to meet my quota after all. The work of Julie Friedman from Medina is on view at the Fountain Gallery at Malone College.

The gallery space in case you have not been there before (like me….) is in the lobby of the Fine Arts Building on the campus with access off of the northbound side of Cleveland Ave just past 25th street. Visitor parking is right there which is how I found the space. I was headed for the McFadden Gallery and happened to see this installation. It is called the Fountain Gallery because a big (wait for it….) water fountain feature is in the center of the lobby. Now keep in mind, it is a good thing the space does not hold a lot of art because a middle aged woman standing next a noisy fountain for any length of time is rudely interrupted by nature. I f you never birthed a big baby then never mind what I just wrote because you won’t understand.

The work is on view until October 8th for both spaces. Comprising a concise 8 pieces of work, this show is worth the time to read her statement, look at the work, read it again (go to the bathroom) look at the work and then stand back to take in the overall layout. The overall show is based upon some dried roots as the culmination of her series derived from inspiration from trees. These 8 pieces began with an interest in the word “root” itself and the multiple meanings housed within it. I share a fascination with word play so her viewpoint intrigued me. Dried roots would obviously create multiple layers of overlapping linear shapes and innumerable negative spaces that could become visually overwhelming, but Ms. Friedman looked for and found the simple strengths of the forms itself. In the first of two panel pieces, this one being of mixed media , she spent quite a bit of time working with the silhouettes (one of the worst words to ever spell correctly) but I found her prints and the charcoal pieces to be the strongest works because of the additional atmospheric aspects working within the compositions.

The other panel is an acrylic about underwater roots but I had to take a fountain break and decided to stick with the dry media even if only for mental block reasons. My first gem from the show is “Congested Root” which is an etching/aquatint, well matted and framed, as were all four, that depicts a massive yet delicate root ball form. The piece almost has an x-ray quality to it and one could spend time following the intricate shapes created by linear roots if not for the dang fountain behind me. My other gem is “Rooted in the Earth”, a charcoal drawing that at first glance seems rather monotone but take the time to look very carefully at the lower half of the piece where the roots actually lay. The surface treatment of the charcoal is stunning. I could not figure out how she did it, probably a process of addition and subtraction of the charcoal dust, but it appears as if the roots are creating ripples in the surface of ….oh geeze….water. It was an exciting discovery and not noticeable unless one takes the time to step close.

Dare I say it? Okay, why be called snarky if one is not….I root for her continued exploration of the print media and drawing. She mentions that prints, because of their process, have to guide the artist, the artist cannot necessarily guide a print. That is good advice and a good observation. I had not thought of prints that way so I too learn something every time I see a show. Now excuse me while I stop in the restroom on my way down the hall to the next show. Good thing the Fountain Gallery only has 2 shows every semester!