Sunday, October 31, 2010

People and Places and the Search for Great Faces

Wow, go away for one week and so many things change! I spent a few days on the streets of Las Vegas taking hundreds of pictures of passersby in order to find fascinating faces for my upcoming pastel show. Trying to capture people without their knowing is a very difficult endeavor. Many shots end being out of focus or framing beer bellies and bald spots rather than the features needed. One cannot just put the camera up to the eye, focus and shoot with intent as people get a bit flustered or even angry at having their personal space invaded. For that reason, I have had to develop three different stealth techniques.

First is the “hey, look at that!” faux point and shoot approach. I walk along in search of prospects. When one is spotted, I say “point” and my husband pretends to point at some object just beyond the person in question. Most of the time it works unless the subject ducks thinking he is blocking my shot. Rats. Second is to position the camera at tummy level as if just walking along and sightseeing all the while clicking the shutter and hoping for the best. Unfortunately, I get butts and guts most of the time with an occasional get lucky moment. The third method is to station myself at a spot where people are not paying attention until it is almost too late. I almost earned a dollar this time! I guess I looked pretty destitute sitting on a concrete barrier at the base of an escalator with my empty coffee cup beside me. Some old man wanted to put a dollar in my cup, but I politely declined, later putting a dollar of my own in the cup of a Vet in exchange for taking his picture. People are an interesting species for sure!

The best subjects are off limits however. Many colorful creatures inhabit the casinos, especially the slots, but picture taking is not allowed inside the casinos so I can only record those people in my memory. The other best source material is found on the streets after dark, once the liquor has taken hold, but setting off a flash might cause undo chaos or attract the cops so I keep my lens in use during daylight hours only.  Other fascinating subjects are the homeless and the beggars that inhabit every bridge which criss-cross the thoroughfares. Their faces contain such haunting expressions but out of respect, I don’t treat them as objects (or subjects) taking a photo only if a dollar can be exchanged for the action. Swimming pools provide excellent photo ops too! Believe me, I am the last person you want walking behind you, more for odd mannerisms than anything else.

My trip west was cut short by choice however, in order to be home for one of those aforeposted “lasts”  (I think I just invented a new word…..) as well as to chaperone (at 3AM!!) an event which needed more volunteers in order to take place. Sleep is for wienies!  (Every now and then however, one wishes to be an Oscar Mayer).  With rent being due, I swung by the gallery between yawns to check out my space only to find that Second April has added several new artists and “areas” in my absence.

With the November First Friday fast approaching, I encourage you all to come by and spend some time checking out the following. Sharon Charmley now shares a space with Rose Hayne. Sharon paints oil portraits in both sepia and full color pallets. She also has a few small plein air landscapes and one large diptych of figures in oil. Rose has many new 5” x 5” pieces that incorporate collage elements and pay tribute to our animal friends. They are little gems worthy of a long look at the words she inscribes on the layers of papers.  Between their studio and mine is a new ceramic artist named Rosemary Benson whose work is clustered on shelves holding whimsical birds, figures and faces.

Sublime Studios located in the front window area has rearranged the merchandise and reconfigured the layout adding many new pieces for the upcoming holidays.  Also up front is the new gift shop area which consolidates many of the smaller items featured at Second April. My fellow resident artists are all hard at work getting our gallery venues stocked with pieces for the holiday shoppers and we have many events planned for the next two months.

I found the main gallery walls filled with new works by many talented locals including some from the Akron area.  As Second April settles into its Student Union role as the social center of our artist conclave/campus, its reputation and influence continues to grow. Artists who used to be a part of the “stable”, a term that dates back to my agency days when a roster of talent was kept under contract, are now owners of their own studios and showing in more and more locations (thanks as well to the efforts of local visionaries who seek such opportunities.) Be sure to check out photographs by Amy Weiser, collages by Gail Wetherall-Sack, watercolors by Bev Stafford, and abstractions by Lynn Weinstein. Entirely new to Second April is Annette Yoho-Felts from the Akron-Canton area, a ceramic artist with a vision all her own. I plan to work on pastel portraits during First Friday hours in preparation for my upcoming exhibition “Fascinating Faces from Interesting Places”. So what constitutes a “fascinating” face?, well….that is the subject of another blog.

Thank you to all who have sent well wishes to Gary!!  Even a friend from 34 years ago has reconnected with him thanks to the power of the internet and people who care.  Bless all of you who care that really is all we have in this world after all is said and done anyway. Give a damn about something and we can make miracles happen.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The first of many lasts….

Yes, the year of “lasts” has been in full swing for a while now. By “lasts” I mean the last time to (fill in the blank) as the senior year goes by. “Lasts” to not apply just to school years however, they apply to all of us at all stages of our lives. “Lasts” deserve to be celebrated as much as “firsts” even if they are a bit more melancholy and bittersweet at times.

We all probably know the first man on the moon, but do any of us really know the last? He deserves some bragging rights too. Imagine him in a bar trying to impress someone…”yeah dude, I was the last guy on the moon, I turned off the lights and shut the door….no more moonies besides me and my fellow space cadets…” But seriously, Eugene Cerman was the last guy to put a footprint on that giant sphere of rock and dust so he should have a place in the history books too or at least be the answer to some trivia question.

My reason for writing this essay however (besides avoiding the tissue box) is to celebrate the passage of milestones. The “last” that inspired these words was my son’s last marching band performance at an away football game, my “last” to be the head chaperone after seven years of active duty.  I will miss the friendships and the thrill of walking into a stadium on the tail end of 200+ uniformed teens. I won’t miss the cold or rainy nights, the hassles of scheduling volunteers and the unruly fans from the opposing teams.  What I lose in relationships with other parents, I will gain in free time on Fridays to find other venues in which to foster new friendships. The “firsts” that lie ahead can be just as exciting to anticipate as the inevitable sadness that will surely send a stinger every now and then.

“Lasts” can be wonderful too, such as the last round of treatment for those who are sick, the last payment on a mortgage, or the last dirty diaper to change.  “Firsts” can be painful as well, such as the first broken romance, the first fender bender, or the first child to leave home.  My point being that we should not put one over the other as being happy or sad. Yes, my son’s last performance, last dance, and last show will be bittersweet, but for each of those, he will have a first performance, a first dance and a first show in a new place, at a new stage in his life. Case in point, my older son who had his first apartment, first job and first car all in one year, and he too passed through all the “lasts” only two years earlier. So as I rode my last school bus home last night (I could have done without the kids singing Christmas carols right behind me…) I expected to be sad, but I was not. I realized how many friends I had made, how many memories I helped to create and how I am leaving my job safely in the hands of another volunteer who will get to enjoy her son’s “firsts”.  

We miss only what we allow ourselves to consider missing. We feel sadness if we only look at one side of the page. We look back way too often if we don’t consider what possibilities lay ahead as well. I bet old Eugene Cerman was not getting all melancholy about leaving the moon. He did a wonderful thing and a memorable thing thanks to the help of thousands of other people that made it possible even if nobody really remembered that it happened. Most likely, he was in that Apollo 17 capsule counting down the hours until he could hoist a cold one.  So here’s to you “Geno” (his official nickname btw) for showing us all that somebody has to be last and that ain’t such a bad thing after all.

I considered entitling this “My last blog” but thought better of it for fear all 20 of you would abandon me thinking I had thrown in the towel. Sorry, the only towels I am throwing are the ones going into my washer. As my son’ last year of high school progresses, my last child at home continues to sprout larger and larger wings, and my last parental duties to a minor wind down, I look forward to the many, many firsts that will be coming along fast and furious over the years. Some will be good, some will be bad, some will be happy and some will be sad (sorry Dr. Seuss if I inadvertently plagiarized your words) but all will just be pieces and parts of the constant construction project we call daily life.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gary's Story

As we all count our blessings, as we should everyday, I want to write just this short essay about somebody who needs your prayers and especially a written note or card to encourage him to choose life. Since this is cancer awareness month, allow me to share some thoughts about Gary.

My family and his family have been friends since 1961 when our mom's met while our dads were in Europe guarding a line that was to become the Berlin Wall. That story of friendship is way to long to share, but four core families became officially known as "The Group". Gary is the oldest of the 2nd generation.  He never married other than to his job.

He served 20 years in the US Navy, at one time as the navigator of a nuclear submarine, hence under foreign waters for months at a time. I would paint portholes for his officers' quarters so he could have a view. There are several funny stories about Admirals inspecting the ship and finding the pictures still taped to the inside of the submarine. Oops!  Later on he completed law school and is currently working in LA. Some of his clients have testified in front of Congress. Gary never did anything half way, it was go big or go home. Unfortunately, his cancer is as aggressive as he is. As a military vet, he fought for us so now I am asking us to fight for him. His family has requested cards and letters of encouragement to help his spirit fight back. If you could, please send a few will wishes and prayers to the following address and ask anyone else to do so as well. He has no spouse or children, just his "Group", his clients and his immediate family. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Gary Holmes
1420 Ambassador Street   Apt. 312
Los Angeles, California    90035

Monday, October 18, 2010

Colorful Endeavors at North Canton Little Art Gallery

While it was an ugly gray day outside, the gallery space inside was filled with shapes and colors and energy courtesy of Mr. Chris Triner. My overall first impression was that the walls held works by a number of different artists. Unfamiliar with his work beyond individual pieces inclusioned in group shows, I was taken aback by the variety of images to explore. Mr. Triner has the ability to work in a number of different media and styles (although his own signature hand does show through) which is rather common for art teachers because we need to know how to teach a variety of things. Music teachers are the same way, able to toot a bit on any number of instruments, but partial and gifted to one in particular.

My companion’s initial comment was that “he sure likes red a lot” which is great because I do too! There is red in his oils, the watercolors, the monoprint, the mixed media and the water based oils for the most part, sometimes in large rips and tears and other times in subtle chunky brush marks. I am not well versed in the merits of true abstraction, much preferring a hint of some representational imagery, which is why “A Boy and his Art” was my favorite. Back to that one later however, generalities come first. Just like watercolor painting kids, work large to small, light to dark.

Not only can one find a plethora of painting techniques, but a preponderance of presentations as well. (I worked hard to get that alliteration since Mr. Triner is a teacher.) There are traditionally scaled mats in single and double layers, oversized mats, gallery wrap canvases, colored and neutral liners, floated deckle edges and double float deckles also raised from the mounting board. Students can learn how the presentation of a piece can affect an image. I was pleased to see that the pieces were not hung in groupings of style but irritated (to say the least) to find no dates on the pieces. When one works in such diverse renderings, some indication of personal growth would be helpful. I would issue a detention to Mr. T if I could. The foundation of all his pieces rest on a modified grid structure of built up angular building blocks of color. Grids do not have to be even or square, they can be a repetition of shapes that form an underlying pattern, which is the signature structure I extracted from within his pieces.

Of the “City” series of paintings, my absolute favorite was “Utilitarian City”, a 24 x 38 oil painting of what appears to be a smoggy sky over a grouping of dimensional buildings inhabited by house like creatures that reminded me of little kids in stretchy costumes, all lit by an extreme light source that produces intense shadows and overseen by a majestic flag pole. Both fun and somewhat spooky, my mind said “Pittsburgh” for some reason.  Next to it is a smaller version that seems like a study for this larger piece yet is independent and interesting all on its own.  The “City” pieces have a repetitive shape of a phone pole that in “Decay of a Small Town” appear to melt into the pine tree forms that inhabit his “Valley” pieces. Viewing the “City” piece, I felt the neon lights of a bustling downtown after dark, such as Tokyo or New York viewed through the rainy window of a moving taxi.  The tools of application shift within the pieces along the back wall, from brush to pallet knife, to even aggressive and almost violent mauling of the canvas with blood red streaks left behind. 

Calmer strokes prevail within the “Valley” series, “Valley” being another one of my favorite pieces.  Somewhat spiritual, the glowing sun-like form draws to it the trees (or crosses or figures or whatever you wish to impart upon the markings at hand) with an intensity felt from afar. Likewise, “Pixilated Valley” is best viewed from a few paces back towards the middle of the room. Only then can one appreciate the geological formations and vegetation depicted within the piece. The multiple chunks of color become falling leaves glinting in the sun creating a visual movement that exists only within the viewers mind.

“Structural Faith” is a gem worth standing close to however in order to see the multiple layers of ink drawing, photography, collage, printing, paint and textural surfaces all of which are enhanced by the framing. An oversized white mat creates a window-like view towards the church steeples. The disproportionately large bottom section is a wise choice that reminded me of the optical trick that was part of all mats in the 70’s and 80’s as far as I can recall. We used to add about ½ inch to the width of the bottom of the mat to make it appear to be the same as the other sides. Maybe this is still done and it’s working because I don’t notice any differences anymore. And now back to “A boy and his Art”, my overall pick because of the imagery and the obvious joy emanating from the markings. 

Jess Kinsinger’s jewelry creations are also on exhibit. I have far too many pieces so must resist looking too closely at such things or like a crow, I will have to pick up another shiny object for my nest.  I did delight in viewing the numerous ways the pieces are displayed from carved mat platters to antique skate boards, from a tin lunch box to a modern grid. Visual merchandising was my fourth paying job at a whopping $3.25 and hour so I pay close attention to how objects are presented.  The first thing I ever had to display in order to sell (as a test for my new job) was men’s dress socks. I think my stuffed chicken and nest scene will live in infamy…or else store security was too afraid to let me back out on the streets…..and I went on to teach high school too! Congrats on your show Mr. Triner, it is an inspiring exhibit for your students and the GP as well.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Judges see red at the MassMu/Stark County Exhibition!

Good thing they did because red is my favorite color. But before we learn our colors, we must learn our numbers and what interesting numbers they are.  Juried shows are a gamblers game at best.  Three jurors looked at 320 entries and chose 71 pieces by 50 artists.  The upcoming Stark Arthology book chose 69 artists. Only 10 of them are represented in both places. At the MassMu show, 21 artists have two or more pieces included.  In the interest of staying within my 1000 word limit, I shall refer you to my January 16, 2010 posting about last year’s show.

Comment number one: ditto.  21 of 71 were photographs or digital media.

Comment number two:  ditto.  One would be fine, sometimes two if the work is sufficiently different. 

My initial view of the show lasted a mere 5 minutes as my husband got called into work so we left in a hurry. On Tuesday, I went back for a leisurely hour and a half stroll through the gallery to really gather my thoughts.  I do need to learn to write much neater. One juror is up front in pointing out that all art is subjective. A second juror said that all three reviewed the submissions carefully remarking on the diversity of entries. A third juror had no comment. I got the impression that they did not agree too often hence the multiple entries by one artist and the diverse content overall. Diversity is great, good diversity is even better! Does the show have some gems?...absolutely. My “award” winners’ list does not match theirs but art is subjective remember. Does it have some clunkers? betcha.  Will you find some new names and new styles?....of course. Will you notice some MIA’s?.....yes.  Another number for you, 6 of the 10 winners last year are not even in the show this year. Maybe they sat this one out. But whatever the reasons “one day you’re in and one day you’re out” as Heidi Klum likes to say, so let’s have a look at the second 2010 show (It came a bit quick this year with the last one this past January and the entries due this past August…which could be a reason too).

Back to the issue of red, I counted (…ya know, for a right brainer, I sure like my numbers) 36 pieces that used red as the accent or had red and red related colors as the element that made the work successful. I also counted 7 pieces that had a fascination with eyeballs which was rather creepy.  All but one of my award winners used red. I will get to them in a minute. Let’s discuss the things I found to be not on my list, but in my book which can be either good or bad. For you Project Runway fans, it means your score has qualified you to move on to the next round.

Question…how come there was a statement or explanation sheet with the flashlight piece, but not with the condoms? Why does only one work get its story told and the rest are left to our own conclusions?  If a few more had had some words to share, perhaps I would not have written down that one of the pieces in the show could be a school project for history class. As far as photography, except for the always astonishing and ginormous work (don’t bother spell checking that word) of Stephen McNulty, (who I would say needs his own show but that’s coming next month), the rest of it is a bit lost to me as I like to see media arts without the interference of small black and white or photo realistic images. (Art is subjective and so is viewing remember!). I prefer my photos in a cluster for easier appreciation and comparison.  A few artists have shows coming up so I am skipping over them too for now.  Reading from my chicken scratch, I wrote: Patty Z. Parker dates her work! The large tapestry style work is so true to her imagery but sans elaborate frame or canvas restraint, I like the change.   Carl Alessandro, Sunset 1 is better of the two though they are one “piece” so he as two in the show but three pieces….get it?  Sunset 1 could become 6 fully developed drawings as they contain enough intrigue in each of the split sections to warrant further exploration.  I like the humor in how Niki A’s photo is hung over Carl A’s drawing so one looks at the other. Carol Mendenhall consistently delivers with a complete package of imagery and presentation. The framing, mats, textures, scale and image are always so well done, many could learn. Laurie G-F Harbert’s “Divergence” held my attention for quite some time. When a piece can be turned 90 degrees several times over and continue to deliver new meaning, I call that a successful endeavor.  Scott Philips’ pieces reminded me of Ashley Barlow's work.  My notes go on but since I am closing in on my word count, time to pass out the awards.

My best in show would go to Amber Schafer for “Upholstered” which has layers upon layers of allusions to space as well as to the media and title. The upholstery tacks and slide casings are well thought out. I also adore Marcy (spelled it right) Axelband’s “Woman with Orange Stripe” which uses a simple edge for the figure broken only by the hint of a nipple that is then accentuated by the beads in her hair, stark and striking at the same time.  Clare Murray Adams gets one too for “Interiors”, a mixed media grouping that replicate rocks with zippers but with implied depth that is more than just visual. I would have liked to have bought just one as they fascinated me so. The use of a rust colored pastel paper for Brian Robinson’s works just makes them sparkle with energy as the glints of rust peak through the greens and golds. As a newbie to pastels…..his technique is inspiring. Erin Mulligan’s “The Ravens Drive Trucks” is funny in a Stephen King sort of way. Part circus poster, part creep show, I felt it could have been on the set of HBO’s Carnivale. A mirror inside the frame alone would be awesome. Her talents are being wasted here in the Midwest. And finally, the sculpture of Tom Migge entitled “Neighbors”. It is a completely red stained plywood garden grouping of blooms that are more like broken arrows and pomegranates with just a hint of Audrey II. 

Congrats to all who got accepted and to those who won awards. We are so very fortunate to have the MassMu in our midst and their support of the local arts scene.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Oh say can you see……

Sunday night was the season opener for the Canton Symphony. As always, the first selection is the National Anthem. The audience stood, sang in full voice to the score and then applauded before taking their seats for the scheduled performance.  Two nights earlier, as is the case with every Friday night in the fall, I stood on the sidelines for the playing (and singing if one wishes) of the National Anthem. What a contrast and the subject of my following rant. (Warning…stop reading here if you are anti American).

For the sake of logical writing, I will use the word “you” to speak to and about the general public as a whole as well as to one individual at a time as this conversation dictates. So let me start with this….How dare you! Yes, I was steaming mad on Friday night because once again, I witnessed a total disrespect for our flag and our country by not only kids, but teens and adults as well. So allow me the privilege of saying here what I can’t say in person to such folks for fear of a lawsuit, a punch in the face, or even the risk of a gunshot wound since our self righteous mindset is to assume that nobody has a right to criticize anyone  anymore.

To set the scene for this one incident that broke my resolve to seethe in silence, four little boys, maybe about 10 or so tried to push between me and another adult while we stood with hats off, hands over hearts and facing the flagpole while the home band played. I moved closer to my companion thereby blocking the last one from rushing past then leaned down to tell him to stand still. He looked around and realized that most people were not moving. I think out of fear more than respect, he stood there. The other three stopped because buddy boy was not behind them anymore. We made eye contact. Unfortunately, I had to look away up into the bleachers at another “person” (I am being nice here) and the three took off running. Poor buddy was still being barricaded by my left hip and the body of the person next to me who had caught on. The subject of my evil eye was a teen girl.

She was sitting in the bleachers while everybody else was standing including her two girlfriends, and she was laughing. Laughing!! We made eye contact too and she just smirked at me and laughed a bit harder, phone in hand on which I assume she was texting.  So let me tell you this my little pretty…..

…don’t you ever ask “us” to give “you” any special treatment, services, protection and so forth if you can’t get off your lazy tush and stand to face our flag and all it represents which is the country of all this “stuff” that you want and consider yourself entitled to.  Don’t play any cards from a deck of circumstances or roll your eyes with some “oh woe is me” crap if you aren’t willing to show a bit of respect.  Cut the attitude that people need to respect you, not “diss” you or show some “tude” which is no longer confined to the teens, but has moved up the generational ladder.  Show a bit of respect for the flag, for the anthem, for all it stands for, for all who died so you can sit on your behind and not have some lackey put a bullet in the back of your head like some other countries might be prone to do.  Somebody once said, (and I quote from memory, not exactly) “I may not like what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it”.  But for that my pretty, you best stand up and show a bit of gratitude.  Parents, I implore you, please teach your children when they are young, to stand up, remove a hat and be quiet (or sing) for a mere 2 minutes of their life under the guise of honor. The stadium bleachers occupied by our middle schoolers is so loud and rude that I am embarrassed to be standing near them. I only have two evil eyes to cover a hundred or more hooligans. Help me out here people!  For the record, a school administrator is standing right there “guarding” them and does not say one word. Frankly, I would call a school assembly the following Monday regarding what is expected behavior. Yeah I know…somebody’s right to sit, text, laugh, scream, flirt etc would be violated.

This leads me to one other rant. I wander the internet and peruse the papers to see where people stand politically. I don’t care what party anyone wishes to support, but what I detest is apathy (also listed as being allergic, anemic or asleep) to which I ascribe the above rant as well. Don’t ask anything of our government, our tax dollars to support your whims, or our generosity to keep you living large, if you aren’t willing to support those who support you. Regardless of viewpoint or affiliation, you ought to be a registered voter who actually votes if you expect me to respect you as worthy of what I give to the government on our behalf. If I have to pay it, it better be going to somebody who cares.  Women got the right to vote in 1920, full rights to African Americans in 1965, convicted felons lose their right to vote and naturalized citizens gain one. That right is your voice. You may not like the way things are and nobody will ever be happy all the time, but the alternative is having some “one” tell you what to wear, what to watch, when to work, what to eat, what to read, what to paint and so forth. If that is your desire, then keep sitting on that bleacher sister although I hear Mexico is lovely this time of year.  And one more thing, thank you to the person who tapped me on the shoulder to thank ME for stopping those boys. It only takes one… time, one person, one act or one vote. Take your pick and become “one” nation under God.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Introducing Amanda Vandenberg at 2nd April Galerie

One of the greatest compliments an artist can receive, is to know that their work has touched a viewer in ways they may never had intended. The wisest thing an artist can do is to then step away from whatever statements or messages may be the intent of their work and allow the pieces to speak to the viewer in whatever way they will. Such is the situation with the art work of Amanda Vandenberg now on display in the new featured artist section of 2nd April Gallery.

The newly painted walls in a soft cream color are the perfect complement to the hauntingly delicate pieces on view. Ms. Vandenberg is a 2010 graduate of the Corcoran College of Art and Design who has returned to the area to become part of the growing art community. The official introduction of her work will be at the November First Friday but I suggest that everyone stop by well before that and claim one of the 12 pieces on view as this young lady is well on her way to success. The presentation of each piece is excellent with proper matting, breathing space, framing, color choice, and scale. Maybe art schools are now teaching the value of proper mounting so as to enhance work, not just hang it. One will find lithographs, intaglio prints, and mixed media pieces, some similar in style, others singular such as the mixed media piece on an ironing board. All this information is well and good, (and obvious to anyone who can read a label) but I want to share my personal experience with the work which is truly a part of my own personal story.

Let me say right off, in reference to my opening paragraph, what I see in her work may be way off base from her intent, and I have not met the artist nor seen her in person to my recollection. What I see are issues with body image and the pain of living with or suffering through an eating disorder. If you have never lived on one apple a day for weeks (okay months) at a time, then the Apple Series may not be as relatable. Apple Series III is a delicate intaglio print on handmade paper. A skeletal figure is surrounded by a skeletal tree with sharpened branches that writhe towards her like snakes. One lone apple hangs above her head. Some of you will get an “Eve” message, but not me. I see the linear figure, her back to the viewer in a world that is ashen and grey encountering the one thing she craves, but knowing it will pain her to reach for it. The tree appears to taunt her into trying. The figure is stiff and naked in the image, nothing to give, nothing to share, nothing to show…. Another in the Apple Series is on an ironing board; an intriguing choice of surface. The apple is a bleeding ball of red in her hands. Ever eaten an apple core that has sat and rotted all day? The holes in the metal board are like the holes one feels in their own soul as if part of them does not really exist. One is not whole and nor is the figure in this work for it is a combination of ink, peeling paint, washes, and other such translucent and transparent media. The image produced is bold, yet not really there entirely. I can relate to that.

Two works are from her Biomorphic Series that at first glance appear to be abstractions. They are not. Look closely and you will find figures in the lithograph, layers and layers of gestural figures that entwine with each other. A hand can be seen, the curve of a spine, a high heeled shoe and a jutting arm. The surface mass is fascinating far beyond the standard layering of life drawing warm ups. The entangled figures are reduced to linear forms overlaid with masses of neutral tones that rely on positive and negative interactions to create a sense of wholeness. Those with an eating disorder often do not feel a part of a crowd even though they could be standing in the middle of one. Their presence is defined only by the spaces created by those who move around them, sort of like a rock in a stream, unnoticed and washed over but still affecting the course of action.

Two canvas-like works hang one over the other to the far left. They are not made of stretched canvas however, but of a frayed and tattered linen or silk upon which Ms. Vandenberg has employed staining, embroidery, ink drawing, cut outs and stitching to convey her imagery. I was reminded of the work of Claire Murray Adams in regard to surface treatment but the content is far different. Where Claire has sumptuous landscapes, Amanda has a figure that is not really there. Again, the figure is not a whole, she is made of bits and pieces, torn, frayed and mended to look like she is there, but an emptiness remains the way a stain will leave its mark long after something is gone. How one surface is sewn to the remaining edges of canvas is fascinating yet harsh and painful.

A portrait is the single burst of “color” in the exhibition if one can call the stained paper a color story. The ironing board piece is also very colorful, more so than this portrait, but the emotion of the former is not “colorful” so I discount its impact in that regard. The portrait is drawn using a reddish pen to scribble over and over with lyrical lines that build up over each other so the face emerges from the chaos. Interestingly enough, even though the completed picture is lively, I found the eyes to be vacant, depicting the blank stare of one not engaged with the world around them, only being, but not believing.

Several of her pieces contain words as part of the imagery. “Buddy Willard” is on a pedestal, a small piece that is both raw and yet refined. A second small piece cries out “I am Always Waiting to Breath”; a simple substitution came to mind from my perspective…” I am always waiting to eat” (but never would). The same gesture of hands to the neck and the face tilted back at a tortured angle is (was) all too familiar. I wonder what secrets drove her to create these images.

Two pieces remain. One is called Patriot Act which has been on view in the gallery for the last few months and though a wonderful work, not part of my story here. Is it consistent with her other pieces?....absolutely and worth the time to sift through all the layers of media. The other most powerful work and sure to sell within days is entitled “I Wasn’t Born to be a Skeleton”. It is a truly haunting work of art and pictured above, only the second time I have put the work of another artist on my blog. This piece is an intaglio print on handmade paper, a paper that could be compressed globs of fat around the edges as it is of that color and visual texture. The image is a delicately drawn outline of a woman with a skeleton living inside of her. The orientation is upside down and angled almost as if one is peering into a grave even though the figure does not appear to be dead. Now if that does not just sum up the whole story of a starvation disorder! Outsiders see a living skeleton, but the view from inside looking out is of a normal person in an upside down world. I apologize to the artist if I have completely twisted her intent, but I want her to realize that the imagery made an impact upon this viewer and I would like to thank her for that.

Everybody else needs to come down to 2nd April and see this display. The new wall treatment (gone are the thick gray stripes) truly forms an area dedicated to showing the work of emerging artists. Amazing what some paint and a sharpie will do!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Missing…..the BIG picture

The Uncensored Show at Anderson Creative seems to have touched quite a collective nerve in our local community. Being a “paper” paper person myself, I was unaware of the online opinion/comment pages that follow published articles. My morning ritual of reading the paper, shoving a cat butt off the part I want, drinking half a cup of coffee, removing paper from cat’s mouth, shedding a robe as yet another power surge takes hold etc. are all a lot more entertaining than scrolling down a screen. However, I did see a reference to some controversy going on in cyberspace so I had to navigate my way there and see what was happening!

What fun! There was so much irony and irritation run rampant that even I could never begin to process it all, let alone paint the poor bastards. My title above sums up the overall situation. So many opinions, everybody wanting to be right, very few admitting to any real identity (much easier to be critical when hiding behind a screen code name) and assumptions being made based on what others say without any real proof. Welcome to America and what makes us a great country…..freedom of expression AND freedom of opinions with an underlying system of laws, rules and regulations to protect those who partake in such activities. Translation….the masses have yet to take up torches and pitch forks to run the heathens out of town because……well…that might take some organization, some initiative and a bit of energy to boot, and most people just can’t muster the muster anymore. It is so much easier to eat Doritos and type on a keyboard than it is to go and see what all the fuss is about.

Let’s break it down shall we? When we moved here almost 20 years ago, we heard the comment that it is not a Canton paper without football, Jesus and abortion in every issue. Times have not changed all that much in that regard except add politics to the list. The same issues confront us as did our parents and will our children….war, sex, politics, death, body image, money, religion,…..somebody just decided to put those issues into visual form as opposed to text next to a car ad and happy hour specials. And who are these deviant little devils?...a couple of decent Christian men who have just as much right to conduct their business in our community as any other tax-paying constituent. Okay so how should these disgruntled and reactionary patrons of our community deal with this “show”? Prepare for a rocket scientist answer my friends….don’t go if it bothers you. Sort of like turning the channel if a show is not to your standards. Turn off the radio if the music is offensive and don’t buy clothes for your daughter if you don’t like the fashions. I think it is called “choice” and as Americans, we still have that right.

As far as those who are calling the work crap (for lack of a better summarization) …have you ever made any yourself? (Art that is, not crap, because of obviously your mouth and brain are pretty good at it already). If we all liked the same type of artwork, held the same opinions, worshiped the same God and supported the same candidates….we would all be eating Chinese food….in China or maybe even grass in North Korea. This is America people; you have a right to free expression just as much as the next citizen or the next business. You have a right to go where you wish (well…don’t cross crime scene tape or things like that), believe what you want to believe, say what you want to say, create what you want to create, but you must extend those same rights to everybody else and be respectful of that. Just because you want to only see landscapes and puppy dogs does not mean I want too. And If I did, and bought up all the landscapes and puppy dogs and you only got flowers and kitty cats, I’d bet you would bitch about that too.

Now personally, regarding the show in question and the artwork in it, I am of the party not currently in power and was not pleased to see the former regimen still being depicted in a negative way, but cross the street and visit my studio right now and you will see work that expresses my point of view. I can accept what I see and appreciate how it was made, the skills needed to create the work and the context in which it was created. Art is not just the image one sees, it is also the message one conveys or receives. Even those Romantic period landscapes and Dutch still life paintings had a higher purpose. I must admit however, I can’t really defend “Dogs Playing Poker” (all male pooches I am assuming) but put a bunch of female hounds in there and “Bitches Playing Bridge” could have potential!