Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Studio 30 Annex Showcase at 2nd April Galerie

Art by Max Shumaker for his Art Merit Badge

Fellow artists out there….don’t you just hate this conversation that happens just about every time you meet someone new? 
Them “So what do you do?”
Me “I am an artist.”
Them “What type of art do you do?”
Me (in my head of course….) “Fabulous and for sale”   (reality) “I have three lines of work so I paint, draw and create…..(get cut off)”
Them “What do you paint?”
Me (in my head) “Paintings…duh”  (reality) “Social commentary about women through the use of humor.”
Them “What do you paint with?”
Me (in my head) “a paintbrush….add snarky comment here”  (reality) “Acrylic, so do you invest in art?”
Them “No, I don’t really get art, it all looks like [insert an adjective here]  to me.”
Me “Where’s the bar?”

This line of small talk happens so often that it is a wonder my tongue isn’t bit clear through my now. But I always get to thinking….what is “art” now anyway? That is way too long of a discussion to tackle here. And then I wonder, for whom do we make this stuff? There are the retail art producers and the exhibition art producers. It would be wonderful if those were one and the same, but alas, they are not.  There is a certain freedom (and growth factor) that comes with making art for ourselves, because we want to, and which speaks to our own soul and not those of anybody else’s standards.

Since the grass has not needed to be cut in months, my contemplative time is spent driving long distances hauling a trailer full of art for someone else’s commentary. I was still pondering the issue of “why” when I happened to pass by Studio 30 at 2nd April earlier today.  Studio 30 is the name given to our first floor room that now functions as a 30 day showcase of works by whomever happens to want the space each month. Right now, it highlights 19 pieces by 4 artists who work in our annex building. Interesting sidelight here…..I have really only heard of one, Casey Williams, and talked to another, Holly Riley which is odd, because I’ve been active in this local art scene for 20 years, long before the arts became a district, and thought I knew all the names. Which got me to thinking about how we promote / identify our artists who are in the grand tally of AiS “artists and galleries” in promotional materials. Again, no time for that here. Back to the bloggy part…..

Each of these artists has something to share and a distinctive voice in their visual approach. Will everybody like it? Well look at how many types of cars are on the market, wines on the shelf, movies in the theater and stations on TV. If we all liked the same stuff then would variety be so prevalent in every facet of our existence? Frankly, I don’t think they should give a damn what anybody thinks because these artists are doing exactly what they should be doing….making work they like, expressing thoughts and ideas and even following good presentation practices such as using titles, short bios, prices and signatures. There are some pretty seasoned art veterans out there who don’t even do this. The work of these four will grow and change and evolve as time passes, it happens to all of us. For now, I found something worth noting in each of their presentations.

Casey Williams shows four large canvases featuring one over-sized and simplified figure in each. They are not refined portraits or even developed to the point of final surfaces but each is direct and very current to the genre of his generation. Casey is growing his skill set, look at the right hand of Bruce Lee, the nose of Albert Einstein and the eyes of Uma. Those areas are raw and direct with minimal strokes used for the application of his paint where he exhibits a confidence in his mark making that will someday fill his whole canvas. They are small sections showing a sophisticated hand. I found the Jim Henson and Kermit a bit more thought provoking that he may have intended. Yes, the Henson figure is “off” but the guy made puppets and I like how his face is sort of like a puppet too, that is rather clever. Maybe it is the Kermit who holding a stuffed Henson? Final note on hanging, well played Casey (does that make me sound hip with the kids or what?)….Albert looks at Kermit, and Um and Bruce share a stare.

Holly Riley from Trance-itions has only two pieces on view, both her first foray back into painting. I had seen them before when she stopped by my space and was glad to see she put them “out there” for others to see. She painted from her heart and inner spirit as many do. She even made direct contact with the canvas by adding yarn (can’t do that with a brush, the glue gums up the bristles) which is a tactile connection that collage artists also enjoy. I hope she keeps her clean and clear connection to painting because once one is “trained’ (or whatever word you want to use for being indoctrinated into the ways of the pros) it is extremely difficult to undo the learned, and pull out the latent.

Lois Lee of Wood Wonders has four wall hung wood creations that showcase her abilities to cut and piece this media together, work with color and consider negative shapes. Not everyone has room in their homes for large pieces no matter what the media so these four let people see a sample of what can be found over at their annex location…remember, this is an annex artists show to get patrons over to the other side of the building and realize that there are people downtown every day, working in their off the beaten path and sometimes cold studios.

Finally, M Jason Yovanovich of Ontos Studio has 9 canvases on the walls. He specializes in non-representational surfaces, not abstractions.  The titles are “Abstract”, that is the title people, even though in artistic terms they are not. So what are they? Who cares, they are colorful and tactile and just rather fun to look at. I enjoying coming up with “that looks like a ____” explanations. Those blanks included magnified marbleized paper, microscope views of cell structures, reflections in muddy puddles, and so forth. A little bit of Pollock perhaps at times, but who has not wanted to just fling some paint around and see what happens? This type of work, which many think is easy and simple, is not, when it is done well. He has an understanding of the surface. This layering of different applications and colors requires some knowledge as to when to stop and where to enhance. Again, nothing so large that people can’t start to build a collection of locals. And somebody already has because a sold sign is posted. I would love to see his work on canvases that are over 6 feet. Imagine the visual impact or even take all the smaller canvases, attach them together and add one more unifying layer of paint somehow.  Such possibilities!

This display is not meant to be an “exhibition” in all that connotation of planning and prep. This is a display by some under the radar artists who are working hard at doing what they like to do. We must never forget or discount the dozens of people that enable one person to be on the medal podium. I applaud their guts to put their work out there and show who they are and what they do, whether anybody likes it or not. The Second April Annex is open for business.