Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A kite too far

death, my love,
is a scary thing
but not so much
compared to responsibility
for things beyond your control
for people you can't make do
what you
in your ultimate wisdom
think they should do
like it's not out of your hands
the string leading
to a kite too far in the sky
like the silent pop
is not a hurt
a hurt in the swirling
farther away tail
that makes death
easy my life
easy my love
a folding and gentle creasing
like with an unbitten
fearless thumbnail

From a collection of poems called the majesty of the past by Jackson poet Bob Hudson. The bound collection can be found at Sneaky Beans coffee shop and One Blu Wall Photography Gallery.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In and out of context

I finally finished reading Michael Kimmelman's book (I'm a really slow reader). It strikes me when I read art criticism or commentary how dependent it is on the context. I'm sure that Kimmelman wouldn't consider himself a strict contextualist, but in writing about art it seems to be necessary to clue the reader in to the background of the artist and why the art was done. Kimmelman has access to artists that most of us don't have giving him great insight into the context of work that he writes about, but he is also great at verbalizing his own interpretation of the work without all of the incomprehensible "psycho-babble" (my wife's word) even if he knows that it is different from the artist's intention.

I have always considered myself a bit of a contextualist. Being an artist I have trouble separating the work from the artist and can appreciate the work on a whole other level having that knowledge. Several years ago I visited a gallery in New York that was exhibiting work by the Mississippi artist Walter Anderson. A gallery worker spoke to me (I'm not one to initiate conversation) and I told him that I am from Mississippi, and that I love Walter Anderson's work, and that he was a complete nut case. With snoot in the air he told me that they prefer to just focus on the work. Well guess what, Anderson's work was his life and it is does a disservice to him and his family to separate the two.

This does not mean however that I can't appreciate seeing artwork without having any knowledge of the artist. There is a wonderful group show at Gallery 119 right now called "5 under 35", five artists under the age of 35, all of whom are new to me. The artists are Charlie Buckley, Laurie Fisher, Allan Innman, Amanda Sparks and Carlyle Wolfe. I have actually seen Amanda's incredible work before in the current Invitational show at the Mississippi Museum. In starting this blog I was more interested in solo or two person exhibitions that really show a good concept for the show as a whole with a unified body of work. This group show doesn't really fit in those parameters, but I was so struck by the work of Carlyle Wolfe that I wanted to put it on the blog. I had the chance to meet her at the opening, but again I am not very good at introducing myself, so I didn't. Perhaps I could have given you a bit more context had I spoken to her, but the work is so strikingly beautiful that I think that it is not necessary even in writing about it. Her work which is usually of flowers can be striking and harsh with hard-edged cutouts and at the same time delicate and dainty. It has a flat softness reminiscent of traditional chinese watercolors, and beautiful layering that reminds of the work of Julie Mehretu. So now, I think I will find out more about her, like whether she is related to Karl Wolfe, whose autobiography I am starting to read now.

Vinca (watercolor on tissue embroidered)

Shadows (oil)

Pink Hydrangeas (Oil)

Hydrangeas (oil)

Begonias, Vinca, and Zinnias (embroidered monotype)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Christopher Brady at Mississippi Library Commission

Since the Mississippi Library Commission opened their new building several years ago they have been exhibiting some nice art shows. Similar to my last post though, the building is worth visiting simply to appreciate the architecture... it is just a plus that you get to see art there as well. Hanging through October is a group of paintings and drawings by Christopher Brady called People, Places and Things. You can also check out the fused glass work of Phyllis and Jess Tackitt of Southern Fired Glass, but I am going to focus on Brady for this post. He is an art instructor at East Central Community College in Decatur, MS. I pulled a quote by him about this show from

"This show is an exploration of people, places and things that we may take for granted. My hope is to take these familiar and ordinary sights and transform them into something deeper and more extraordinary."

While the show as a whole does not come across as a cohesive body of work, there are some very nice individual pieces. The tight watercolors are well executed and the watercolor monotypes have a unique and appealing character to them. There is also a charcoal drawing, a pen and ink drawing, an ink wash, and a silverpoint drawing. Silverpoint, or metalpoint drawing is not common these days, but when you see one handled well it is a treat. It was a very popular method of drawing in the Renaissance period because of its durability and that it doesn't smudge. Metalpoint drawings are done on coated paper with a stylus that would have some type of metal point to it, e.g. silver, gold, copper, lead. It is a very delicate and beautiful medium, but one of the most unique qualities of metalpoint is that over time the metal will tarnish and each type of metal tarnishes to a different color. To me, the silverpoint drawing "Ray" and the other work that embraces a modernist approach with a subject on a flat background like "Yo-Yo", stand out in quality. One interesting thing that I found out about Christopher Brady is that his thesis project while at the University of Mississippi landed him in the 2008 Guinness Book of World Records for the longest wood block print measuring at 282 feet. Congrats to him on that. Here's some of the work...

Yo-Yo (watercolor)

Vessels (watercolor)

Tom (Ink Wash)

Ray (silverpoint)

Oxford Square (watercolor)

Central High (watercolor monotype)

Berries (watercolor)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Apron Show: An Accidental Masterpiece

I visited the new Mississippi Craft Center today. If you haven't seen it you really should for the outstanding architecture if not for the amazing shop of Mississippi crafts. I didn't know what was showing in their gallery prior to my visit and what I saw was at the same time bizarre and endearing. It is a selection of aprons from a collection of over 600 aprons owned by a lady named Carolyn Childs Terry in Iuka, Mississippi. You may wonder why I would be interested in putting such a thing on a fine arts focused blog, but there were two things that kind of intrigued me about this. First, though not all of the aprons in the collection are hand made, I felt like there was an interesting connection between these and the quilts of Gee's Bend, Alabama that took New York by storm several years ago. True, the designs of these aprons don't have the irony of strong abstract designs by folks that couldn't be further from the established artworld as the quilts did, but the idea of designing and crafting such an ordinary utilitarian object into a personalized expression creates a value that can't be ignored.

However, I probably would have just walked by the sign that simply reads "Apron Show" had I not just started reading The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa by Michael Kimmelman. Kimmelman is an art critic for the New York Times, but I was not familiar with him until I watched the documentary film My Kid Could Paint That. He was in the film, but there is a section in the special features that is simply titled Michael Kimmelman on Art. This short monologue is some of the most refreshing and comprehensible commentary on art that I believe I have ever heard. That being said I had to pick up his book. In the introduction he talks about a man that amassed a collection of around 75,000 lightbulbs and lightbulb related objects. Kimmelman writes,

" He certainly created something wondrous out of his
improbable hobby. His achievement was not simply to
put together a collection of lightbulbs; it was to convey
through his collection the obvious contentment and
meaning that this obsession gave him. The collection...
became his masterpiece by accident - by which I mean
not a traditional work of art like a painting or a sculpture
but derived, like art, from a creative impulse, a deep
compulsion pursued to the nth degree. His museum
became a shrine to his peculiar ardor, which (again,
like art) entailed the value of looking at something very
closely, in this case at a humble lightbulb.
The idea behind The Accidental Masterpiece, the one
that popped into my head at some point, is pretty simple.
It is not that I should write a book of art history or
criticism, exactly, or solely dwell on my favorite painters,
sculptors, and photographers. Nor is it that all art is
salutory. A day of looking at bad art can be long and
dark. Instead, it is this - whether the example is the
life of an artist as lofty as Bonnard or the passion of a
lightbulb-enthusiast... - art provides us with clues about
how to live our own lives more fully. Put differently,
this book is, in part, about how creating,
collecting, and even just appreciating art can make
living a daily masterpiece."

There's nothing else I can say. Here are some of the aprons...