Thursday, September 30, 2010

Almost missed the conversation

I almost missed it.  Yesterday, I finally made it to the solo show of Ginger Williams-Cook at the Mississippi Arts Center.  The show ended today, but if you missed it I don't think that you have anything to fear.  I am confident that we will be seeing more shows very soon by Ginger.  The reason I am convinced of this is because of the vast output that she seems to be able to accomplish.  One could easily have confused this exhibition as a group show by at least ten different artists, both because of the amount of work and the different styles.  With influences from Modigliani to Japanese block prints to French illustrations she is obviously one of the few with such an honest and authentic out-pouring of creativity and ideas that it is probably more difficult for her to not do the work than to do it.  She considers art a visual conversation, and I believe that is just what she is initiating. 

I had a lot more that I was going to say about her love for sketchbooks, and how I didn't get to see the video about her sketchbooks, and how impressive her drawings are, and about her connection with other equally impressive young artists around here, and about these bizarre and humorous little nesting dolls that she is creating... but my brain stops working after 10:30 PM.  So I am just going to post some work that I had a little conversation with.  


Les Yeux Vert

Sidewalk Flower No. 1

Sketch from Paris

The Big Lebowski

Wall full of work

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Look no farther than your own backyard...

In a recent discussion with a close friend of mine the name Andy Goldsworthy came up.  My friend is a new professor of art at Belhaven University in Jackson, and he was talking about the curriculum in an introduction to art class (art appreciation for art majors).  Apparently, one of the first things they watch and discuss in this class is the documentary Rivers and Tides about the work of Goldsworthy.  I have been curious about the contents of this class for several years because I have heard that it is remarkable, and I was very interested to hear about Rivers and Tides being shown.  I picked up the video several years ago when Hollywood Video was going out of business, but hadn't watched it since then.  

Andy Goldsworthy is an environmental artist who uses all natural materials for his sculpture.  Much of his work is ephemeral or transient, intentionally having a short life span and recorded with photography.  In the film he says that he does not consider his work to be "destroyed" by nature.  His work is a gift to nature and nature takes it and does something else with it.  It is a beautiful metaphor for life, death, and life beyond death.  Beyond any philosophical significance the work is elegant and simple with a type of universal aesthetic that few artists are able to achieve.  

His work is so universally appreciable, in fact, that even children are moved.  This past weekend my children, ages 4 and 3, asked to watch a movie.  Instead of the usual Disney or Pixar flick I decided to pull out Rivers and Tides.  It was incredible to see how mesmerized they were with it, constantly asking questions, and developing such a connection with the work that they were really sad when pieces were washed away by the rising tide or melted by the rising sun.  They actually sat through over an hour of the one and a half hour documentary, a feat in and of itself, and immediately wanted to create their own sculpture in the back yard.  

What amazes me is how easily they grasp the idea of creating an object with the sole function of existing for its visual power to create emotional responses.  That's something that many adults seem to have lost.

Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy

Ren and Mae with their "project".
Yes, I helped a little.

In the middle is a brilliant pink seed pod from a magnolia bloom.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dance as inspiration

I could not call this a blog about the arts in Jackson if I didn't mention the USA International Ballet Competition (IBC) currently taking place here.  While I usually just focus on visual arts in gallery spaces, the remarkable beauty of these dancers excels to a level of artistry infrequently found in galleries.  There are, however, some painting and photography exhibitions that coincide with the competition that are definitely worth visiting.  The IBC happens every four years and Jackson is the only location it is held in the United States thanks to the vision and love for ballet by the late Thalia Mara.   

The poster artist for the IBC this year is Mississippi State University professor Brent Funderburk who seems to draw a lot of inspiration from ballet and dance.  There are two opportunities to see his watercolors in Jackson right now.  There is a group of paintings in the mezzanine area at Thalia Mara Hall where the IBC is taking place.  There is also a group of paintings and drawings at Bryant Galleries. His vibrant watercolors are a mix of surrealism and non-objective abstraction with hints of east Asian influence.  Fruit transforms into celestial beings, while empty paint tubes seem to take on human personas.  This is most evident in the painting "Today" which seems to represent the crucifixion of Christ.  There is a faint nimbus behind the "head" of the center tube that may be difficult to see in the image below.  

Funderburk's drawings, however, seem to have a different influence.  They are much more reminiscent of the Russian Suprematism work of Kazimir Malevich, or the Italian Futurists.   

Another must see show in conjunction with the IBC is Celestial Bodies/Infernal Souls: Photography by Lois Greenfield.  These stunning photographs at the Arts Center of Mississippi are of dancers captured in mid-air and mid-stride displaying the pinnacle of the capabilities of the human body.  

Pears #2

Winter Into Spring

Goodbye Red


Still Light


Lois Greenfield

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vogel Collection at the MS Museum of Art

There is an amazing story on display at the MS Museum of Art right now.  I say that because the story of the Herb and Dorothy Vogel collection is just as grand as the collection itself.  This couple of moderate means (he was a postal worker and she a librarian) began collecting art after they were married in 1962, and slowly and methodically began to fill their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment with art.  They built up a collection of around 4,000 pieces over the years and recently donated the work to the National Gallery in Washington D.C.  In a documentary playing at the exhibition, Dorothy said that with the two of them being civil servants felt that they were merely "caretakers" of the work and donating it the National Gallery was their way of giving it back to the people of the United States.  The National Gallery was only able to take about 1000 pieces so a program was set up to distribute the work throughout the country.  It is called 50 Works for 50 States and the MS Museum of Art is the recipient of 50 pieces for their permanent collection.

The approach they took to collecting art is nothing short of remarkable.  In the documentary they were described as eccentric, compulsive, and obsessive.  The collection became a concept in and of itself.  Nothing was ever sold.  Their apartment was filled to the ceiling (with some work hanging from the ceiling).  They bought work because they believed in the artist as much as they appreciated the work itself, so many artists were represented thoroughly in the collection.  One person that stands out as being well represented in the selection given to the MS Museum of Art is the artist Richard Tuttle.  Here is where some people may have difficulty in appreciating the collection.  Tuttle was an early Minimalist artist of the '60s. His work is often very minimal.  In the documentary, Herb mentions that when they began collecting work that Pop art was the prominent New York style, but Minimalism was new, experimental, and vanguard.  In other words it was much more reasonably priced and therefore the collection has a large number of Minimalist pieces.  In an interview with Charlie Rose, the Vogels were asked what a particular Tuttle piece "signifies", and their response was "it doesn't have to signify anything, it's a visual thing".  If you do have difficulty appreciating Minimalist art, keep in mind what Becky Hendrick says in her book Getting It; that "there are only two requirements for appreciating art: we need to look at art objectively and without prejudice; and we need enough information about art's relationship to history and culture to support our non-judgemental explorations."

According to the book After Modern Art 1945-2000, by David Hopkins, the term Minimalism was rejected by many of the early practitioners.  Donald Judd, one of the primary artists of this movement is said to have felt that the term connoted a reductionist view, as though they were "attempting to reach an essential core."  He felt that one shouldn't focus on what was missing from the work when "works such as his were kept uncomplicated precisely in order to isolate specific and positive qualities."

The collection isn't all Minimalist, though.  There are some wonderful ink drawings by Mark Kostabi that have a more illustrational approach, and an expressionistic ink drawing by Michael Lash.  There are a couple of very busy, graphic, mostly abstract with some cartoonish elements graphite drawings by Joseph Nechvatal that contrast nicely with the Minimalist work.  In fact, a majority of the collection is drawings, but one of my favorite pieces is a Takashi Murakami object.  It is wild and beautiful, and represents a broadening of the collection away from drawing and away from the New York focus.

So, please go with an open mind and enjoy the story.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience

My first solo show as a professional artist is hanging right now at Gallery 119 in downtown Jackson until May 7th.  

This body of work is from a series of oil paintings titled "Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience." William Blake's poetry and compositional designs have been very inspiring to me over the years, and the theme of this series comes directly from his work. The concepts of the individual pieces, however, are not derived from specific works of his. I wanted to create a group of poetic narratives in which the "story" in each piece is intentionally left undefined. With this body of work I want to encourage the viewer to spend time with each individual piece, allowing them to interpret the meaning and narrative for themselves. While the images are extremely personal to me, often times being set in my house with my family or friends, I believe that the audience will be able to relate to the situations and emotions presented. The show is comprised of 12 oil paintings, six “Songs of Innocence”, and six “Songs of Experience.”  There is also a collection of drawings, some directly related to the series of paintings and some completely independent from the theme. 

All of the paintings in the “Songs of Innocence” series are on handmade paper. Over the years I have come to value the craftsmanship that goes into the preparation of a painting surface. Beginning a painting on a surface that I have already spent hours preparing, I am more likely to start that painting with increased focus and commitment.  With no training in paper making I decided to do a little research and make the 30"x30" sheets myself. I built the frame and deckle, and because of the large size I used an inflatable kids pool to pull the individual sheets. The pulp is made from scrap newspaper, computer paper, and brown paper bags. The paper is then allowed to dry before each one is primed to accept the oil paint. Because each sheet is unique, I attempt to select the one that has characteristics that will complement the final composition. I let the paper maintain the rough edges when displayed and mount them to the backing with heavy-duty magnets. Symbolically, I want the paper to be seen as representing the delicacy and ephemeral qualities of innocence. The square format represents unity.  

The “Songs of Experience” paintings are all on canvas specifically because it is traditional. I recognize that often as people get older they hold on to tradition a bit more closely. Thought process seems to get more analytical and structural which is why the dimensions of this series are all based on root rectangles as described in Jay Hambidge’s Elements of Dynamic Symmetry.

This body of work comes at a time when I am noticing a shift in my own life. I am married with two young children and see very clearly the passing of my youthful idealism and naivety. Yet I long to hold on to some of it. It is my hope that this exhibition expresses to the viewer my individual struggles and joys at this particular point in life.

You can go to my web site to see all of the work from the show, but here is a selection.  Catalogues are also available for $30.  Just contact me if you are interested.  

10 pm 30 degrees
(Songs of Innocence)

For the hundredth time 
(Songs of Innocence)

(Songs of Innocence)

32nd Birthday
(Songs of Experience)

A dog named Kat
(Songs of Experience)

Sunday afternoon adventures
(Songs of Experience)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lea Barton's Southern Charm

There are at least two great shows currently up right now here in Jackson, if I do say so myself... because one of the two is mine.  I'll post about it later.  First I want to feature the exhibition of new work by the finely tuned collage artist Lea Barton at Fischer Galleries in Fondren.  Barton's work is unapologetically presented from the view of and about the southern woman.  In the hands of a lesser artist this narrow focus may keep certain groups of people at a distance or seem irrelevant, but Barton's witty and sincere approach is inviting.  Her pieces are challenging in the best sense.

With Barton's newest work, the Belle Boxes, I can't help but see a connection to the work of Kara Walker.  The delicate silhouettes of the southern belles are composed in shadow boxes as charming graphic pieces, but like Walker's work they seem to question the importance of the elegance.

This is an opportunity to see the work of a seasoned artist with a long exhibition list including a solo show at Denise Bibro gallery in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood.

21 Hours


Walls of Jericho

Belle Box

Belle Box

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Backyards and Beyond at the MS Arts Center

If you haven't visited the Backyards and Beyond exhibit at the Mississippi Arts Center in downtown Jackson, you absolutely should.  This isn't just an art exhibit, it is an experience.  H.C. Porter of Vicksburg, MS created this exhibition after the devastation of hurricane Katrina.  As part of the exhibition there are audio recordings from folks that were affected by the storm.  With this exhibition Porter is doing something that most artists hope that their work will do.  That is, not to just make a social statement, but to make a social impact.  Here is what she says about the exhibition... "My hope is that this exhibition will move people toward continued volunteerism and humanitarianism in Mississippi or wherever it may be needed, in our own backyards or beyond.  This is a story that must be told for a very long time."  

Besides the paintings and the audio recordings, there are large images of floors from Gulf Coast homes laid out on the floor of the exhibition space.  The floor images are of broken tiles and mud covered linoleum and holes exposing the ground beneath.  It is a moving experience that helps to give you a better sense of the massive destruction.  She also created a book of the exhibition, set up a website specifically for the exhibition (linked above), and created a non-profit organization to get the exhibition into more spaces nationally.  It is quite an impressive accomplishment logistically.

Back to the paintings.  She continues in the style that she is known for, that is painting on top of a photograph that has been turned into a high contrast black and white image.  Though she has been working this way for years I think that it particularly appealing in this application.  The faces of the subjects remain black and white while the world around is in vivid color.  By removing skin color she is ultimately removing race, and as we know the storm was colorblind.  

I believe that the exhibition is only up through the end of March so go and prepare to be moved.


Almost Normal

Letting Go
Uproot & Anguish
The Chair

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pat Walker at Brown's

I went last week to check out the Pat Walker show at Brown's gallery in Fondren.  She is primarily known for her traditional still life paintings, but there were a couple of landscapes and figure pieces as well.   She employs in most of her pieces a classic technique of applying think layers of paint (aka "impasto") in the light masses of the composition, while the shadows remain very thin.  By doing this, the physical light of the room reflects off of the impasto areas making them brighter.  See the detail of "Onions and Blue" below to see Pat doing this to the extreme.  You can tell that she really has fun with it.  

I have heard Pat's name come up several times over the past year, not in reference to her paintings, but concerning the destination she is creating at her home in Rolling Fork, MS.  After losing her home and studio in Bay St. Louis to Hurricane Katrina, she relocated to the Mississippi Delta.  There she is hosting painting workshops by nationally known realist painters/instructors.   It's quite an impressive line-up for this year which you can see here.  It is an impressive opportunity that she is bringing to this area and I hope that people really take advantage of it.   

Here's some of the work...


Onions and Blue

Detail of Onions and Blue

Copper and Flowers

1937 MS Delta - Sharky County

Bounty of Color