Friday, November 19, 2010

REVIEW: Marjorie Kramer at Julian Scott Memorial Gallery in Johnson

By Davis Koier

This article first appeared in Johnson State College’s Basement Medicine, Arts & Entertainment section, on November 11, 2010. We are grateful to them for allowing us to reprint it. – Ed.

“The world might not be a pretty place, but it’s beautiful.”

Adjunct Art Professor Marjorie Kramer’s recent show at the Julian Scott Memorial Gallery, [on exhibit from October 18 through November 6, 2010] features a series of Kramer’s recent paintings of subjects from vibrant flowers to more somber toned still lives depicting New York grandeur and small town stark simplicity.

Kramer became interested in art at a young age. “When I was in second grade my school had a PTA meeting at night and I was chosen to paint a mural on the wall of one ring of a circus. It was a little triumph for me, I did well and it was fun and I got to be thought of as the class artist. Then I started drawing horses and dogs, mostly horses.”

Since then, Kramer has developed into an accomplished perceptual artist. A member of the New York feminist movement in the 1960s, Kramer tries to focus more on feel and sensation in her work rather than trying to convey specific ideas.

Kramer’s flower paintings range from the abstract to the more well defined, using pinks, purples, oranges and reds against simple backgrounds to capture the energy of her subjects.
“These flower paintings are my fairly new subject. After many decades I got tired of using so much green paint in painting fields and woods,” Kramer said. “I thought that I could do the flowers almost as an abstraction, I wanted it to be about the whole surface and have rhythm and color, it was a great excuse to have color.”

Kramer’s paintings of New York City use earthier tones, making looming downtown buildings take on a comfortable, familiar aspect.Kramer has spent a large amount of time in New York. She got her BFA at Cooper Union before helping to establish the New York Studio School, which initially didn’t offer degrees but instead chose to focus as intensely on art as possible.

“I quit Cooper Union and went off with [my favorite painting teacher] and 20 other students from other arts schools…” Kramer said. “It was very exciting, that was the 60’s and was very democratic, we made lunch for everybody, got the library together; a lot of the students were models. We had drawing, painting and sculpture, no required courses though most people were politically active then. People were questioning what was being taught in colleges, if was it really relevant.”

After leaving the school, which has since expanded to offer Master’s degrees , Kramer went on to spend around 15 years in New York painting and working in galleries. “For a while I was an artist’s model, and then I got a job managing an art gallery in SoHo,” Kramer said. “I got to know many of the artists in New York and became part of that community. That was my training, I then got angry and rejected a lot of the stuff that my teachers had taught me, and starting coming to Vermont in the summers, just figuring out what I really wanted to do with my art without having a teacher looking over my shoulder. I did all of that until I was about 30.”

After rising rent prices made New York life difficult, Kramer and her husband moved to Vermont, where Kramer began an art program at the Lowell school where her daughter attended kindergarten. Afterward, she expanded to other elementary schools before deciding she wanted to begin college teaching. She spent time working at the Community College of Vermont before coming to teach at Johnson State College.

Many of Kramer’s paintings have a sort of simplicity to them that can distract the viewer from the amount of time and energy she’s put into them.“It’s not that you’re always inspired and want to express it,” Kramer said. “You see something you think you could work, and want to work. You start to work on it and start thinking ‘this is very beautiful and simple,’ and find that the actual process of working is one of the best sources of inspiration.”

Kramer’s show also included a few nods to her feminist background, most notably a self portrait holding a picture of Hilary Clinton and a small, somber-toned painting of two women in close conversation. While exploring different ways to convey emotion in her work, Kramer also tries to impart some of the things she’s learned to students.

“I’m especially interested in perception and the process of painting,” she said. “I’m more interested in teaching the means than the ends. The wonder of sensations and light, it’s not just expression. It’s just amazing that a pencil with paper or a stick with animal hair at the end of it and oil and ground up soil, pigment, can express the human spirit, and has now for thousands of years. It might be a bit of a dull world without art”


Still Life After Seeing A Derain in Paris, 20" x 22", oil on linen, 2010
Lower Manhattan from Governors Island with S.I. Ferry, 32" x 25", oil on linen, 2007
Midsummer Flowers in Abbreviated Vase, 18" x 24", oil on linen, 2010