Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Works on and of paper
January 7 – February 6, 2011
Opening reception Friday, January 7, 5:00 p.m.
PAPER, a group exhibition curated by Elise Whittemore-Hill, includes works by Whittemore-Hill and other artists that use paper’s inherent material and narrative possibilities for explorations in collage, sculpture, pattern, and fashion. Elise’s work stems from studies of hands, both cartoon and real, and what they represent in terms of held possibility, power, and need.
Gallery hours: Fridays 12-8, Saturdays 12-6, Sundays 12-4 or by appointment.
215 College Gallery, 215 College St., second floor, (802)863-3662
Image: I am Popeye by Elise Whittemore-Hill
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
January 2011 Show at Davis Studio Gallery:
Kaitlyn Barr exhibits her new series of acrylic paintings,
Winter-scapes, through January.
Friday, January 7th, during First Friday Art Walk, 6 – 8 p.m.
Davis Studio Gallery, 404 Pine Street, 802-425-2700
Monday, December 27, 2010
Recent work by Muffin Ray will be on exhibit from January 3 - January 31, 2011 in the gallery at Catamount Arts. There will be an artist’s reception on January 7th from 5-7 pm.
Catamount Arts is located at 115 Eastern Avenue in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Gallery Hours are Monday-Saturday 1-6 PM.
Image: detail of Swan, 60x60", mixed media textile assemblage on cambric with text from a poem by Wendell Berry.
Monday, December 20, 2010
If such a thing exists,
An exhibition of paintings by the self taught Burlington Painter Mikey Welsh, on exhibit at Helen Day Art Center from January 21 - April 17, 2011
Mikey Welsh is a self-taught representational and abstract painter based in Burlington, VT. His work reflects the strong influence of Jean Michel Basquiat along with Joan Mitchell, late Willem DeKooning and Jackson Pollock. What is most exciting is Welsh’s assimilation of these styles, and the emergence of his own. His background as a musician (Welsh was the bassist for the superband Weezer for five years), and his untrained approach to painting have created in him a freedom with paint, mark-making and scale.
He gives himself permission to defy convention while influenced by these past masters. The result is an exuberant collection of work through which we can see Mikey’s soul. Through this window he is at times beset by demons, emotionally fractured, manic, meditative, and joyous. Though all of these states are present, never is there any sign of retreat. Mikey is a survivor and an achiever. The practice of painting, and creating art in the isolation of his studio may be Welsh’s wilderness, but the products of his wandering and his hands are glorious, uninhibited shouts to the world... “I am HERE!”
If he makes his artwork in this wilderness, do we hear it? We do. Welsh exists fully integrated in the modern realm of social media and in the established world of real people. He has built a strong network of creative peers in Vermont, and combines this with “the cloud” of interested fans through Facebook, Outsiderart.com and others. These connections are a cure for the isolation of the studio, and are analogous to his studio practice as a musician, where he had the constant feedback and collaboration of his peers.
Distorted faces and figures leap from the canvas. A semi-self portrait on a bright red field holds up its hands in mock surrender. Layers on layers on layers of flowers build up on two panels, increasing the complexity of the image and become an engulfing screen. A chaos of color, strokes and swipes reveals itself to be many layers of broad strokes partially masking those before, the holes in the last layer yielding exciting depth and a sophisticated palette. These are Welsh’s paintings - simultaneously assaulting the viewer, reflecting the viewer and -in time- embracing you.
Mikey’s works are both for himself and gifts to the world. He seems un-conflicted about selling work, and intentionally creates some artwork that is smaller and thus less expensive, catering to a broad audience of fans and collectors - “Look, there is something here for everyone”. He understands that the work is not complete until it has been consumed and appreciated by others. While he doesn’t make work based on what he thinks will sell, he is clearly inspired and fueled by the response of the public.
Welsh has shown broadly since immersing himself in painting in 2001. His first major exhibition was -appropriately- at Paradise Rock Club in Boston, MA. He has shown at Montanaro Gallery in Newport, RI; BRIK Gallery in Catskill, NY; and Amy Tarrant Gallery, Burlington, VT.
Helen Day Art Center is accepting submissions for Exposed!, the 20th annual outdoor sculpture exhibition in Stowe, Vermont. This call is open for artists working within the field of sculpture, public art, participatory or social practice, and performance. The exhibition will run from July 8th - October 8th 2011. Application deadline is March 21, 2011. Please see www.helenday.com for details.
Image: A piece by Jordan Pratt from Exposed! 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
It is always a comfort to visit a museum that houses a childishly playful exhibit. I am pleased to announce that, from now till the 6th of February, the Brattleboro Museum has several such exhibits that create a playful and inviting museum experience. People who want their kids to develop a respect for museum art should consider this opportunity, and especially take notice of the three artists I have highlighted in this article.
The first of these exhibits, housed in the main gallery upon entry, is Gerb’s Gadgetry, the creation of Steve Gerberich. At first the collection of composite sculptures made up of toys, antiques, appliances and junk resemble still and serene settings, as well as imaginative instruments. But these sculptures wait for someone to press the clearly visible button featured in front of them, which brings the sculptures to life. Doors open, flamingos flap their tennis racket wings, lights blink, gears turn, balls roll, feet stomp and bells ring.
But even without movement, the sculptures – ranging from a mad scientist laboratory with head-swapped toys, to a functioning wood shop – have so many features and props within them that there is already a surplus of detail to take in. Also, it is fun to guess what parts of each sculpture will come to life once activated.
Devices like the Glam-o-Matic, a large purple box armed with an assortment of grooming devices, resemble equipment in a Dr. Seuss book. Each display is ingeniously powered using pulleys, ropes, levers, gears, and an assortment of parts. With the sculpture Pigs Hosting a Tea Party, 14 separate components run off of a single turning crank rigged with ropes that are pulled as the crank makes its rotation. There is a clear sense of adult imagination that goes well with the patience and creative engineering skills each work obviously took to make.
In a smaller wing of the Brattleboro Museum is the work of D.B. Johnson and the illustrations from his picture book, Palazzo Inverso.
The book and illustrations follow the journey of a child named Mauk who explores a world designed under the influence of M.C. Escher’s unreal realities. Johnson devised a book that could be read upside down or right side up, so the pictures on display can be viewed either way. Despite being created as a children’s book, the bulk of the work has no trouble appearing in a museum setting.
Johnson’s storybook vision features the maze-like scenery and conceptual designs that Escher commonly used, yet obviously adapted to Johnson’s own style. The completely black and white characters, scenes and props are simple in design, yet Johnson’s use of value and shading brings the complexity of the work to its own impressive dimension. Townspeople pull wagons vertically, neighbors gossip from windows upside-down to each other, floor lamps become ceiling lamps and the idea of gravity becomes fiction.
In addition to D.B Johnson’s pictures, the exhibit houses a small kids’ table that offers the chance to color in ambiguous Escher patterns and create mobius fish from strips of paper.
The last exhibit I would like to mention is the architectural reliefs/paintings of Eric Sealine. I include this in the group of child-friendly exhibits because the work shares the same engaging wonder of a pop-up book.
Sealine’s work plays with depth perception by actually building dimensional features that rise a few inches from the wall, but create the illusion of much deeper space. Bookshelves stick out of inverted corners of a room, windows have an outside world beyond their Plexiglas glaze, and handcrafted pencils and paintbrushes cast actual shadows against the cylindrical sides of coffee cups. Even the illusion of papers being blown by an open window is convincing.
The idea that Sealine tackles is highly impressive, mocking most any other attempts to capture depth using flat mediums. The angles of view are incredible and well interpreted, like his image of looking down a stairwell at the ascending railing, or his model of a toy soldier standing in underbrush like an actor amongst stage scenery. What’s more, each piece can be seen from any angle, so the work can be viewed and treated like a sculpture.
One complaint about Sealine is that he seems more gifted in his building skills than his painting. Although the scenes portrayed in each piece are marvelously composed, close inspection of painted features like leaves and floor space seem crudely treated, and lacking in finesse. But when seen at a distance, among so many other details, such painterly flaws are hard to notice.
The three exhibits reviewed here are enchanting, and should be viewed not just by eager and exploring children, but also by adults who may have forgotten how fun and enveloping art can be.
More photos can be seen on the museum's website.
In the beginning of the month the State of Vermont received an early Christmas present, but it didn't have to wait until Christmas morning to take the wrappings off this gift. The gift, of course, is a new addition to the state's art collection, a portrait of Vermont's outgoing governor, Gov. Jim Douglas. The larger than life painting is a splendid likeness of Gov. Douglas. It depicts him in a dark blue suit and red striped tie, an American flag pin on his left lapel, with a beaming smile.
Speaking at a ceremony for the unveiling of the painting, David Schutz, who has been the State Curator since 1986, could not contain his delight about the new portrait, describing it as one of the top five among the several hundred portraits of governors, military heroes and other individuals exhibited in the Statehouse. Schultz added that it is "not just a portrait of a governor, but also a work of art."
It should be noted that governors’ portraits are not paid for with public funds. It has been a long-standing tradition that a committee of friends and supporters of a governor generally coordinate the fundraising effort. The Douglas portrait cost about $30,000, similar to that of his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Howard Dean. The artist Gov. Douglas selected to paint his portrait is Vermont artist Kate Gridley. She has previously taught at Middlebury College, and currently lives in Middlebury with her husband and children. Her work includes landscapes and interiors as well as portraits. She has painted portraits of a number of prominent Vermonters, including former Middlebury College President Timothy Light, former Green Mountain College President Thomas Benson and Vermont Law School Dean Max Kempner.
Speaking at the unveiling of the painting, she noted that the portrait is not yet varnished because the oil paint will need a year to cure. This means that the surface of the painting is uneven: parts of it appear dull, parts are shiny, the depth and richness of the colors and the range of dark and light are not fully visible. Gridley described how the task of painting a portrait is complicated, not simply about likeness. It is about layers of paint, but also layers of meaning about who the person is."I hope the painting captures the essence of a man who is as honest as they come," Gridley said. "A man who loves to meet people. A man who enjoys honoring the events and special occasions that take place in towns across this state. I'd hope the governor's sense of humor and the fact that he's both formal and approachable are evident."
Those who have never taken a tour of the Statehouse might not realize just how many portraits hang there. A portrait of George Washington, painted by Massachusetts artist George Gassner, in the style of American portrait artist Gilbert Stuart, was the first piece of art purchased by the State of Vermont. The painting has an interesting past, including the fact that it was rescued from a fire that burned the Vermont Statehouse to the ground a few years after the painting was purchased. There are portraits of other historical figures as well: Vermont’s two U.S. presidents, Chester Alan Arthur and Calvin Coolidge, and Montpelier’s own Admiral George Dewey, posed in a white navel uniform on the bridge of his battleship. Legend has it that no likeness of Vermont's first governor, Thomas Chittenden, was available to the artist, so he worked from a sketch of the governor’s grandson, who, it was assumed, bore a likeness to his grandfather. As Schultz has previously pointed out, “More than just a home for the legislature, the Statehouse is also a museum."
Do stop in to see the new portrait, as well as the others while the Statehouse is decked out with its seasonal decorations.
Here is a video of the unveiling:
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
When No One is Looking
What do we do when no one is looking? What do others do when they don't think anyone is watching? This multi media, group show will explore the idea of private and hidden moments, thoughts, deeds and dreams. To be exhibited in the second floor gallery at Studio Place Arts (SPA) in Barre.
NEW Deadline: December 31, 2010
Exhibit Dates: January 18 - February 26, 2011
For information about how to submit (and to see calls for upcoming exhibits in 2011), see http://www.studioplacearts.com/callstoartists.html
Thursday, December 9, 2010
by Dian Parker
Not only is BigTown’s current show rich with new art, it is also stocked with Christmas ornaments, knitted scarves and hats, jewelry, hand embroidered birds on linen, and much more.
Larger artworks include Hugh Townley’s 81"x 39" mahogany sculpture Wendigo, as well as three smaller sculptures in mahogany and oak relief. Nancy H. Taplin presents gestural oils on rag paper that look like brightly colored calligraphy. José Benítez Sánchez’s yarn paintings are astounding to the eye. He presses brilliantly colored yarn into beeswax, making a psychedelic wonderland of archetypal symbolism that tell creation stories of his Huichol heritage in Central Mexico, like his 32" x 48.5" Peyote & Gourd Offerings Are Laid Out By Our Great Grandfather Deer Trail.
New to BigTown is artist Mark Goodwin. His six wood sculptures, some in walnut painted with milk paint, are tiny-- 7" to 12" tall -- yet appear monumental, like monoliths from another time. Goodwin also has wall-hung pieces. White Relief, 16"x10"x1", is a sculptural wall hanging in handwoven cotton, milk paint and beeswax. The piece looks like a slab of pottery, crisscrossed with a knife with bits of newsprint showing through. It too has a massive feel, like an ancient door. Moving Up, 29.5"x22", Goodwin’s largest work in the show, is done in milk paint and gouache. The colors, umber and black, and the forms, like cloistered figures, remind me of the 6th century BC reliefs I saw at caves in Cappadocia, Turkey. The painting looks to have been previously folded several times, as if it had been hidden for centuries and was now newly mounted.
Bhakti Zeik’s Night Slice, five Jacquard weavings, hang vertically on the wall. They are made with silk, tencel, bamboo, metallic gimp (that looks like woven gold leaf) and handmade lampas. They look astronomical, like star maps. Mark Mackay, a goldsmith, has made exquisite jewelry in gold and silver with semi precious stones. Christina Salusti’s ceramic cups, saucers and bowls are detailed with intricate antique decaling and 22k gold inlay. What an elegant teacup!
The BigTown Holiday Show runs until February 3. An open house on Sat, Dec 11 from 2-8 offers pianist Keith Bush performing at 4 p.m. On New Year’s Eve from 4 - 6 p.m. is a “warm-up” event featuring the gallery’s wish wall.
Images: Pat dipaula Klein, Dream of Wild Birds, 2010, 17.375 x 18.375", silk thread embroidery on linen; Mark Goodwin, Small Puzzle, 2010, 11.5 x 5.25 x 1.75, walnut, milk paint, wax
Through Different Eyes-
Paintings of the Scott Farm.
The exhibition will run from December 18 through January 17. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, December 18th from 4:00 to 6:30 pm.
“Through Different Eyes” explores the various approaches artists can take in their interpretations of a particular subject. Fifteen artists were given the assignment to use the Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont as inspiration for their work. It was up to each to find their muse amongst the 626 acres of hillside teeming with ecologically grown apples and the 23 restored structures that make up this land trust property.
With styles as diverse as the contemporary work of Paul Stone, the classic paintings of Thomas Torak, the whimsical visions of Woody Jackson, the sublime pastels of Robert Carsten and the multi- media collages of Mariella Bisson, a wide range of styles are represented. Using a multitude of media, they have created unique visions of a place steeped in beauty and historical significance.
Gallery North Star, located in historic Grafton, Vermont, is dedicated to presenting a diverse selection of work by Vermont's and New England's finest artists in a unique setting. The gallery is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. For more information call (802) 843- 2465 or visit the gallery's website at www.gnsgrafton.com.
Images: Top, Robert Carsten, Autumn Impressions, 12 x 16", pastel; Bottom, James Urbaska, Scott Farm 4, 10x14"
Art Walk is this Friday, December 10, from 4-8 PM. Montpelier Art Walks are presented quarterly by Montpelier Alive, which strives to "enhance a vibrant community center" and create a "unique sense of place." They have also scheduled a number of holiday events in coming weeks to help celebrate the season that include a Holiday Window Contest, a tree lighting ceremony and wagon rides.
In all there are twenty-four locations that will feature a variety of art along the walk.
A handy Montpelier Art Walk Guide is available at many locations in the city, which includes a preview of Montpelier's First Night Events, or you can simply look for signs in the windows of the downtown merchants and other public spaces that are participating as Art Walk locations.
Kellogg-Hubbard Library and City Center both feature the member artists of the Art Resource Association (ARA). At the Kellogg Hubbard Library, Rebecca Kibby has several photographs on display, among them a glowing glimpse of the golden dome of the Statehouse, and a large black and white piece titled Touch-Green Mount, one in a series of photographs from a study of marble sculptures.
ARA member William Steinhurst has two interesting digital photos from a far-off place: Sunrise - Death Valley is a breathtaking landscape that can only be captured from a lofty perch on a mountain peak in the early morning. Salt Marsh - Death Valley is the opposite extreme, an abstract design created by nature. Gladys Agell has a delightful acrylic painting that is a bright and colorful interior study, titled Oh!
The second of the ARA exhibits is at City Center, which will present the MSMS Glee Club Holiday Concert on the evening of the Art Walk. Joy Huchins-Noss’s two paintings at City Center are consistent with the style she brings to her pastel work, such as Kelton Field, which is part of the library exhibit. Anne Unangst's pastel still life Nesting is precise in its execution and worth searching out.
The Drawing Board is displaying more new paintings by Ray Brown for the Art Walk. Some of these paintings build on the style of his exhibition at the Supreme Court, which were inspired by his travels to Italy. The newest paintings (at left) set off in an entirely new direction.
As we have noted in the past, The Skinny Pancake does its best to make art a part of its decor, and this month they are featuring the Tritography of Mark Chaney, whose work I reviewed in Vermont Art Zine past spring.
Community College of Vermont will be exhibiting the art work of the students of seven visual art classes, including Drawing, Photography, Printmaking, and Design, at 50 Main Street., with a reception until 8:00 P.M.
So if you're in Montpelier, get out and Art Walk this Friday!
Images: Joy Huckins-Noss, Undercurrent; Anne Unangst, Nesting; two new paintings by Ray Brown at the Drawing Board
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
The Vermont Fire Academy recently added a new training facility. The addition of the new building included the installation of a series of permanent sculptures titled, Tools of Command. Works of art were commissioned through the Vermont Art in State Buildings Program.
Gregory Miguel Gómez of Newtonville, MA and Putney, VT was chosen as the lead artist for this public art project. Gómez is a painter and sculptor from a family of physicians and scientists. He has lived many places: Buffalo, New York, Detroit, Michigan, Havana Cuba, and Rochester, Minnesota before ultimately moving to Boston and Vermont. He received his undergraduate degree from Grinnell College and an MFA from Washington University, in St. Louis, Missouri. He has taught at the Maryland Institute, in Baltimore Maryland; The Rhode Island School of Design; and Wellesley College, before coming to Wheelock College, in Boston.
The Art in State Buildings Program is a partnership between the Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services. Funded by the Art in State Buildings Act, the program allows up to two capital construction projects be selected each year. Site-specific works of art are chosen by Local Review Committees that are made up of agency and community representatives and visual art experts. Selection criteria includes “. . . high artistic merit and inherent quality of work; and demonstrated experience and ability to work with design professionals, engineers, community leaders, and other artists within a collaborative team context.”
For more information on the Vermont Fire Academy project or other public art projects, visit www.vermontartscouncil.org.
Marlboro College Visual Arts Open Studios
Friday, December 10, 4:00pm
in Perrine, Woodard & Baber buildings
New ceramics professor Martina Lantin has organized this salon-style experience, exhibiting student projects completed during the fall semester. Tour the photography, sculpture, woodworking, ceramics, drawing, and painting classrooms and discuss work with the artists while enjoying refreshments.
Monday, December 6, 2010
On November 30th Marlboro College hosted an artist talk with Jeffrey Stuker, whose art produces fictional advertisements. Even the brand is a prop and has some oblique, satyrical reference to history. And the sharp product advertised is a complete fabrication. A diamond is actually a drawing, the marble it's displayed upon is painted pine board. Every atom of an eye liner only exists in his computer.
1. The gallery and the boutique store mimic one another. As the sale of luxury goods continues to appropriate the minimal aesthetic of a gallery space, so too are galleries starting to appropriate the commodity aspect of luxury stores. Stores ask themselves, how can we be more exclusive? Galleries ask, what will make more sales? Perhaps there will come a point where they meet and become indiscernible. When Stuker hung his Constant: Depuis 1858 show the gallery was mistaken for a watch store. People who knew the gallery were afraid the boutique stores descending on the block had done it in. Others attempted to buy the fictional watches.
2. There is ruthless thing-a-ma-cation and commodification. As our communal relations become ventures for commodity – galleries show product, hospitals treat patients like clients, impromptu dancing for advertisement… – so too do our personal relations. Stuker's diamond, for example, was partially inspired by an ad for "memorial diamonds" made from a beloved's corpse. A body, an urn or a tombstone is not a sufficient end. Whether the grief is for the lost or our own mortality, it seems a diamond, a commodity worthy of advertisement, is more fitting. It is, like art, a way to make the person undead. But where art attempts to capture a bit of soul, a diamond captures, keeps alive, our market value.
3. Luxury items promise an absurd connection with eternity. Whereas humanity once aspired to immortality through song, now luxury products claim to be the cosmos's purveyors. One might even claim there is a competition between art and product. And that that competition is not a light affair. The universe connected to through art is not the same universe connected through product, and for advertisements to claim otherwise is absurd.
If I am to add my two cents I'd say the absurdity Stuker highlights isn't absurd enough. His watches needlessly synch with satellites, yet our cell phones (the most common timepiece these days) are constantly communicating with dozens of satellites, even GPS takes relativity into account because nanoseconds really matter for its function. His beauty products contain poisonous ingredients, yet we all have taken a smoke and chow down fast food and stick radiating electronics in our ears. We are more than willing to take poison with our pleasures. Our daily lives really do depend on the function of man made celestial objects. Even contemporary advertisements are critically self aware. They sell with a cheeky irony that says, "of course you know the promises we make are ridiculous and we're in on the joke too, but isn't it fun anyway?"
Highlighting the underbelly of our relations with capital isn't enough these days. We must not think our art and dreams can embrace just the benevolent parts of capital. We must stop waiting for the miracle that will excise ills from pleasures.
Images: Jeffrey Stuker, 16X20" Color Photograph, courtesy of Manfred Baumgartner Gallerym Père Lachaise Cemetery. Paris, August 2007
PRESS RELEASE: Willard & Maple Art Auction on Wednesday and Thursday at Champlain College in Burlington
Willard & Maple literary magazine is putting on an art auction to benefit our magazine as well as local area artists Wednesday and Thursday of this week on the campus of Champlain College. The event will be held in the Morgan Room of Aiken Hall from 9-5 on Wednesday, December 8 and 9-4 on Thursday, December 9. Bids are accepted on both days. Some artists participating are Karen Dawson, Ryan Prenger, Jacquelyn Heloise Liebman, Sarah Grillo, Danielle Bombardier, Geebo Church, and Marc Awodey. High quality, stunning work is available to the highest bidder! Please come support these artists and our magazine! On campus parking is not available, but walk-ins are encouraged to attend and on street parking is available nearby.
Contact Clara Barnhart at email@example.com for more information.
Image: Karen Dawson, Beings With No Political Power, oil on canvas, 40 x 30"
Sunday, December 5, 2010
21 large scale works by Cameron Schmitz, including oil on canvas, silkscreen prints, intaglio etchings, monotypes, graphite on paper, appear at
WalkOver Gallery & Concert Room,
15 Main Street, Bristol, VT
December 1, 2010 - January 2, 2011
Sunday December 12th
CAMERON SCHMITZ - Artist Statement
Times of solitude, no matter how brief, inspire me. Quiet, mundane moments woven throughout our days, suggest deeper thinking and personal reflection. Contemplating on these states of being, illuminates a universal human experience, and provides a great source of feeling upon which my work is made. Painting, drawing, photographing and reflecting on the quieter moments within our lives, derives from my own desires to collapse, suspend and render the passing of time into a visual poetry that can be experienced and reflected upon again and again. Or perhaps it results from my personal concerns of a culture and generation consumed by interruptions and distractions, and the fear of losing an experience so vital.
As a part of my process, I allow each image to drive and dictate my use of mark and technique and explore emotive qualities that become present. Dashes of paint, graphic lines and rhythmic strokes are evidence revealing an active search and visual dialogue being shaped. It is here that I also explore suggestive and meditative qualities that each material and mark made on the surface provides me. Through this search, I aim to provide my viewers with the ability to construct their own personal meaning and unearth their own discoveries from each picture.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
According to the Burlington City Arts website,
In Steve Budington’s Homunculus, human bodies unravel, fly apart, and merge with prosthetic technology. Budington’s new body of work takes as its point of departure the neuroscientific concept of the “cortical homunculus”: a remapped image of the human form that scales body parts in relation to the degree of sensory input present in each area. In a radical redefinition of figurative painting, Budington’s imagery emphasizes embodied experience: the proliferation, or complete absence, of sensory organs; Gore-Tex in exchange for skin; and male and female genitals spliced onto the same body. From iPods to cosmetic surgery, artificial hearts and neuroplastic implants, our culture increasingly extends and enhances the physical body. Budington explores and questions how this next step in our physical evolution will transform our sense of self and our perception of the environment we inhabit.
Vermont Art Zine: People have been artificially tweaking themselves since prehistory. But before we can physically alter our bodies we must first possess the desire, the idea and the means. The promises of bioengineering and robotics make your figures seem not at all unrealistic, so what desires and ideas do you think are bound to proliferate? How might the human form continue to reshape?
Steve Budington: I can’t honestly say I know the answer to this question about what will happen in the future. In a way though, I’m asking similar questions when I make my work. Specifically, I’m asking what would happen if the body evolved at the rate of cultural novelty? What would it look like, and what might that imply about our subjective experiences? My works might be seen as a provisional answers to these questions.
In terms of "desire", what seems conspicuous to me in the context of our present culture is a deep ambivalence about the promises of bioengineering and robotics. Most people seem on board with the idea that advances in these fields towards health and healing are a positive development, whether we’re talking about helping soldiers with amputations, or curing diseases and mental disorders. At the same time, there’s a real fear related to using those same technologies to enhance the non-impaired body beyond its physical or mental limitations. This ambivalence seems like a richly imaginative space in which to work.
VAZ: Yet we have no qualms relegating our sense of direction to GPS, or our cultural tastes to Amazon, or our memory to a hard drive, etc… It seems we fear corporal alterations only because they make stark the ways the human condition is already being reformed. Do you think the anxiety is needless?
SB: If the anxiety produces a thoughtful consideration of pros, cons, and various potential outcomes, then it will be a productive anxiety.
VAZ: I guess that's the problem with anxiety and ambivalence: they do not make for thoughtful considerations, instead they make irrational ones. Your art seems to press the mute button on that anxiety and instead open the conversation up to what possible futures there might be. So what's your own relation to technology, especially when making art?
SB: I like this idea of "pressing the mute button" in my work - that's a great way of putting it.
In terms of my personal relationship to technology, evidence would suggest I'm not much of a "techy"; it's likely I prefer reading and thinking about technology more than using it, though it's certainly ubiquitous in my life as an artist and a teacher.
Painting of course, is a very old technology; colored mud on a surface. The limitations of this medium allow me to think in ways that are unavailable to me in most other aspects of my life. The paint interferes with my intentions and ideas, which at best leads me to unexpected ways of looking and thinking, and at worst to the failure of an image. The failure is often productive, however. I have not experienced this with digital mediums; I think because you can reverse your steps to get back to an earlier state, or completely delete something. Making a move in a painting, on the other hand, is more or less irrevocable. Even when you paint over something there is a residual physicality, if not visible pentimenti. In a painting, you have to commit to the result of your actions and forget about what came before it. I haven't found a way to do this digitally. Maybe it would be different if I were a programmer, but for now, I'm merely a user.
VAZ: Your figures often have many more organs than we're accustomed to: a head that's all eyes, or ears, multi-penile genitals, etc… The hype of the technological revolution is that life will be just as it is, but more intense. We'll have more pixels, more audio depth, more pleasure than we even know we wanted. So, do you think that's the case, or will these inventions actually restructure what a human is? And if so, does painting reveal anything about how?
SB: The "human" has constantly been reshaped by the demands and inventions of culture; The renaissance generated the idea of the humanist whole, which involved an individual perfecting themselves on all levels: mentally, physically, and spiritually. In this model, there was no separation between the "geeks" and the "jocks." By now, we've pretty much replaced that humanist model with models of specialization. Here, the idea of "perfection" is replaced by "optimization", the "genius" by the "specialist", and "essence" by "context dependence." These shifts in thinking and thier results in cultural production manifest on the physical body, whether it's through the extension of the body with technology, physical or mental training and re-training, prosthetics, or re-constructive surgery. For example, there is nothing particularly "natural" about today's hyper-trained athlete's body; it is the epitome of an optimized and context dependent specialist. Nor is there anything natural about becoming a specialist in increasingly minute subject areas. It is apparent that we live with excesses of specialized minutia situated within ever more specialized social contexts. As always, we're adapting ourselves with our minds, bodies, and technologies.
I think a painting is a great place to reflect on this; it's one of the few media that holds still for you.
VAZ: And now art is increasingly specialized and categorized and more of it accused of obscurity. Some call for a change toward mass appeal. I think the conflict between renaissance and post-modern ideals plays out in micro over this question, though you'll find enduring art in all camps. So how do you feel as an artist relating to the art world? Do you feel pigeonholed or freed by the new ways art is shared through technology?
SB: As an artist living in Vermont, I'm grateful that technology has created ways to share and decentralize artistic activity. What's more, artists now have the ability to practice in a wider variety of venues and locations, and they have a broader if not infinite range of materials and methods available for making new work. In this environment, there's going to be a lot of fantastic work, a lot of poor work, and the full spectrum in between. Because of this, artists, critics, curators, collectors, art historians and others have had to figure out ways of assessing what is or should be significant about a work of art and why. I love all of this discourse, theory and practice; it can provide new ways of interpreting and experiencing the world we're in, and this in turn can provide a catalyst for making work.
VAZ: What contemporaries have you been introduced to online? Any other artist or theory out there now you feel particularly drawn to, or at odds with?
SB: Steve DiBenedetto is a contemporary painter whose work I was introduced to in graduate school about 7 years ago. I saw his work online first and was not interested in what seemed like goopy, psychedelic doodling you see on college campuses. Seeing the work in person changed my mind completely, and I love his paintings from the early 2000's. I'm constantly being introduced to new work online, but I've never arrived at a meaningful experience or understanding of any art this way. You still have to see it in person.
As for artists that interest me, there are so many. Recently, I've been thinking about and looking at the work of Jakub Julian Ziolkowski, Kurt Kauper, Amy Sillman, Vermeer, Alexi Worth, and William Pope L., among many others. With theory, in the past few years I've been re-visiting the history of figurative painting in the 20th and 21st centuries, reading artists statements, interviews, and the works of relevant critics and theorists. A few that stick out to me; Benjamin Buchloh's essay "Figures of Authority, Ciphers of Regression," and Kathryn Hayles book "How we Became Posthuman." I also loved reading "Endurance," the historical account of Ernest Shackelton's antarctic expedition.
VAZ: An android from the future arrives on your doorstep with a replica of your body. "Only faster, stronger and eternally youthful," the android says. "We simply download your brain into this hard drive, upload it into this body and then voila! As for the old one," poking your belly, "easily disposed of." Do you accept the offer?
SB: No thanks. I like this flawed thing I'm in.
Art can be as exciting as young love when first viewed. What is fresh and new holds a mystery that needs to be understood. But appreciators of art can be as fickle as Romeo, pining over Rosaline one minute, until his eyes behold Juliet in the next. Art is the means of evoking deep emotional responses within us, and Carolyn Enz Hack's current exhibition, More Shocking Art, which opened back in November at the gallery-space in the Vermont Supreme Court, creates both of these effects. One easily falls in love with a painting until the next one is viewed. But there is also the desire to have a more lasting relationship to them. Either way, there is much to love about these paintings.
"This exhibition contains representational paintings, but the subjects are just excuses for me to experiment with what I learned from the last painting," Hack says. Evidence of her process is demonstrated in six large paintings that use a water lily theme. Pond Ripple, from 2009, uses a shimmering impressionistic interpretation of pond lilies, and the reflected sky and clouds on water. Beginning in the lower left corner of the painting, a large yellow-green lily pad echos across the canvas, repeating the shape that become less and less defined. The vibrating shape dissolves upward toward the right corner of the painting and into a space where white and light blue of reflected sky alternates with the water elements. Clearly, Pond Ripple lays down the ground work for the newly completed series of water lily paintings, Fabricated Landscape #s 1- 4. These paintings are beautifully developed, more representational and richer in many ways. These four paintings share the same motif, but vary in their composition and balance. The pond water is blue-black, murky and dark, providing the perfect tension for the a brightly lighted reflections on the surface. The focus is on the broad thick circular lily pads that float on the canvas. Some lily pads are rendered in tender green colors, but most are bathed in a white light. A scratching technique etches out the veins of the broad leaves, creating attractive details. The bright reflections of the sky and clouds, and a surrounding landscape of trees cut the paintings in half, making a rich interplay of dark pond and light blue sky that dance together on the water’s surface.
Carolyn experiments with numerous techniques, but finds ways to integrate them into the work: brick red paint drips and runs in places forming the stems of the pads, in places the paint appears sponged on, thin and watery. There is never a sense that the techniques are a device meant to attract attention, they are in fact only noticeable when examining the paintings up close. Step back and the paintings display their magic. "That's the trick, and we don't really know what makes it happen; especially in two dimensions," said Hack.
"Part of my process is certainly just about the physical application of the medium on the canvas, and my most effective work time is when I'm not really ‘thinking’ about it, just doing it. (I like) to work quickly and just let the intuitive take over, or you will end up in the land of cerebral dead ends - as far as art goes. Working in the theater made me consider everything from a distance..., but my natural inclination from a scientific perspective tells me that we need to look at systems on many scales. That quick action of painting does not entirely satisfy my urge for control, so therefore all of the scratching, line work and just general messing with the paint on a small scale.”
The scratching is a painting technique called sgraffito (see image above right), in which lines are incised into the still-wet paint. It's traditionally been used for decorating ornaments and earthenware, but it's also used in oil paintings to suggest movement and energy, as well as to produce texture. Hack uses sgraffito to explore the science of nature.
She explains, "There is so much to talk about in art and science, one reflecting the other, and this is something that I think about all the time. Patterns in the natural world are replicated at all sizes. I have had a long-standing fascination with fractals and know that whatever we are focusing on at the moment is both surrounded by and contains detail at the edge of our field of vision."
Fiddlehead Fern, a 2007 painting included in the show along with the more recent work, is an example of how her sensitivity to a “scientific perspective” informs Hack's process. The painting depicts dried grass, leaves and branches of a dormant riverbank sketched out in earth tones on a thinly painted background. There, emerging green coils of fiddleheads sprout into life. Sgraffito delineates the vibrations of an awaking earth in springtime. The artist retraces the overlapping and intersecting patterns, layer upon layer. Geometric shapes and designs emerge, patterns in the natural world. Magically, the details fold themselves into the representational images of the painting. Among the recent paintings, Queen Anne’s Lace similarly combines sensitive observation of nature with attention to detail.
Pond Grass, the last of the water lily paintings included in the exhibition, demonstrates yet another evolution of the artist’s style, representing a maturity in understanding the subject matter. There is an unexplainable appeal found in the complicated wealth of details in this painting. Perhaps it is the variety of the elements in the composition, and the lush use of color and paint that makes it stand out above all Hack’s other paintings.
"I expect that my work will continue to evolve at a rapid pace now that it has my full attention." Hack says, adding that she looks forward to immersing herself in a studio experience, perhaps at the Vermont Studio School, "to pull the different strands of the work together and get them moving in the same direction." One could argue that the paintings described here achieve this already, but we look forward to more fine art from her soon.
More Shocking Art will be on display at the Supreme Court until the new year. You can also visit her work online at http://www.redbubble.com/explore/carolyn+enz+hack.
Images: Fabricated Landscape #3, scrafitto detail, Queen Anne's Lace, Pond Grass
Get in the holiday spirit on Friday, December 10th in downtown Montpelier during Montpelier Art Walk, where you will find artwork, a glee club concert, live mannequins, music, a preview of First Night activities—including advance button sales, AND artful gift ideas. Art Walk starts at 4 p.m. and goes until 8. It’s free and open to everyone.
Guidebooks are available at participating downtown outlets. And previews and updates are on the Montpelier Art Walk Facebook page.
Anyone who'd like to sign up to receive the Art Walk preview newsletter can do so here: Friends of Art Walk
Image by Rick Powell, on exhibit at The Book Garden.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The Shelburne Art Center is excited to announce that Burlington artist and educator Sage Tucker-Ketcham has assumed the role of Executive Director.
Sage Tucker-Ketcham is a tenth generation Vermonter with a BFA from Maine College of Art and an MFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She has exhibited work at venues including The Amy Tarrant Gallery, The Firehouse Gallery, The Shelburne Museum, ICA Portland of Maine, Hudson Walker Gallery, Provincetown Art Association Museum and Berkshire Community College of Massachusetts. These exhibits and others have been reviewed in a variety of publications, including Art in New England, Seven Days, Art Scope, The Burlington Free Press and other community newspapers.
As a business owner and educator, Tucker-Ketcham was the co-founder of One Arts and Business, a not-for-profit dedicated to fostering arts and business in the North End of Burlington. She has worked as an educator and administrator for the YMCA, Head Start, Burlington City Arts, the Burlington School System, Cape Elizabeth Community Services, and Burlington College. Throughout her career, Sage has taught hundreds of children and adults, and has curated several art shows.
Now stepping up as the new Executive Director for the Shelburne Art Center, her goal is to develop and implement a smart growth plan for Shelburne’s historic arts and craft school. Ultimately, her aim is to see the Art Center function as a sustainable, efficient institution that is both forward-thinking and progressive, yet keeps to the core values on which it was founded over seventy years ago. With that mission in mind, the non-profit will work towards modernizing its facilities and administration to both save money and stream-line the day-to-day operations. At the same time, The Shelburne Art Center will invest more time and energy in its classrooms, studio spaces, and curriculum, allowing the arts community and partnerships with local schools—elementary through college-level—to thrive and grow.
Through the Music Studio & Gallery
2 Elliot Street, Brattleboro Vermont
(in the back of Turn It Up! just go through the music and up the stairs)
featuring artwork by Rob Cartelli & Helen O'Donnell
and also featuring sound installation by Mike Roberts
December 3rd, 2010 5:30pm-9:00pm
Open Throughout the Month December 3rd-29th
Through The Music is run by Sarah Rice and Josh Steele, two artists/art lovers who wanted to give a little back to the Brattleboro art community. They say, "We felt a need for more places in Brattleboro for local indie artists to show their work, So here it is."
M-Th, 10 - 8, Fri-Sat 10-10, Sun 11-5, and the Gallery is always open when Turn It Up is open; purchasing is by appointment only.
Images: Stack of porcelain bowls by Rob Cartelli, From the Ferry by Helen O'Donnell