Sunday, February 13, 2011

REVIEW: Marc Awodey at Dibden Center for the Arts at Johnson State College in Johnson

Painting the Ideal:
The Art of Marc Awodey

By Davis Koier

"I paint pictures- there's no overarching conceptual basis to what I do. I'm not versatile enough to paint any way other than how I paint."

So begins painter and part-time Johnson State College faculty member and alumnus Marc Awodey's artist's statement on the 40 acrylic and oil paintings that line the wall of the Dibden Center for the Arts.

"Awodey's clear-minded tactics have the ability to hold a viewer's attention and allow several relationships to mingle within a single canvas," said Dibden Director Leila Bandar in her curatorial notes on the exhibit.

The paintings focus on mood rather than technicalities. Human figures are intentionally ill defined with only smudges to indicate eyes, nose and mouth. Instead, Awodey uses rich colors and luxuriant textures to capture the viewer.

"Narrative content is the least interesting part of a painting to me," Awodey said. "The anatomy of the picture is always more important than the anatomy of the subject. My figures are usually gestural rather than specifically detailed. Lines and brushwork are also gestural rather than polished. Colors are layered and juxtaposed rather than directly blended."

One of the pieces that perfectly displays this focus on sensation rather than observation is "Meat Triptych," where great globs of luscious reds and browns are used to display hunk after glorious hunk of meat. The shapes of the meat are highly simplistic, in some cases resembling ovals more than ribs or loins, but the almost palpable textures Awodey's brush gives them, along with their warm colors, make the subject evident.

"These paintings record a dialogue between painter and paint. Each brush stroke represents a decision on the canvas," said Dibden Director Leila Bandar in her curatorial notes. "In each painting, there is clarity, decisiveness and the articulation of one, or more, visual concepts. Awodey's respect for art history and its lineage brings Modern Masters to mind such as Matisse, Van Gogh and Munch. Yet his themes, quirks, textures and layers of color make his paintings unique to our time… Resourcefulness trumps predictability over and over again."

Many of Awodey's paintings seem to be more concerned with concepts rather than subjects. He depicts Church Street as a simple, deserted road to a church lined with featureless buildings underneath a vivid blue sky. The details of shops and other people are unimportant, only the feeling of unhurried freedom. One is reminded of Plato's Theory of Forms- that is, that the objects that surround us are merely shadowy representation of higher concepts. Anyone can draw a road, but Awodey seems to capture thoughts and sentiments rather than their base appearances.

"I develop a dialogue with the canvas and let it develop on its own terms – I don't try to impose my will on the painting," said Awodey. "I have no idea what you may see in a painting, so I try not to worry about that, and don't ask you to look at anything in a particular way. When a painting is finished, my original intent is irrelevant."

After graduating with a Bachelors of Philosophy from Grand Valley State University, Awodey came to Johnson State College in 1981, and graduated in 1982 with a Bachelor of Fine Art degree as well as a Departmental Award in Studio Art. Awodey then went on to get his Master of Fine Arts degree in painting at Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1984.

Currently, Awodey teaches Drawing I at JSC, as well as painting at Burlington College. He is also a freelance art critic and has written several books of poetry. His show will run through Aug. 8, with an artist's talk and reception on March 8 at 3:30 p.m. in the Dibden gallery.

Images: Exhibit view, Shooting an Elk, Woman Knitting