Elliptical Thinking at Wally Workman

Please join us in Austin, Texas for the opening of Elliptical Thinking. All new work from the past two years, the show includes eight large scale color wheel compositions, several diptych Conversations, and prints from the Fascinators series of allegorical portraits. To read more about the work and the thinking behind each piece, the interior of the show catalog can be downloaded in pdf format here. Wally, Rachel, and I look forward to seeing you in the gallery!

What: Elliptical Thinking (Part II)
Where: Wally Workman Gallery, Austin, TX
When: October 7-28, Artist Talk: Oct 5th @ 6pm, Opening: Oct 7 @ 6pm
Ambiance: 179 panels and all the spaces between them

Women in the Art World

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Recently, I’ve noticed several articles about women in the art world circling and resurfacing on the internet. Rachel Stephens, one of the gallery directors at Wally Workman, where I will have a solo show in November, just commented on this series of interviews from artnet published last Tuesday. Wally Workman Gallery was established in 1980 and is woman-owned and directed. An outlier statistically, 67% of the gallery artists are women.

Also this week, I heard from Erin Holscher Almazan, who has curated a two-woman show featuring my work and figurative prints from Carrie Lingscheit which will be open at Gallery 249 in Dayton, Ohio through October 18. She will be meeting a colleague’s “Art and Feminism” class in the gallery for a discussion of the work and asked that I answer a few questions. Since the request and format were so similar to the artnet piece, I thought I would share my thoughts here as well.

What is the significance and relevance of women’s experiences within a patriarchal art world (woman as subject and image maker; domestic space; children) in your work?

I am definitely aware of feminist critiques of the art world (specifically, what I would consider the top 1% of the art world about which so much is published). Many statistics have illustrated the underrepresentation of women as heads of museums and the subjects of solo museum shows, and financially, have shown that the work of women has not approached the highest limits at auction sales. I support the efforts of the people taking action to make the high-end art world a more equal playing field. I think it should be. However, at the moment, I do not live in that world and neither does my work. I am inclined to think that the affordable art world (and prints, even by well-known artists, are often relatively affordable) is a more egalitarian place in every way.

I think that the two most important things for an artist to have are 1) a clear voice and message and 2) the ability to find the audience for that message. It also matters whether or not one needs to be able to make money from one’s art to continue making it. If the answer is yes, then it is even more important that 1 and 2 align. Happily, there is far more to the art world than just the most exclusive New York galleries or auctions by Sotheby’s (though it is still fun to read about them and ogle both the art and the price tags). People appreciate art of many different genres in many different venues. In this larger art world, I am constantly trying to find, maintain, and grow the connection between my voice and the people who respond to it.

Women have consistently been a subject of my work for the last six years. I think there are two main reasons for this: 1) The overall focus of my work is the study of identity. My print projects often deal with this theme, and because I am female, this is a huge part of my own identity and something I wish to explore. 2) I grew up in a family of all sisters. They say that writers should write what they know, and well, I know what it is like to grow up as a girl, and have witnessed closely other girls growing up as girls. With most of the figurative and narrative prints, I am telling stories and showing emotions that I have seen and felt myself.

Does there seem to be a renewed interest in printmaking fueled by women printmakers?

I do know that there are a lot of women printmakers. The majority of the artists in residence at Kala (the facility in which I work) are women. I also think that there is a flourishing interest in printmaking at the moment, so it follows that women are a big part of that flourishing. But from my point of view, this has not been so much a gendered renaissance as a celebration of print in a community that is, in my experience, a very sharing, open, and supportive group of people. I love printmakers. And I have found that printmakers who are men are often of this same ilk. I like that printmakers often operate in groups and collectives, even while working on solitary projects. This environment is conducive to impromptu critiques and shared experimentation with new materials or techniques. There is often a lot of community feeling in a printshop.

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Four Squared at ARC Gallery

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ARC Gallery‘s annual show in which selected artists present their work in 4×4 grids opened this Saturday. I particularly enjoyed the ceramics of Joseph Kowalczyk, which reminded me of a slightly creepier Where the Wild Things Are. His endearing artist statement sealed the deal:

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What: Four Squared
Where: ARC Gallery
When: August 23 – September 20, 2014
Ambiance: Sixteen mini-shows in sixteen parts

Walton Ford at Paul Kasmin Gallery

By the kind of serendipity that seemed a credit to New York, we walked into Paul Kasmin Gallery to see Walton Ford’s current show just as he started an artist talk. Standing in front of Tigress, one of three large-scale watercolors that fill the first gallery space, he began with a bit of his own history—how his naturalist, narrative watercolors have evolved over time, and critical thoughts on narrative art in general.

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Over the past twenty years, Ford has developed a clear artistic voice by firmly rooting his practice in the well-established canon of natural history illustration and narrative allegory, while also stepping just outside the conventional etiquette of those genres. In the beginning, he said, the process was more formulaic: “take a natural history illustration and subvert it.” Ford tweaks images that we are prepared to see as simply specimens, physically–through scale, and conceptually–through depictions of violence, debauchery, and the juxtaposition of objects and animals that are not usually found in the same picture plane.

But there is more to these works than a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Ford’s compositions are also well-researched. He puts himself into narratives unearthed from medieval bestiaries and arcane fables and permeates his carefully-constructed compositions with the immersive empathy of a method actor. As he is telling us the story behind Tigress, a scene imagined from a Persian manual on kidnapping cubs, my own mother tears up as he describes how the mother tiger is continuously halted in her pursuit. The poachers are instructed to throw glass orbs behind them as they race away on horseback, each one reflecting the mother’s image and confusing her into thinking she sees her babies, until she is lost in an overwhelming accumulation of glass and her own reflections.

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On an entirely gossipy note: Vogue claims that Leonardo DiCaprio might have been the purchaser of this particular piece. And for an even juicier article, the WSJ delivers on anecdotes about the artist—though there’s not too much about his art.

Ford then went on to talk more critically about narrative art, specifically about keeping interpretations open. He used two paintings by Pre-Raphaelite William Holman Hunt as examples of stepping on either side of the very thin line between good and bad narrative. HolmanHunt_AwakeningConscienceThe Awakening Conscience, Ford compared to Norman Rockwell paintings, condemning both for closing all but one door to viewer interpretation. On the other hand, he pointed out that The Scapegoat, by the very same artist, is a masterpiece for communicating emotion, but allowing for endless possibilities when it comes to narrative. Hearing both this and Ford’s own–the real–narrative behind the Tigress, I felt a new appreciation for the piece. Originally, I had thought the crystal balls were stones, or perhaps cannon balls, and even though I wish, knowing the story, they had been painted with reflections and a real sense of light-refracting glass, I think the strength of the piece rests in Ford’s intimacy with his version of the story. It allows him to portray all the details that mysteriously translate an emotion while leaving doors open for the rest of us.

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Another strong ten-foot watercolor in the show was Rhyndacus. This elegantly-composed, satisfyingly enormous, apparently autobiographical allegory was also just plain gorgeous. The press release tells the story behind this one. Here’s a photo of the artist and his work for scale:

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And the admirer inspecting the details for more scale:

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Admittedly, even though I had read the measurements in Taschen’s monograph of Walton Ford, Pancha Tantra (which was my Christmas present this year and is an excellent art book), the scale took me by surprise. It was impressive—especially from far away. Even better, it is also not just size for the sake of size: Ford’s works are often huge because his animals are rendered at a scale of 1:1. The enormous snake by the Rhyndacus river was a 60-foot legend, and tigers and elephants and bears are all huge.

I was glad to be able to see for the first time both the artist and his work. After fantasizing over his book for the last six months, it was a thrill to see the larger-than-life life-sized.

What: Walton Ford: Watercolors
Where: Paul Kasmin Gallery
When: May 1, 2014 – June 21, 2014
Ambiance: Museum of Natural History meets Aesop at an orgy

Upcoming Events: February and March 2014

With Southern Graphics Council’s annual conference taking place in San Francisco this year, Groveland Gallery’s show in Minneapolis, and a three-day workshop in Santa Barbara, February and March are shaping up to be full of the social side of art life.

If you find yourself near one of these venues in the next two months, please stop by!

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Combination Woodcut and Drypoint Workshop
The Rusty Barn, Santa Barbara, CA
February 21-23

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Artist Talk at Carleton College
Northfield, MN
March 7th at 4pm, Boliou 161

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Opening reception for Girls, a two-person show with Duncan Hannah
Groveland Gallery, Minneapolis, MN
March 8th at 2pm

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Intaglio printmaking demo at Kala for the Oakland Museum
Kala Studio, Berkeley, CA
March 11th at 12pm

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Opening reception for Altered States, in conjunction with the SGC conference
ARC Gallery, San Francisco, CA
March 27th from 7-9pm

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Printmaking demo at Kala for the Southern Graphics Council Conference
Kala Studio, Berkeley, CA
March 28th at 12pm

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Altered States artist talks
ARC Gallery, San Francisco, CA
March 29th at 5-7pm

What: printmaking events galore
Where: California and Minnesota
When: February and March 2014
Ambiance: convocation of the last group of Americans to still have use for phone books

The Paper Quilt Project and sculpture by Nancy Mintz

The Paper Quilt Project is showing concurrently at the Berkeley Art Center and Traywick Contemporary through December. I was drawn to the Traywick opening this Saturday both by the lure of work-on-paper and the hope of finding new takes on repeated shape, collage, and other quilty sensibilities. Admittedly, I left the show suspecting that the real power pieces must all be housed at the BAC, because most of the paper pieces at Traywick were pretty tame. The booklet, however, promises wonderful surprises, so I’ll be sure to make it over to the other site.

For me, the hit of the current Traywick collection was new sculpture in the entryway by artist (and fellow Kala-ite) Nancy Mintz. Her walking houses, yearning ladders, and caged eggs continue the thought-provoking study of motherhood that she began at Traywick with her show last March.

Event: The Paper Quilt Project
Where: Berkeley Art Center and Traywick Contemporary
When: October 15 – December 4, 2011
Ambiance: (Traywick) a sleek multi-level, multi-nooked home/gallery inside a former Masonic Temple

Light/Dark at Berkeley Art Center with Enrique Chagoya

The California Society of Printmakers opened the Light/Dark show juried by Enrique Chagoya last night to a packed house. It was the first time I remember being claustrophobic in a crowd since being manually pressed into a Japanese train ten years ago, but the show was well displayed (especially for a group show of this size) and the Light/Dark theme was perfect for printmakers. I would recommend going on a quiet afternoon on the heels of a walk through the rose garden.

Some highlights from the show below are Jenny Robinson‘s Billboards and Debra Jewell‘s Soberanes.

Event: Light/Dark
Venue: Berkeley Art Center
Dates:April 2 – May 22, 2011
Ambiance: perfect North Berkeley – perfumed by prehistoric flowers

Alison Kendall at Mina Dresden Gallery

A particularly exciting roller coaster of a cab ride formed the bridge between Stella Ebner’s opening at the SFMOMA artist gallery and “Bound By A Common Geography,” new work by Alison Kendall and Clare Judith Bowers at Mina Dresden in San Francisco. A good night for openings.

Kendall and Bowers’s paintings hang well together with shared wood and putty tones. This buffalo map of the U.S. was one of our favorites from Kendall’s science illustration-inspired work:

Event: Bound By A Common Geography
Venue: Mina Dresden Gallery
Dates: November 11 – December 12, 2010
Ambiance: narrow, wooden-floored room and memories of the Field Museum

Shawn HibmaCronan and Nemo Gould at the Oakland Museum

Thanks to Pat Epstein for tipping me off to this opening at the Oakland Museum on Thursday: In its sculpture court and gallery 555, the Oakland Museum has organized a show of furniture-artists-turned-inventors.
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[NemoGould1.jpg]Shawn HibmaCronan‘s get-away school desk and other personal movement machines look like materialized daydreams, while Nemo Gould‘s Victorian robots remind me of sculptures that might have existed in the collection of Prince Armitage Ranjit Dakkar – it could have been the artist’s name which inspired the connection, but it could also have been the giant moving squid on 12th street…

Event: Shawn HibmaCronan and Nemo Gould at the Oakland Museum
Venue: the sculpture court and gallery 555
Dates: May 27 – July 30, 2010
Ambiance: sunny, sanded, and polished