Artists To Know: ArtPrize 2018 Edition!

I just made the last weekend of ArtPrize this year, and though to me it seemed like the venues had less art in them than usual, there were still some standout projects! Keep in mind I was only able to be in Grand Rapids for a day this year, so I by no means saw near everything. Of what I did see, the following were my favorites.

Rynita Shepherd, Sex Ability: Smashing Stereotypes With Sex Appeal

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In approaching this piece, I experienced firsthand why I always tell people that when visiting a gallery or museum you absolutely should not just breeze by the artwork, but actually take the time to stop in front of each piece for at least 3 minutes. Looking at this series from way across the room, I thought it was just a set of typical boudoir photos. I am tattling on myself right now and admitting I assumed they were photos taken by a man, probably with some cringey artist statement about “appreciating female beauty”, and proceeded to internally rolled my eyes a bit. Then I actually walked right up to it and looked, and realized that first of all these are NOT photos! These were drawings with a story. Shepherd has a rare condition called Arthrogryposis which causes her to have limited mobility in her arms and legs. Because of this, she uses her mouth to draw. All of the women in these portraits have the same condition. Shepherd says, that society expects so little of people with disabilities, and that, “We are completely discredited as sexy, capable women by society due to our physical differences. We have the same hopes, dreams, and desires. We are every woman.” What a powerful statement, as this artist places the unseen right in our faces, and smashes stereotypes about disability!

Mher Khachatryan, Jesus

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I remember this artist’s work from the 2 previous years he was featured at ArtPrize due to his trademark effect of having his images trail off into wisps of smoke and vapor. I’d encourage you to visit his artist profile and look at last year’s tribute to 9/11. Everyone remembers those paintings of a Jesus looking wistfully to the sky, with long eyelashes and glossy auburn hair that every Grandma had hanging in her dining room at one point … This is not that. Khachatryan is from Armenia though he now lives in the US, and wrote lovingly in his artist bio about being able to see one of the first churches ever built in his home country. I can actually see the emotional, spiritual, and cultural connection the artist had to this subject as I look at this piece. The light, airy, glowing feel he has achieved using oil paints and mainly dark black at that is no small feat. I saw many viewers stop and audibly gasp in wonder as they approached this large scale painting. For your art to have that kind of power is a beautiful thing.

John Gutoskey, PULSE Nightclub: 49 Elegies 

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I adore mixed media, and this series stopped me dead in my tracks. Each piece individually is intriguing and beautiful, but hung together the viewer feels immersed and transported. This series uses monoprints to commemorate each of the 49 people massacred at PULSE nightclub in Orlando, Florida in the summer of 2016. The series is rife with symbolism encompassing the themes of grief in the wake of a tragedy, and violence against LGBTQ individuals and people of color.

Daniel Robert Mattson, Sideshow

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I appreciate so many things about this piece, and would encourage you to click on the link to the artist’s ArtPrize profile to read all he has to say about it. This surreal allegory feels like such a release from the built up tension I know I have been experiencing in our current political environment. It is bipartisan, and Robert has made a piece rich with symbolism though even in his bio he will not divulge everything that was going through his mind, preferring to let the viewer think for themselves – a truly American sentiment. Robert said that “This particular piece has haunted me years”, and it does make a startling picture of our society, one that is not to be desired. However, if we can recognize it and call it what it is, then we can change it.

Kimberly Wolz, Rainbow Connection

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In this piece, Wolz created a ton of small, square pieces of art featuring quilled paper animals and plant life arranged in color order using Fibonacci’s golden ratio. It is meant to represent harmony, and I have heard that the paper quilling process itself can be quite calming, meditative, and harmonious. The detail is exquisite, especially to someone like me who couldn’t even make a paper crane during an origami craft lesson as a kid!

George Cooley and Margaret Brostrom, Human Targets

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This collaborative series confronts the psychological affects of using human targets. seven pieces exploring the dehumanizing qualities of human targets. The artists believe that using human shaped targets desensitizes the shooter towards real violence, and go as far to say practicing on human targets is premeditation for murder – In weapons training and competitions using these targets, more points are awarded for shots that would “kill” a real human in the area the competitors are aiming to hit. I am so far removed from recreational or even protective gun use that I honestly hadn’t a clue that these were the targets most commonly used at shooting ranges … No one in my family hunts, and growing up no one in my household was ever the least bit interested in owning a firearm even for protective use. I have never been to a shooting range, and always pictured targets as the little red and white concentric circles like Katniss Everdeen may use to practice her bow and arrow. It’s a lot to think about, and this artwork starts an important conversation. The artists produced over 50 target artworks, and chose 7 for the final display. I do a lot of series myself, and am impressed by their commitment to put their strongest work forward for this important and relevant issue.

This post comes a bit late, but I hope you all enjoyed learning about some new art and artists. Have an inspiring evening!

 

 

 

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I’m Back With Some New Art!

This first piece in a new series was a long time coming … I am obsessed with working small, and tend to work in 11×14 or maybe 16×20 max, and wanted to start doing pieces that were at least 18×24 or larger to allow me to include more detail and further develop the background in my pieces. My new series, Dwell, really taps into my background of interior design study. These pieces will contemplate how our environment affects us, but also how we interact with and affect it. The word dwell also has a double meaning, not just the physical space where we live but the places we create inside us that we allow our mind to dwell in. How are these psychological spaces affecting us, and how much control do we have over them or they over us?

“Dwell In Possibility” was a challenge for me because it involved a lot of brown, a color I literally never use in art. I tend to create pieces that are mostly grayscale tones with pops of bright color, and gray just would not have been right for the earthy feeling I wished to evoke. The other challenge to this piece was that I was creating an interior that was not very attractive or intricate … the remains of a decaying building, dirt floor, rough wood paneled walls, weathered plaster ceiling once grand but now stripped of any color or design … The only furnishing an abandoned, sun bleached chair frame.

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I did a lot of layering of different media overtop one another, and used my clear prismacolor pencil blender for the first time in my entire life. I usually use a white pencil to blend, but this time I couldn’t use an opaque blender because I wanted to be able to still see the underlayer of watercolor through the blended pencil. I left the flowers and hair purely impressionistic watercolor as opposed to the detail in the background and the model’s face. I didn’t use as much dimensional mixed media as usual, not wanting to add too much clutter, and stuck to a lace fabric overlay on her dress and clusters of beads for the centers of the poppy flowers.

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The closer you look, you will see there is a lot more going on than just a smiling woman holding a bouquet. She is already stationed in an odd setting, an old deteriorated building. She is surrounded by decay, including uprooted, dying plants. Even some of the flowers in her hands are dead or dying, but they are slowly coming back to life as she grasps onto them, holds them and nurtures them. Behind her through the door there is a cavern of light, where a grand tree has taken hold. There are no leaves yet, hardly any soil for his roots to grasp onto, yet he is still alive somehow. Robins circle around, a bird that symbolically means rebirth. Change and growth are always possible.

As you can also see, I can’t seem to put down the metallic gold acrylic lately! At work, my students always want to cover everything they make in metallics and glitter, which often makes me shake my head, but I can understand the temptation ;). Speaking of which, I am starting a new class called Creative Minds where each week students will be learning about an accomplished artist of the past or present, and completing a small project based on that artist’s iconic style with a focus on artists with disabilities and mental health. I will be sharing my projects as well as some of the students’ interpretations, so be on the look out for a new project post each week! I am hoping some of you reading this will want to try it at home yourself. It’s always fun to play :D!

Artists To Know: Beyond The Photo

It’s been awhile since my last Artists To Know post, and today I wanted to focus on photography. I have always been interested in photography, but never took the craft further than just “playing around”, and don’t really do any artistic photography anymore today. My favorite type of photography has always been work that shows us more than what we can already see in front of us, photography that is not objective but that injects part of the artist into what it is they capture (or create, as in the case of our first artist who uses found photos for collage). I hope this post gives you some Sunday afternoon inspiration, as these artists did for me!

Guy Catling

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Catling is a graphic designer from the UK who works primarily in collage. He is known for his use of old black and white photos, especially of somber subjects such as war photography, which he gives new life through the juxtaposition of jarringly bright, cheerful patterns. As someone who loves pattern, his images just plain make me happy when I look at them, and give me quite the urging to dig out a book of old wallpaper samples and go to town making something amazing!

Tawny Chatmon

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A self proclaimed “army brat”, Chatmon did a lot of traveling as a kid and had resided in 3 different continents by the age of 12. Once settled in the US, she turned more in the creative direction of theater. She didn’t start getting into photography until her early 20s, when she was gifted a camera at 19 and through self teaching and expirimentation saw an opportunity to make a living through the lens. After losing her father to a battle with cancer in 2010, Chatmon’s portrait photography became not only a career but a way to communicate and process emotions, an art. What first drew me to her work was the image above, part of her series titled “Deeply Embedded”. The composition and heavy use of pattern on the clothing reminded  me a bit of Gustav Klimt, one of my favorites from art history. Chatmon writes about this series on her website, “Deeply Embedded was created during a time where I continued to come across negativity centered around natural black hair & styles. Anger followed by frustration and sadness forced me to refocus that energy into creating work to speak for me as our words fell upon deaf ears.” There are many different forms of beauty in our world, and photography is the perfect medium to capture that fact.

Stefan Sagmeister

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Stefan Sagmeister is an Austrian graphic designer and typographer. He currently works in the US and is known for his work in advertising and album covers, for which he has won 3 Grammy awards. Much of his personal work centers around the elusive achievement of happiness, conveyed through statistics, personal experimentation, and design. Though I myself am very skeptical that there is a magical formula or set of steps that will universally make every human happy (I am a big proponent of “If it’s not true for one, it’s not true for all”.), I do enjoy art that gets viewers into the head of the artist and visually shows their thought processes.

Aydın Büyüktaş

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Aydın is a Turkish artist who combines images he captures with drones to create mind-bending multi-angle landscapes. It is evident in his portfolio that special attention is paid to the use of pattern and line as he composes his imaginary worlds. I would have never thought of using drones for art, and it is fascinating to see what can be done with this relatively new medium.

If you know an artist you’d like to be featured (or are an artist yourself!) feel free to share with me. I love discovering new creatives!

 

 

 

Artists To Know: In Dreams

I haven’t done an “Artists To Know” installment in quite awhile, and have bookmarks of inspiring artists piling up by the minute – The internet is wonderful ^_^! The artists I have picked today all create dreamlike worlds through their art, causing the viewer to get lost in detailed landscapes that could only exist in the artists’ imaginations, almost as if they are inviting viewers into their own inner fantasies. All are 2-dimensional works this time except the last, which is really something special, so be sure to look all the way to the end! This style of fantasy-like, surreal art is my absolute favorite. I hope you enjoy, or at least see something you’ve never seen before!

Lucy Hardie

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Lucy Hardie is an Australian artist who began her education at a Waldorf school built by her parents. With her parents’ encouragement, she studied art history and the Masters at an earlier age than most. This foundation was obvious to me right away in the style and subject matter of her work. Parts of it look like they are from another time… but then other parts resemble a time that has not yet existed, and this seamless meshing of the two along with the exquisite fine details are what make her work so captivating to me.

Hsaio Ron Cheng

 

Hsaio Ron Cheng hails from Taiwan, and is a digital artist and illustrator. The bio on her website says she was born in 1986, only 2 years before me which makes me feel like I’m slacking! Her portfolio encompasses a wide range of personal and commercial work, all in her signature palette of peachy, pastel, diluted colors. The unusual color choices are actually what first drew me to her work, and made her illustrations stand out.

Daria Hilazatova

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Daria Hilazatova describes herself as a “full-time artist, part-time elf” in the bio on her website, and sites her inspiration as “fairytales, theater, and nonsense”. Whimsical and fantastical theatrical elements abound in all of her drawings. Her illustrations are distinct and different from anything else I have ever seen, truly 100% from the artist’s imagination. The other element that differentiates her art from anything I’ve seen previously is the insane amount of detail! One has to squint to see all of the intricate patterns making up each image, and the longer one looks, the more they notice details they had originally missed.

Alexandra Levasseur

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The image above is what first prompted me to investigate more of Levasseur’s work, but she also has a ton of fantastic paintings in which the subjects are merging into painted landscapes which I’d encourage you to check out on her website. There is strong movement and emotion in each of her pieces, all of which are incredibly surreal. Her figures are realistic, but she mixes in a lot of more painterly or sketchy elements as well, making it look as if her subjects have jumped inside a delightful hand painted world and gotten lost there.

Benjamin Shine

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I told you the last one was a good one! I can’t even wrap my brain around how this works, but below is a video that shows artist Benjamin Shine in action as he creates his tulle “paintings”. Shine studied fashion design at The Surrey Institute of Art and Design and Central St Martins in London. I can’t even iron shirts properly, so conceiving of how these gorgeous, smokey portraits can be born out of an iron and some thread makes my head nearly explode. Who said there is nothing new under the sun? Shine has certainly discovered something that has never been done before.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your Sunday inspiration! Get out there and do something amazing with the rest of your weekend! 🙂

 

The Complicated Role of Women’s Bodies In Art

Women have for centuries been a muse for artists and the main character in the narrative (or often the main decoration) where works of art are concerned. They were the subjects of paintings far before it was even acknowledged that they could be painters themselves. It is honestly rare for me to ever draw men. I always figured my pull to depicting women was because as a woman, that is the voice I can most comfortably speak from. However, even male artists tend to habitually depict women when figures are included in their works. I try within my own art to create a story and psychology around each figure I create, and so do many other artists working today and so have many in the past. However, just as many if not more use female figures in their work as a passive decoration, just as one may place a waterfall or flower in their composition, including many artists whose work I still enjoy. No matter whether the woman is portrayed as a decorative object or a narrator in a piece, they also all tend to follow the traditional standards of beauty for the time in which they were created, without a lot of deviation. This is something I had even noticed happening in my own art, a mold I worked to break out of in my most recent portrait based series.

These musings and observations are not a new topic, but it is a subject that jumped to the forefront of my mind last week when I read Manchester Art Gallery removed John William Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs, one of the most recognizable pre-Raphaelite paintings in their gallery, not only from the walls but from print and postcard form in their gift shop as well. The room this piece hung in was titled “The Pursuit of Beauty”, a collection depicting women mainly as passive decoration as discussed above, or else tempting sirens, all in various states of undress. Guests were given the opportunity to post comments about the removal with sticky notes in the empty space where the painting used to hang. You can read the full story here, as well as some of the reactions to the decision.

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I am a feminist myself (Though, sidenote, as feminism has gone more mainstream in recent years and grown to include a wider audience, I often compare feminism and its many schools of thought to a religion with multiple denominations – You can put two feminists in a room together and they may not agree on anything.). Given that, obviously this singular portrayal of women doesn’t fill me with joy. But, for most of history and even sometimes still today this is how women were viewed! Putting this fact on display doesn’t mean it’s a good thing – but it is a true thing. I am a big proponent of learn your history no matter how unsavory, or we are doomed to repeat it.

6-_thc3a9rc3a8se_dreaming_balthus_copy_80105371There has been a similar instance recently where there were petitions to remove a painting from the Met that New Yorkers felt sexualized a young girl, a painting by French artist Balthus titled Therese Dreaming. The biggest issue was exposure due to how she was seated, and the fact that it was known the mid 20th century artist had an inappropriate infatuation with younger girls.

I have always been against censorship at all costs, rolling my eyes at protests of books being read in school, movies being shown at theaters, art being hung in galleries… If you don’t like it, don’t view it, but you don’t need to take away others’ personal autonomy. The counter culture of American society has always been against the filtering of information to the populace, against some overreaching authority handing out declarations of what is good and evil in popular culture, but it seems now the roles have reversed. What you might call the counter culture today seems to be more for censure and removing from the culture entirely those messages or images which they deem undesirable.

My first thought after hearing about these paintings’ definite or potential removal was that we are erasing history, and where does it end? Immediately a red light went off in my brain that this was the same excuse used over this past year to air grievance about the removal of Confederate monuments, which I was all for because honestly some legacies do not deserve celebration. To me, the issues in that circumstance versus this one are apples and oranges and not at all comparable, but it did lead me to question, do I have a blind spot?

One of my favorite artists, Ray Caesar, depicts young women and girls in what many would deem sexualized poses. However, in an interview with Hi-Fructose Magazine he says he views his work as a personal exploration, something autobiographical, and the women to him are the different voices of his own mind (Caesar is affected by Disassociate Identity Disorder). In his bio from his website, Caesar also discusses his time working in the Art and Photography Department of The Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto from 1980 until 1997. He was responsible for documenting cases of severe child abuse, surgical reconstruction, and psychology and animal research. He affirms that this experience greatly affected the images in his work, and ends by saying, “I now live my dreams for those that didn’t get a chance to live theirs … to do otherwise would be a sin”. As an artist myself, injecting one’s personal experiences into the art they create, especially when those experiences have been as emotional and life altering as the ones Caesar describes, makes sense. Could it traumatize others who have actually lived those circumstances rather than someone who as Caesar was looking in as an outsider? Does it bring awareness to those circumstances or glorify them, or does it do a little bit of both? Is it that fine line that makes people’s reactions to his work so strong? Isn’t it art’s job to evoke emotional response from its viewers?

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27285_533898609974622_435312268_nThis whole debate really offers a lot more questions than answers. If you were waiting for me to come to a conclusive opinion at the end, I will admit I don’t have one. Women are undoubtedly valued from a young age based on their physical appearance above all other traits. How important is the art world’s role in this? Does it matter? Does art and entertainment have a responsibility due to the fact that it can shape our society, or is it just about the individual artist’s personal expression? What defines a sexualized image? Can depictions of women that are more sexual still be respectful? How far does talent excuse a harmful character, as in the case of Balthus, or a handful of other modern day actors and entertainers that come to mind? I have a feeling that the answer is probably somewhere in the middle of life’s complicated web.

Both women and men, the artists and non-artists out there, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please feel free to discuss and share what’s on your mind!

 

Artists To Know: ArtPrize 9 Edition!

Hello all! I visit ArtPrize in Grand Rapids every year, and always look forward to being able to share some of the favorite works I have seen. This year, I was involved as an artist as well, showing my series at Founder’s Brewing Co.

I enjoyed visiting my series with my significant other, drinking excellent beer, and even getting to pretend to drive a Tardis! Though we tried to stuff as much art inhalation into our day as possible, I was only up at ArtPrize for approximately 10 hours so only saw a cross section. However, I’d love to share with you my favorites from what I witnessed that day.

Empowered Women by Florencia Clement De Grandprey

This collection was hands down my favorite. Not only are the portraits themselves diverse, emotive, and detailed to perfection, but upcycled mixed media elements such as wallpaper and fabric samples were used along with the paint.  A woman after my own heart!

Companions by Deborah Rockman

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These digital drawings have an interesting style to them as the backgrounds are more photographic, but the images of people are more illustrative making them stand out. This is the image that particularly stopped me in my tracks. The entire series explores inequity in our world by placing side by side images of people that mirror similar situations visually, but reflect a glaring difference in circumstance.

Time Marches On by Sue Laage

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I love antique assemblages, and this collection was a little Alice In Wonderland which made me adore it all the more. Each piece has it’s own distinctive style, yet similar colors and forms unify them as one.

Be The Change For Human Rights by Hazel Park High School Ceramics Students

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First off, I am so jealous of these kids! Secondly, this is an amazing project. Each student picked a human right to represent on their tile. Assembling it into a mirror where the viewer can literally see themselves behind the well-known quote asking them to be the change really drives the impact home.

Kirsten by Carolyn Zinn

Portratiure is challenging enough when using pencils or paints, let alone joining together hexagons of printed fabric. The 3 dimensionality of the shading and highlights that is achieved is mindblowing, and the image completely transforms as you look at it closely and then far away. This was an ambitious, out-of-the-box, and very successful design that I kept wandering back to.

The Resistance of Hybrid Cacti by Salvador Jimenez Flores

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I love love love surrealism, and the fact that this piece wasn’t just a sculpture but almost a mini created universe was especially entrancing. It turns out, a new universe is just what the artist aimed to create. In Flores’s ArtPrize bio, he says that his inspiration comes from sci-fi and re-imagining what the future may look like as opposed to what is presented in mainstream media. He states that in most sci-fi content, the majority of the future’s inhabitants are depicted as white. He aims to resist labels and create a future where the protagonist can be a minority, understand his experience, and also be relateable to others.

Struggle by Kyle Orr

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What drew me into this sculpture was the strong sense of illusion that was created by the floating chains. This piece at first glance can seem very dark, but then you realize the walls aren’t really there … Orr’s concept statement reads, “Life can be a struggle. Sometimes life feels like it has you chained down in imaginary walls that keep you from achieving your inner most desires conquering the fear that causes you to hide your face in shame. We’ve all been here at one point or another in our lives. These are the moments in time that we make the decision to look at the chains as something to be broken or something to enslave us. The struggle is what grows courage and strength. Decide to thank the chains and imaginary walls, for they have grown strength and courage, but break them, indeed!”

Reflections of A Quilted Iso-Cube In Primary Colors by Diane Rabb and Julius Cassani

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I found this piece ridiculously calming to look at. I find geometric designs relaxing for my brain, which is probably why I am including them all over as I continue to renovate my new house. I also loved how modern this piece was as opposed to what traditionally comes to mind when people think of “quilting”.

We Are One by Melissa Machnee

For this piece, the title really says it all … Its impact is in its simplicity. Too often, works of art have these detailed, lofty concept statements hanging next to them that you have to actually read in their entirety to even understand the piece you are looking at. With this work of art, the meaning in the dynamic composition is clear immediately.

Suspension by Sarupa Sidaarth

Sidaarth states in her ArtPrize bio that she likes to use unique raw materials that are usually rejected in traditional paintings such as crystals and even GOOGLY EYES. Now, I’ve been known to throw some bling on my mixed media drawings and paintings more than once, and am all for using non-traditional materials. However, as an art educator, I have a very complicated relationship with googly eyes. At the art studio where I work, I oftentimes go so far as to hide them or fib that we don’t have any right now when students ask for those goofy little eyes, because I had always thought of them as a surefire way to ruin what was formerly a decent creation, making it look like a daycare craft project. These amazing paintings have completely changed my mind about googly eyes (and yes, they are in there!) – not an easy feat.

Atomic Reaction by Susan Supper

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Supper wrote in her artist statement for this piece that growing up in the age of television, cartoons and pop culture not only entertained but also provided a moral compass for children. She was particularly interested in Astroboy, who harnessed atomic powers for good rather than their traditional destructive nature. In this series, she depicts social issues and moral dilemmas through the lens of popular media. As a pop surrealism fanatic, I am in love. Her mix of familiar pop culture/advertising imagery with a Japanese aesthetic reminds me a lot of one of my favorite artists, Alex Gross.

It was hard to narrow everything down to just these pieces, as there were so many talented artists on display this year. Until 2018, goodbye ArtPrize! I’ll miss you!

 

 

Art Prize 9 At Founders Brewing Co.

IMG_0372 (1)This past weekend I trekked to Grand Rapids to hang up my installation for this year’s ArtPrize, my Unlimited series. My parents came along for the ride to both help lug my 12 pieces to Founder’s Brewing Co. and ensure I didn’t get lost and miss my installation appointment all together, as I cannot do directions. I think this may also be the only time my mom has been in a bar, so we had to capture a photo for posterity.

If you can’t make it to ArtPrize this year, you can still see the whole series up close in my online portfolio. Prints are also available on eBay and Redbubble. I’ll be going to soak in all the amazing art next weekend. Life has been a little ball of stress lately, and with all the house renovation stuff going on I haven’t left town all summer, nor even donned on a bathing suit once so I need this. Counting down the days!

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