Tag Archives: Art Rage

In-Your-Face

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The year was 2006 – I started working at the middle school after another teacher retired ten years into my career.  I would be teaching 8th grade Art and an 8th grade accelerated Studio in Art class, for which I had to plan a field trip to New York City.

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I followed the guide left by the previous teacher using the same bus company.  In addition, I planned every detail including the itinerary of visiting two museums and the cost calculations to include fees for the museums and meals from the school cafeteria.  It was a lot of work, a huge responsibility on top of preparing new curriculum and all that teaching stuff.  I was excited though, because I focused on all the cool things the kids would learn about art, all the amazing art and art history to see and experience, and of course the thrill of being in Manhattan.  My students all kept saying they just wanted to see a real live hobo.

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Finally, the day of the trip arrived.  It was November 10th, the day before Veteran’s Day. Everything was going at a good clip until about five hours in when the bus started having wonky problems.  It took us an extra hour to get from Macy’s in Manhattan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art because the bus kept, like, shutting down-starting up again-shutting down, etc. at every stop light.  We arrived, spent five wonderful hours enjoying the Met and the American Museum of Natural History.  Instead of the company dispatching another bus, the driver returned with that faulty one.  Start-stop-start-stop-infinity until we made it to a Mobil station where we evacuated.  The bus driver put transmission fluid in then said he would drive around the block and come back for us.  He left us stranded for six hours, maybe seven.  We, kind of, became hobos.

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Luckily, it was a warm November night.  The children took it all in stride.  An adventure for them – they never felt in danger or scared.  Lol, I am pretty sure some of the chaperones are still traumatized to this day.  A one-day trip turned into an overnight ordeal.  Somehow the principal paid for us to take taxis to rendezvous with the dead bus now parked in a grocery store parking lot somewhere in the Bronx.  We made it home the next day via a bus dispatched from Quebec that had smashed both headlights in a collision with two deer on its way to save us.

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Those students are about twenty-five years old now!  Wow, that is just so crazy.  I suspect they are all doing amazing things these days and are not among the homeless faces exhibited in this art show.

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San Diego artist Neil Shigley has been working on this series of prints for about as long as I have had this memory in my head.  He interviews the subjects, photographs them then begins sketching their faces and transforms them into these larger than life prints.

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Each one looks to use two large pieces of linoleum; they are printed on two sheets of paper and mounted with large tacks directly into the wall.  The result is an in-your-face type of statement.  Making the invisible visible in terms of the scope of homelessness in our society.  Apparently, it is a vast and growing population in the San Diego area with people of all ages living on the streets and in parks, and just barely existing in this nomadic way.

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The exhibition is titled Invisible People:  Portraits of the Homeless.  The art reception was tonight.  It continues at Art Rage Gallery (505 Hawley Ave., Syracuse, New York) through October 27, 2018.  Shigley will talk about his work on Tuesday, September 11, 2018 at 7:00 pm in the gallery.  Call (315) 218-5711 for more information.  Gallery hours are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 2:00 – 7:00 pm and Saturday noon – 4:00 pm.

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Politics As Art

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Discord is a necessary factor in conscious creation because when you know what you don’t want, you can know what you do want.  So it can be a good thing even while it is causing the upset.  In its acknowledgement, the theory is that change can happen.  And there’s magic in that.

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Art Rage is the gallery in Syracuse, New York that specializes in social injustice and political satire.  It’s not typically my thing.  I am so la-la-la lately, living life in a sort of happiness bubble of gratitude and appreciation, and not giving much attention to the national headlines that seem to keep others in a constant state of pissed-off-ness.  I don’t often agree with the arguments.  But I attended this art reception anyway – I do love when an artist translates their angst into something tangible that transcends its origins and hands the world something beautiful.  And I loved every minute I spent viewing this incredible new work and talking to artist Jim Ridlon.

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Discord & Dissent:  Commentary on Contemporary Politics by Jim Ridlon is the final show this season at Art Rage, 505 Hawley Ave., Syracuse, New York, 13203.  And it is truly genius!

Ridlon was not a fan of the political shenanigans, as witnessed on the morning news during the 2016 presidential campaigns.  What followed was a bit of scribbling – sentences, words that he desired to expand upon via this new series of assemblages.  Each one in this series is equipped with its own statement to guide the viewer to their own conclusions.

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They are visual puns meant to take the sting out, to replace the discord with fun, humor and the strange machinations of this Renaissance man’s mind.  They are outfitted in sports gear to possibly refer to the political arena as a game, as well as referencing his own history – football hero turned Syracuse University professor.  There are clipped feathers found on meditative hikes taken with his son that speak of the illusion of the sanctity of government positions; rusty found objects from various trips to flea markets – hunting the perfect pair of old scissors or wood turnings, ropes/chains to bind the opponent in an intricate power trip.  Well-worn accessories complete these framed boxes of objects, the human element that sets the viewer on this quest to create meaning.

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Jim Ridlon is a true artist in every sense of the word and does justice to this art form by allowing us a glimpse into his vortex.  I asked him if his studio was neatly organized – were all the scissors in a bin, leather bits together, et cetera?  Answer – chaos! Lol, I love him!

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Ridlon sets up his studio space so that he can concoct several pieces at once.  They are on tables laid out in their frames, items amassed in nearby boxes first that speak to his mini manifestos.  He builds, builds up then knocks everything down.  Sometimes it takes over thirty tries to make one good product and once that solution arrives, it is like a game key that solves the puzzle and everything else just falls into place.

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It is music to my ears when I hear an artist speak about their process.  It is poetry.  It is radiant and beautiful, and everything I love about creation.  The work becomes the thing – important, all encompassing and his passion was just so present as he shared it with me.  He told me that this process took months to complete.  He spent days and days working on them and many, many nights dreaming about them.  He was a man consumed by this work.  His eyes sparkled as he spoke of getting just the right element to fit the case then finalizing and gluing it all into place – a culmination that is weirdly spiritual.  Like, it was not about politics anymore.  That was just the spark to the flame.  An idea that took thoughts to these wonderful things.

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Were they for sale?  Yes, but he quipped that he did not expect to sell them, as they have an ugly side to them.  I didn’t agree.  But I guess this is the case with artists of all skill level and experience.  The force that reckons with the making and manipulation of art flickers out once the discord that brought it about dissipates.

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Thank you, Jim Ridlon, for inspiring me as my aesthetics professor in 1981 and continuing to inspire me to desire to grow as an artist.  To want to take a dream and make it real, and laugh in the face of current realities that are undesirable.  Outrage can and does make a difference when one is aligned with their ultimate source.  And then we watch as everything changes for the better.

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Jim Ridlon will give a presentation about his work on June 11, 2018 at 7pm in the gallery.  Visit the website or call (315) 218-5711 for more information including gallery hours.

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