I did this backwards – I went to the symposium first, at Watson Hall on Thursday night, a panel discussion about art starring the five artists represented in the current art exhibition at the Syracuse University Art Gallery.
According to their newsletter, “the five artists included in the exhibition, Robert Birmelin, Gillian Penderson-Krag, Joel Sheesley, Tim Lowly and Bill Murphy, have all enjoyed long careers making images. Their decision to work in a representational manner put them at odds with an art world that has, at times, been little interested in the genre, preferring instead the forms and color of abstraction.”
Professor Jerome Witkin co-curated the exhibit, titled Poetry of Content: Five Contemporary Representational Artists, and led this panel with questions that were meant to delve into these talented artists’ minds and offer pearls of wisdom from the depths of their psyche.
I tend to think the more we are able to verbalize what we are doing visually, the better non-artists can understand the whole she-bang and in turn, the better we can all understand each other in order to express our worlds.
Some people are good at this and some are not particularly good at it. Which is why art ends up seeming incredibly difficult to comprehend to those who need that linear connection. I think hearing these artists speak about their work first then going to see the exhibit, which I did today, finally (yay!), made viewing the work so much better, because I felt like I knew them a little bit better. I had heard about their processes, their successes and their struggles. They were real people living in the real world all while manipulating the world via creating their visions on canvas, wood panel and paper.
And so, the emotion they conveyed in their marks, in their compositional viewpoints and in their selection of color and texture became poetic. Not sure if I would have had the same response had I seen the show first. So backwards in this case was better – for me at least.
The art gallery is open on Sundays. You can park for free in the Q4 lot across the street and once there, you can practically have the gallery to yourself. I visited with my friend Joyce Backus and the only other people there were artist Ken Nichols and his wife, and the person at the front desk.
Funny that, because as we made small talk, we realized that Cheryl Chappell and John Fitzsimmons were the ones who had planted the seed in all of us to go on a Sunday.
Thanks, Cheryl and John!
It was such an amazing experience strolling through the space. Witnessing the large-scale works by Tim Lowly was certainly powerful. I would say more so after hearing him tell the tale of how they came to be – images of his daughter who, as he mentions in his artist statement, is developmentally disabled. He uses acrylic paint and it is handled in such a magnificent way that I cannot understand how he can do that. The colors are muted in an oil-painterly style with light coats of brush stroke and this incredible texture. And the way he created light effects is genius!
Joyce and I looked at each other and she said, “It makes me want to go home and paint!” And I agreed. I was actually thinking the very same thing. Ken said Golden Acrylics has a new product out that mimics the drying time of oils so…maybe….
Many of the artists chose to do multi-paneled works. Some on canvas, some on wood; placed near to one another or next to each other. Robert Birmelin’s were more of the former. People permeate the canvases then disappear into each other or other objects, giving the artwork a futurism flavor. You could almost hear the sounds emanating from the work – of car horns, guns blazing, people shouting – the hustle and bustle of it all and all in motion, yet completely still in the quiet of the empty museum.
Gillian Penderson-Krag’s artwork was the smallest of the bunch. A lot of square canvases with amazing details – still-lifes and turquoise-walled interiors with people sitting around gazing in a way that creates rhythm (what do I see/what do they see?) And land and seascapes that were a bit more universal in terms of connecting with the viewer. She’d said that a professor once told her to paint what she liked and this was so profoundly simple in its truth that it changed her artistic life from painting abstractly, as was the style when she was in college, to creating these brilliant little works.
This exhibition continues through March 20, 2016.
In addition to these works in the main gallery, there is a show of graphic art by Robert Kipniss and…(drumroll, please)… etchings by Rembrandt! OMG, one of them is a self-portrait, a tiny thing, but he looks like he is looking right at you. Like he is staring and saying – go home and make art! You have this. You love this!
Yes – the collective shows, as well as the vast collection of art in this gallery, is incredibly inspirational. Thanks, Syracuse University for being one of my soul-mates. <3
If you want to help support SU Art, go to www.suart.syr.edu/give-now/. You can also support the program by purchasing from the gift shop here.