Friday, April 29, 2011

What is in a Title?

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so it is said, still many works are briefly titled. To learn the titles often times one must look to the description of the piece, but on occasion there is no further investigation needed than the painting itself. Many of Shaun Richards works feature the title of the piece prominently within the image.

Words provide information, often direction. Images provide a window, a limited view of something specific. Either can launch our minds to ponder concepts, however, pair them together, and there is less wondering through mental ramblings. The focus becomes more acutely directed.

Here the words are not separate from the work, but part of it. They add depth and definition. In some pieces it is as if the words answer the question of what happened without robbing the image of the story it offers, or it tells what is lacking without lessening the curiosity. Why does that helicopter seem to be leaving the beautiful, smiling woman on her motorcycle? Why does the image of the man looking through a camera lens leave me looking for something? What happened to make that car flip upside down? The words across the paintings, slightly obscured by the images, offer some answer to these questions. Just a little nudge to ask more questions. I want to know more.

The Green Hill Center in Greensboro, NC is currently displaying works by Shaun Richards along with another local artist. Shaun Richards will also be available for an artist talk on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Friday, April 22, 2011

Larger Than Life

They are big, huge even. They are very different, yet stunningly eye catching. Though they are separate works by different artists it is difficult not to look from one to the other as they seem to dominate over the other works in the room.

Celebrating its fifth anniversary The Nasher Museum of Duke University is displaying many pieces in its exhibit, "Building the Contemporary Collection." The collection features works from many contemporary emerging artists of color, but it is two of the largest paintings on exhibit that I cannot pull myself away from.

Both portraits depict a single black man, and both portraits are larger than my 5’3” standing frame. There the similarities end. One is dark, the other bright. One is smiling, the other composed. One is dressed casually while the other is urban clad. One is completely imaginary, while the other is imaginarily set--so different, yet each demanding my attention.

It is the imagined element that I find intriguing. The darker portrait of a man in a cream turtleneck, sitting comfortably and smiling is completely fictitious. He is a product of the artist’s imagination. No such man exists, though he could. He could be the kind of man you’d encounter at a coffee shop relaxing after a day at the university talking of scholarly pursuits, interested in your thoughts on things like literature. How does one picture a non-existent being so well as to give him a sort of life?

The brightly colored portrait of an urban clad black man standing in the pose of an Old Master’s work presents a different element for the imagination. The artist has taken a real man of today, plucked him from the streets and cast him in a setting of regal, floral elegance. The man is not smiling; his face seems set in that appraising way of a man on the streets as he tilts his chin up respectful, yet wary in his acknowledgment of you. It’s almost as if I am beneath notice, and certainly will not be invited into a conversation unless I can prove more interesting.

These images are larger than life, and my mind obviously runs away with ideas provoked by them.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Limited View

The window had been painted over with black, but a broken pane made a hole through which one could see the street below. Through this frame a photographer aimed his camera and captured life as it passed by.

The Jazz Loft Project: W. Eugene Smith in New York City, 1957-1965 is currently on display at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University until July 10, 2011. The exhibition features an array of photography and audio recordings of many big name jazz musicians. The originally planned three-week project became the unfinished four-year obsession of Smith. Exposing over a thousand rolls of film and audio reels Smith documented an astounding part of cultural history.

Like the camera he aimed at the street below, Smith set up shop in a five-story loft building, capturing the people and music that gravitated to the location. It is staggering the amount of work Smith produced while in this one location. Though his range was limited, the richness of what he recorded was not. Numerous musicians, as well as other interesting and sometimes questionable characters, came and went from the building. Life continued outside, even as the camera kept vigil. Even as the location stayed the same, the photographs show an ever changing, dynamic environment.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

No Mere Shot in the Dark

Several photographs of O. Winston Link are currently on display at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem in an exhibition entitled Trains that Pass in the Night showing from February 19-June 19, 2011. These black-and-white gelatin silver photographs feature images of steam locomotives set against the landscapes of Virginia and North Carolina. While these stunning images reminiscent of the film noir era in which they were taken offer a glimpse into a lifestyle that was at the time ending, they are awe inspiring for the elaborate planning necessary to capture many of the nocturnal images.

The photographs in and of themselves are quite breathtaking. Gorgeous contracts exist between the presence of the trains and the life that seems to continue on around them: people watching a movie at the drive-in, hanging out at the public pool, and even a group of elderly friends chatting on a porch as what must have been a loud steam engine locomotive passes by. But the clarity of the images of these trains in motion set against these seemingly colloquial interactions forces an appreciation for the choreographed facade, for many of these images were staged with but one opportunity as the train passed to be captured.

One photograph contains the photographer himself, his assistant, and their equipment. Looking at the various lamps and flash equipment then studying the crisp images of billowing plumes of steam as they are exhaled from the sleek locomotives as they travel by it is a marvel how brilliantly effective they worked. The lighting and timing are everything in Link’s work. Every detail was minutely attended to from the placement of the people, the direction of the lighting, to the schedule of the trains in order to capture a moment in time designed to depict an entire way of life. Link didn’t miss an opportunity, but he also made sure to create the optimum setting for what otherwise would have passed into the night and out of time unnoticed.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fading as Memory Does

At the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston-Salem currently on display from March 12 – June 5, 2011 is Imprints for a Fleeting Memorial by Oscar Muñoz. The exhibit consists of many portraits representing people who disappear, and as the subjects, the images likewise are destined to fade before your eyes leaving only the memory of what once was. The images evaporate, drain away, deteriorate and crumble. A few are indistinct images burned into paper, but even those are not meant to last as the series progresses with the loss of the original subject.

The first display to catch my eye is a group of nine soft, warm faces each within their own square, placed close together to be essentially a piece of a larger square of unified work. The faces are each oriented as if focusing in different directions with varying expressions like they were caught in the middle of a conversation.

Walking slowly towards the display the faces become more obviously pixelated, made up of cubes of white and shades of brown. It isn’t until I come very close that the cubes reveal themselves to be crystalline granular constructions - sugar cubes. The array of browns is due to varying degrees of coffee saturation. Suddenly, I notice the crumbling of a few of the cubes, and the images that were at first soft and warm take on a bittersweetness as their deterioration becomes inevitable.

Each piece in the collection provokes contemplation of the fleeting lives we lead, and the fading of our own memories. Marcus Aurelius once wrote, “Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.” Oscar Muñoz’s work is an excellent, if sad, embodiment of this sentiment.

Another piece that illustrates this is a series of newsprint images blown-up and burned into six separate newspapers. As I begin to flip through the pages the images that were burned into the cover page utilizing a dot matrix become less and less evident until the last page is blank, but for a few dots devoid of any meaningful context.

The medium is as fleeting as the images created, yet somehow the poignant message seems branded upon my memory. Time will tell how well this stays with me.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Potent Little Package

Imagination is limitless; however, some of the most creative ideas come about by pairing the boundless capacity of imagination with the restrictions of confining parameters. Before you can think outside the box, you must first understand the box. For many artists the box is a combination of the techniques and materials employed to express their ideas. There is in existence a collection of artists who literally work within the confines of a box, the dimensions of a cigarette box to be specific.

Given the size limitation it is astonishing to see the range of creativity that can still be expressed utilizing various mediums and techniques from sketching to sculpting in miniature. Also the manipulation that allows of some pieces to meet the confining appearance of a cigarette box, yet unfold and expand beyond the seeming limitation eloquently demonstrates how truly limitless the artist’s imagination is.

The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) has had Clark Whittington & Artists in Cellophane (AIC): The Art-o-mat Enterprise on display since November 2010 and will remain on display until June 5, 2011. There are also several Art-o-mat vending machines scattered throughout North Carolina and North America.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

In Context

Looking at any art work alone leaves one to examine the subject, consider the technique, and ponder the inspiration. Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. When viewing a collection of similar works grouped by technique or by theme each piece begins to grow in significance.

An excellent example of this is currently on display at The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, NC. The exhibit is entitled Body of Christ which features two contemporary works by Spanish artist Javier Perez among several 12th through 18th century depictions of the Crucifixion. The installation has been on display since January and will remain on display until June 12, 2011.

Of the two Perez works on display the first to grab attention is the three dimensional skeletal human-tree hybrid expressive of the transmutation of life to death. Whereas this piece is startling and emotionally provoking it is the trio of three drawings hung separately, yet grouped in such a way as to be suggestive of the Crucifixion that in contrast demonstrates brilliance for the subtlety.

Staring at these three detailed drawings of a head and two hands intricately vein laden impresses a sense of mortality, but it is in stepping back to view the trio as a whole that the impression of a body appears. Any one of the trio of drawings would be an impressive display on its own, but it is in the placement of the three together that a bigger picture is formed. Step back farther to view the trio among the various other images and a clearer context becomes into focus adding depth and history.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Silent Scream that Echoes Still

The Greensboro Cultural Center (GCC) houses several art galleries and studio spaces available for artists, and is the hub of events to connect art and the community. GCC just kicked off a month long kid’s art exhibition as part of its Summer Camp Fair.

The works featured are a collection of collages, paintings, pottery, masks and other creations by children of varying ages. Much of what is displayed is what you would expect from the very young as they take up brushes and glue. The joy of creating is evident in every piece, and most are original, coming straight from an imagination bigger than convention. However, among the cute and fun works one piece stood out as it was a fair representation of a famously familiar work.

All artists know the value of emulating works of other artists especially in the pursuit of study, and it is not unusual for an artist to create several different versions of a particular subject matter altering perspective and media. It was with a smile that I noticed this small replica painting done in acrylics on the pre-K through grade 5 exhibit board of Edvard Munch’s Skrik or more commonly known as Scream.

The first time I saw any version of the Scream, I believe I was in middle school taking an art class. It was one of many slides we viewed as we learned of various artists, techniques, and styles. From then on it showed up many times in odd and unexpected places until it became something akin to finding Waldo. Since the time of Munch’s first rendering of the Scream it has become a part of pop-culture, and been a part of intrigue as two different versions of this work by Munch have been the victims of theft—both were recovered with only one sustained any permanent damage, and both returned to display within their perspective museums.

The Scream has been reproduced by cartoonists for TV, Film and even merchandise. Even Andy Warhol made silk prints of Munch’s work. Yet for all the places it has appeared, I still find it a pleasant surprise when I recognize it, like running into an old acquaintance, albeit a seemingly terrified acquaintance in the midst of an anxiety attack.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Monday, April 11, 2011

Finding Place in Abstraction

Walking into the back of the Center for Visual Artists where Jillian Webb Martin’s Spatial Encounters is being displayed, I had no real idea what to expect. I like walking in cold to any exhibition or show without first reading up on either the artist or their style: no expectations to cloud my first impressions.

The collection of paintings is all abstract with just a hint of impressionism in a few. The two that seemed most to convey a sense of a particular place are like looking at the world so far out of focus that only the colors remained to blend together, yet still leaving me aware that I was looking at a place I could almost recognize from a memory.

The abstract works, with their colors blending, some running together, are quite lovely. I found myself imagining not only what could inspire the combinations, but also how the very space in which they occupied the gallery seemed inspiring. My eyes would travel the canvases picking up the various colors and the idea of the play of light and shadow the blendings hinted at in my mind. Almost all of the works seemed to be displayed with lighter colors nearest the top with darker colors nearest the bottom, and I started to think of horizons though none were really present. That is one of the things about abstract art that fascinates: the way it can sometimes leave you to relate on your own.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra ,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reduce, Reuse, and Rummage Through the Trash

Attention, Charlotte residents - if you hear something rummaging around in your recycling bins, it’s not a raccoon. The culprit in question may actually be artist David Edgar, and he is simply searching for new materials for his art work.

After thirty years of working in formal fabricated steel sculpture, Edgar, on a whim, began to notice the bright colors and untapped potential in plastic packaging. His began creating sea creatures out of the material and, as a result, the “Plastiquarium” was born. In a play of sheer irony, Edgar’s “Plastiquarium” collection features “species” constructed out of the very materials that are polluting their habitat. But this is not the idea behind Edgar’s work. Instead of provoking worry in his viewers, Edgar feels his work “embraces a festive aesthetic with lighthearted imagery that I hope resonates in contrast with our increasingly stressful society.”

It’s refreshing to receive a message relating to the environment that is not wrapped up in a package of threats of Armageddon and shame to all that don’t abide. His work certainly encourages the audience to connect some dots and possibly make better choices about waste, the products they purchase, and the materials being used to create them - even if by default. (For starters, Edgar notes that during the cleaning process of the bottles when preparing his found materials, he is amazed at how much leftover detergent he discovers in containers that were meant for the trash.)

Edgar acknowledges that the idea behind his work is similar to others we have seen from artists such as Andy Warhol, for example, who have taken found objects and/or package designs and constructed artwork from them to highlight the producer/consumer relationship. He finds that creating this type of colorful art is very fulfilling, and he particularly loves the fact that the materials allow this type of work to be both affordable and accessible to the public. He is so passionate about his creations that he even teaches workshops to students who aspire to construct art from the packaging in their own homes, and his book, “Fantastic Recycled Plastic,” is chock-full of inspiration as well.

--Ali Macaluso

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ordinary Expectations

Once while attending college, I was driving along Capital Blvd. in Raleigh, NC when I passed this tower-like object with highly reflective panels. It was the beautifully reflective panels that caught my attention, appearing silver then bursting into rainbow radiance. I wondered at it, but figured it was some kind of radio or phone tower. I later found out that it was Art.

Oddly enough that tower-like structure became the topic of an ethics class in which we discussed art and how it sometimes defies expectations, especially when an artist is commissioned to produce a work and the product doesn’t match the idea a patron may have thought they were asking for. Art is like that.

Art is more than a simple expression of ideas; it takes on life and character. It grabs attention, provokes thought, and elicits emotion: sometimes for its subject matter, sometimes for the elements used. This hit me most profoundly as I was visiting the Weatherspoon Art Museum at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. I had gone to view the exhibit of a local artist, but as I was leaving that exhibit another drew me in.

The exhibit was part of the UNCG Falk Visiting Artists program, and this one featured the work of Judy Pfaff, an internationally renowned pioneer of installation art. It was the massive structure along one wall that first reeled me into the room. Slowly walking along allowing my eyes to drift across its textured surface, taking in the various materials and how they came together to give the structure the form of a coral reef struck a chord within me.

As I cast my eyes around the room at the other works displayed I could see a theme, but it was the smaller constructions upon the walls that really got me thinking. I thought back to that tower-like structure and that discussion once upon a time. Artists challenge expectations.

Visually deconstructing each of Pfaff’s works, I could pick out items that I had seen before being utilized in a way that defied my common understanding of them: some of the items were discarded remains of packaging material, while others were items that typically served a purpose as fishing tools or lighting covers. Defying the common expectation of these individual objects to blend them, creating something greater than the sum of its parts is an amazing form of artistic expression.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Superhero: You.0

I once was given the assignment to write a Gallery Guide for a magazine. It was right around this time last year when I was trekking around museums, checking out exhibits and writing reviews like it was my job. Well, it kind of was my job: a side job, really, but there I was, on a rainy Tuesday, playing hooky from my day job so I could get to these galleries during their business hours and check them out in person.

Of all the galleries, my favorites were the ones where you could touch, see, smell the art work; the ones you could browse around and get lost in, even if they were only the size of a standard bedroom. Even better were the galleries that rented out spaces to local artists, where you could peek inside the workstations and see their creations mid-development. Call me nosey, but I loved being up-close and personal, talking to artists, seeing where inspiration came from, and researching pieces of work. One of my favorite experiences was meeting Shaun El C. Leonardo, an artist who was doing a residency at the McColl Center for Visual Art. The McColl Center is converted from a church, and the place very much emits an eerie, mysterious vibe. The fact that churches in general freak me out does not help here, regardless of the fact I was brought up a Catholic (are you surprised?), and poking around on the desolate, creaky second floor did not seem to be doing me any good. I was just about to turn around and leave when one of the doors flew open, spilling light out into the dreary hallway. Out came Shaun. Instantly, the place was filled with life. His awesome work, paired with his excitement, brought a whole new energy level to the place and it was intoxicating. Once you learn a little bit about an artist, or an inspiration, the work of art comes to life and you can enjoy it from multiple levels, seeing past the surface.

Shaun takes superheroes and creates masterpieces out of them in the form of giant, bigger-than-life cutouts. He tends to be drawn to heroes that he sees a little of himself in, or those he wishes he could be like, and then breaks the mold with an outrageous, plywood portrayal that will blow your mind. There is something incredible when looking at a giant piece of art like Shaun’s creations that you wouldn’t get to experience if they were printed on a page. I loved the concept of taking traits that you would like to see in yourself, and seeing them manifested in this form. You could have an idea of what you’d like to be like, or know certain things you’d like to accomplish, but everyday life makes it very easy to put these dreams on the back-burner. But when it becomes tangible, it somehow forces the obligation to make it happen, and you can no longer run from your dreams - you now have a solid obligation to fulfill them. Even if we don’t have the materials at our disposal or the artistic instinct to create a masterpiece like Shaun’s, we can all take baby steps to help create the life we’d like to lead and the accomplishments we’d like to attain. So, create a “dream board,” with cutouts of inspiration: pictures, articles, or maybe the name of the restaurant you’d like to open one day that you scribbled on a napkin. Whatever it is, make it something you could see every day. Pin it up on your wall in your home office, or leave it out on a table near your workstation. It may not be a larger-than-life plywood cutout, but hey, it’s a start, and it’s a step in the right direction to have you become the superhero you know you could be.

--Ali Macaluso

Friday, March 18, 2011

Shaped by Time, Tempered by Fire

Singed. Burned. Branded. These words are typically associated with harsh experiences that leave a permanent mark if they do not destroy that which is touched by an instrument hot enough to do so. It is astonishing to see these words appear in the description of art work that seems to embody soft, delicate touches in muted shades of brown. Paired with the cool, softness of blue watercolor and the gilding effect of silver leaf it is easy to feel lulled into contemplation about the subject of the art.

North Carolina artist Stacy Lynn Waddell’s The Evidence of Things Unseen featured at the Weatherspoon Art Museum is reportedly a part of an ongoing investigation for the artist regarding the conflict of African American heritage and personal identity, and how individuals come to think of themselves through the generations. Images of ships and women that seem to emerge from them are used to convey this to a large degree in many of the featured works. However, the striking medium used in these expressive investigational pieces adds a sense of lasting effect.

At a glance they appear soft, elegant works of dripping brown watercolor, but leaning in you can begin to see how the heat has marked the paper. The darker browns, almost black from the burning and branding are scars upon the paper. That this harsh method leaves its mark in beauty seems at odds with logical understanding, but add to communicate the emerging self that the artist also depicts in the images. Even the tools and material are a part of the artist’s investigation.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Friday, March 11, 2011


Sometimes you find art in the damndest of places. I was out looking at a town home with a realtor. Right from the initial step through the front door, I knew this place was going to be elegant and fresh. At first glance the home had the feeling of being staged, but as we went from room to room it became apparent that it belonged to a very neat owner who had impeccable taste. Every room we entered had an interesting, lived in feeling that warmed the place up. The paint colors were serene, the furniture was placed just-so, and there were vacuum marks in the rug. But you can always tell the difference between a staged home and home that is truly loved by its owner: a staged home looks excellent and will help sell to potential buyers, but it has a very general feel to it that will appeal to almost anyone. An owner with great taste, on the other hand, will take excellent care of their home as a stager would, but there are small details that give way to the fact that you have entered into someone’s private sanctuary, and you are reminded that you are a guest. A welcome guest, at that, but no doubt, you are a guest. And while there were some hints along the way, the ultimate sign was hanging right over the kitchen table – the focal point of the most common room of the home. It was a painting of Donald Trump.

I don’t know what drew me in first. Maybe it was the red eyes, or the funny spelling of the word “toupee,” or the sarcasm in the “nice comb-over” comment, but this painting suddenly became my favorite detail of the place. I was wondering if a potential buyer would offer more just to keep it. “Yes, we’re interested in your apartment. We will agree to pay our own closing costs if you will agree to leave all fixtures, as well as the painting of the Donald. And that’s my final offer.” A closer look at the work of art revealed hidden messages, which made it even more intriguing. While everyone else had already moved onto the master bedroom, I was still stuck in the kitchen questioning the motives of the artist. Was this a child who painted this, given the misspellings? What do those hidden messages read? Where did the owner even find this painting, and how much did he or she pay? And, most importantly, does it come with the unit? Because as we all know, a great piece of art is what truly makes a house a home.

-Ali Macaluso

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Art never sold me anything...

I’m all about saving the world, really. I consider myself radical, you know, as radical as you can be, hunch-backed, typing away in front of a computer screen. I have these radical thoughts, in the creative space of night or behind the wheel, watching fragments of society flick by like channels. But, I’m not radical enough to be revolutionary.

Radical changes require radical individuals.

So, there’s no wonder why I’m drawn to the work of an artist I found somewhere in the hollow span of the Internet, someone vaguely referred to as “JR.” I was probably stumbling or something. He’s a French guy. A street artist, they call him, from Paris.

His game is simple: publicize massive portraits on the sides of urban architecture. Take a subject, a person that’s just a face among the crowd. No, a person that represents the crowd, the mass, the everyday, the you and I. People in their natural emotional habitat, real people being…real. Take a picture, blow it up and slap it on the side of a building so people can see it from a plane. Then, disappear.

It all feels like “V for Vendetta” without the explosions. What’s most revolutionary about the artist is his inability to play by the rules. He sometimes doesn’t ask permission, he doesn’t blog about his ideals, he doesn’t have a full name and he probably doesn’t care what you think.

Recently, he won the TED prize, a handsome sum awarded annually to one person to help fund a change they wish to see in the world. His mission: to create a site in which users can upload images of themselves. Then, he and his team make posters of the image and mail it to back to the user in hopes that they display it publicly.

Detractors of the artist claim he doesn’t have property rights for many of his murals. Some might say it is too in-your-face and obtrusive. Others might claim it’s downright illegal.

All right, fair enough. But be honest. When you turned on the television this morning, the radio, when you logged into your e-mail, checked your favorite sites in the morning, did anyone ask you permission to sell you objects you supposedly need in your life?

When advertising does it, it’s “the nature of the beast” but when an artist does it, it’s wrong?

Art never sold me anything, other than a good time, a mute button on life, and a connection to self-worth.

-Alex Clark

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Where Does the Journey of an Artist Begin?

The journey of an artist begins differently for each one you ask.  Though there may be some commonalities, each artist is unique.  Artists are shaped and molded by their experiences, but exposure to art is key.

When schools cut funding to programs it is usually the arts that suffer.  Art is often times thought of as a luxury to those that merely enjoy its aesthetic quality, but for those that engage in the passion to express and create through art, it is essential.  Sharing that with the young is a good way to help them begin their journey.

The Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art in Greensboro features Art Quest as a hands-on art studio for all.  It is a welcoming environment for kids to learn firsthand about the various materials and how they can be combined to create their own expressions.  One of the truly magnificent aspects of Art Quest is that each of the twelve hands-on art stations was designed by local artists.

Watching the children can also be inspirational as they push up their sleeves and dive in to play.  They ask questions, and try to emulate the styles and techniques they are shown.  Anyone of them can be an artist in the making, and it’s thanks to artists today getting involved.
-Veronica Monique Ibarra

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March 15 Artwork Promotion Event

Persepolis Arts Agency is teaming up with Hhgregg and Alia Kitchen and Bath to create selling opportunities for artists.  Please share this with fellow artists who need help selling their artwork.  Artists who are interested in representation should send an email to

Baring It All

There I was at the Light Factory, taking in their new "Body & Soul" exhibit. The display features works from artists Jock Sturges, Joyce Tenneson, and Mona Kuhn. All of the pieces in this exhibit are photographs which feature a single nude individual as the subject. The artists each illustrate the human body in a different light: Sturges, who captures the innocence of his subject, Fanny, coming into her own over a period of several years; Kuhn, who shows off the soft sensuality of her subjects in her native land, Brazil; and Tenneson, whose subjects exhude a mystical, spiritual air. All of the subjects in these photographs have something remarkable about their eyes. They are intense, innocent, confident, and no matter what else is going on in these photographs, the eyes grab the attention and represent the focal point in them all. An old saying comes to mind, instantly: "The eyes are the windows to the soul."

As I stroll through the exhibit I take note of the fact that when your body is free, when there is nothing to hide behind, your soul becomes bare, open, vulnerable - beautiful. It's sad that many people, particularly in our culture, will disagree and criticize this form of art. As it is with words, everything must be taken into context. With words, it's how you use them, the tone you give them, the feeling you put behind them. We tend to make too big a deal about something that really shouldn't be, and as a result, that very thing becomes even more threatening.

In terms of our bodies, relatively speaking, we are all the same and have nothing to be ashamed of. (I can just hear my mother calling me a "little hippie" as I type this.) But maybe we should appreciate the beauty, see past the surface, and relax, because it is okay to accept ourselves as we are and experience the beauty of being "open". It's like makeup: wear too much of it, and people will suddenly wonder what it is you're trying to cover up. Now, I'm not suggesting that we all prance around town naked. And if you do, as you are being cuffed, please don't tell the officer this was my idea. All I'm saying is that it's perfectly okay to just be ourselves - we are all beautiful, and we are all works of art. 

-Ali Macaluso

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Stars fell down from the sky and became films on a screen

Go to the Mint Museum Uptown. Don’t waste time; ask someone, anyone where the Janet Biggs’s exhibit is. You will find Biggs’s timeless video “essays” encompassing a thousand themes. Her newest, “Duet,” solely at the Mint, focuses on perfection amid frenzy in NASCAR’s pit crew subculture. You might see them at surface: films in a museum. But, these are modern meditations on control, chaos, the indelible spirit, the locus where you lose an identity. So, go, transcend in the flicker and pulse of a television screen. See, enthusiasts find something in a painting but voyeurs find everything in a film. 

-Alex Clark 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Power of the Brush

Walking through the Center for Visual Artists to view the last days of exhibiting VISUAL DOCUMENTS by Juie Rattley III, it is impressive to note the impact each brush stroke has on the work.  Oil on canvas, spread with long caressing strokes evokes a sense of compassion for the sleeping woman, while short thick jabs of dark colors evoke distain or perhaps simply imply something coarse and unrefined about the man seemingly looking past the viewer.

A grouping of self-portraits depicts a series of reactions to hearing of the death of a friend.  With bold colors and an obvious mixture of brush strokes it is easy to see the progression of shock to outrage to confusion to grief.  It is the combination of bold, dark colors and the visual tracing of the brush strokes that gives each piece a distinction beyond the expression and stance of those in the paintings.

One painting stands out of the entire collection, drawing you back repeatedly.  Blue is the dominant color with white, black, brown and a hint of yellow.  However it is the brush’s touch upon the canvas that is the fascinating aspect of note.  Each color is dabbed in a loose cube-like manner giving the whole painting an almost pixilated feel.  It is detaching, yet engaging at the same time.  It is easy to spend so much time entranced by the texture and to become startled to see that the subject of the painting seems to be studying you just as intently.

-Veronica Ibarra

Friday, February 25, 2011

French's Time Capsule

As a resident of Charlotte I am happy to see this city grow and change. In the three years I have been here I can honestly attest to the fact that every time I take a walk through this city there is a new restaurant, a new shop, a new pub that has popped up, and somehow they are all brimming with people and functioning as if they have been there the whole time. Each brings a different vibe, and each makes up a small piece of this ever-changing, ever-growing puzzle known as Uptown. You can’t ignore the art here, because it is everywhere: from the unique and funky décor and signage of the establishments, to the live jazz band that plays on the streets and fills the city with rhythm and life, to the people that cross every intersection.

I met David French the night of the Uptown Christmas Tree Lighting, in the market across the street. He had a booth there, amongst other artists and entrepreneurs selling their artistic specialties: fresh foods, seasonal décor, off-beat gifts and the like. I loved the fact that his booth represented all there is to enjoy in the QC. Many of his paintings were of favorite hot-spots and other local attractions, and for me, this took “local art” to a whole new level. Two paintings of his in particular caught my eye. They were similar in style in that they were the artist’s interpretations of both the intersection of 6th & Tryon, and the intersection of Trade & Tryon. The colors are what drew me in initially, and once I got closer I noticed the beautiful drawings of the statues that box the intersection in the center of the city. Even though I have passed these statues every day, for some reason they seemed even more beautiful in French’s painting. I wasn’t planning on purchasing them, but I was enjoying checking out the detail. Then, a couple came over to look at the paintings. They loved them, and for a moment I was nervous that they would purchase them. The man's complaint: “Hmmm…these would be great, but they are missing some important buildings – the Wachovia Building, The Vue, and the Avenue. That stinks.” The woman quietly nodded, and off they went.

I took a few steps closer and noticed that he was right – those buildings were in fact missing. The artist must have painted these before those buildings broke ground. It put into perspective for me how fast this city was growing, and as a result, his paintings became a time capsule of how this city looked before I called it home. Sometimes when a road is re-done, or a new building goes up, it’s hard to remember what it looked like in the first place. One credit card swipe, two nails and one hammer later, a frozen snapshot of what once was the Uptown skyline now hangs on my wall and serves as a constant reminder of a work of art – even if it is a work in progress. 

-Alessandra Macaluso

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fleeting Ownership

The looting in Iraq was infamous. In the frenzy of the occupation, museums were ransacked and archaeological sites were damaged. It still happens in Iraq today but it’s taken in stride as collateral damage.

And now, as political unrest pops up everywhere, it begs the question: what cultural keepsake will be tainted next by political strife?

Just several days ago, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo reopened after the protests happening right outside its door forced them to close. As patrons entered the museum on Sunday, they were greeted with roses. But beneath the rosy surface, Egypt’s antiquities minister tries to salvage the many items that were stolen during the protests. Art is just one of many faceless victims of changing times.

As in Iraq and countless nations where laws are blurred in the fog of war, people loot because they feel an ownership for something. They may not have painted it or sculpted it but being a looter is a sign of being a survivor. They are in the nightmare of it; you are not.

So, who owns the art of the dead?

Ownership is a tricky subject. But, the important thing has never been to argue about who owns an item, it has always been about protecting items for future generations.

Art belongs to future generations.

-Alex Clark

Monday, February 21, 2011

Abstracting With Lori Love Penland

  • After receiving a Facebook invite to the entitled 'Showdown', (a competition) exhibition of varied artists at Hart Witzen Gallery event I couldn't pass up the opportunity to not only attend a surprisingly unknown to my knowledge gallery in the area but also artists whose names were new to my ears and work to my eyes. 

    So there I am, confronted with a card at the door with a list of the artists names featured in the showing with empty boxes beside each name to puncher after viewing to cast your vote of choice for favorite artist to be inserted in a raffle box. But little did I know walking in, that the first viewed collection that looked to be inspired by the Rorschach test used to subject perceptions of inkblots for psychoanalysis would be my vote right away without any further consideration or curiosity of other works. After submitting my ballot I visited other mediums and concepts and fortunately I remained without regret - l know what I like. 

    Penland's mixed media abstract almost existential analysis on nature combined with sophicated composition and intelligence swooned me. Especially, the work on light boxes in particular. It's the kind of pieces you would even want to see in the dark and thanks to modern contemporary design being three of her canvases you can. The fascination of the human mind/nature with the play of the inkblot like forms give not only the eye constant evolution through shape from angle to angle but a perspective interactive. 

    Lori Love Penland's collection was featured at Hart Witzen Gallery from February 4th-18th. 


    Q - Out of curiously and not to 'kill the cat' but do you have a background in psychology? 

    A- I like to say that I have a background in the human animal. My first two years as an undergraduate student were spent in a premed program. I was infatuated by the human body at a cellular level, the level the human eye cannot see without the aid of microscope. However, that infatuation waned somewhat as I began to pursue interest in philosophy, psychology, sociology and the social sciences. I actually did a fellowship at a University in England studying the writings of Marx and Lenin.

    Q - I read a bit of info on your site and it quotes "My work as an artist is one of continual struggle whereby I attempt to narrow the chasm between vision and reality." and "Many of the paintings in the Human Touch series are based on images from photographs, newspapers and magazines documenting the state of society and the often overlooked emotions of shame, grief and despair as exhibited by addicts, the homeless, the institutionalized, and other more vulnerable elements of modern society."
    Would you then say that your work is conceptual in a way being that your last collections medium differentiates from your most recent? Does subject matter evoke what to do/use next?

    A- Let me just say that I see my art as a journey and like every journey, there's the actual physical, that which can be measured whether it be space, time, shape, color, etc..and then there is the metaphysical or the nature of the mind in relation to the physical.

    My latest series is really an attempt to marry these two worlds together. I think that the medium used in this body of work has taken me one step further in that journey in that I am attempting to bring others along on their own journey, realizing that while the physical may be common to all, the experience is unique to the individual. 
    For me as an artist, these pieces convey a certain conceptual completeness in my vision. They are organic, yet structured, a certain yin and yang, which again is very much a part of the human experience and particularly the human psyche.

    Q - When/Where will your work be featured next? 

    A- Currently, I have a duel exhibition scheduled to open in August of this year at a gallery in Gastonia. All the details have not yet been finalized. "In the Beginning" has also been juried by Nathan Trotman, Curator for the Guggenheim, as a semi finalist for a show in NY in late March. 

    -Amanda Medina

Sunday, February 20, 2011

More Heaven Than Earth

"Whenever I am on East Boulevard in Charlotte, I always make it a point to stop in to Red Sky Gallery. The artwork here never disappoints, and the space that houses it serves as the perfect canvas. Some galleries are meant to have soaring ceilings, large open spaces, and blank, white walls - this is not Red Sky. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Although Red Sky chooses art work to fill its walls, there is a strange feeling that the art here, even the rotating exhibits, seek out the gallery on their own and call it home. And home is exactly what it feels like.

The Red Sky building is a house, with separate rooms, staircases and landings - even a kitchen. Behind every corner, around every turn, up every step is another surprise to greet you and engage your senses. The current exhibit here features new works by Devon Burgess and Paul Hastings. Burgess is a glass artist, and Hastings, a painter. Upon first glance of the exhibit I can't help but wonder if these two have met. If their personalities mesh as well as their works, I think they would get along famously. Burgess's glass works are sleek and mysterious, and their shapes seem as if they are fluid and natural, and freshly poured. His vases are so striking and gorgeous all on their own that you wouldn’t even want to interrupt them with a flower.

Upon walking up a flight of stairs I was greeted by a gorgeous canvas, fittingly titled "More Heaven than Earth." The detail of the piece appears to only take up the very bottom of the canvas - about one quarter of the piece. The top three quarters is filled with nothing other than a blue sky. A gorgeous blue, but really, that's it - just a wide open blue sky, not even graced with a single cloud. 

Hastings' paintings got me thinking about how we limit ourselves, box ourselves. They gently remind us to look up once in a while, to jump into that space and make something happen. It's very easy to become wrapped up in our "worlds", and when we forget how small we really are, we lost perspective on how big the world is: what really matters, how to be happy, how certain instances just aren't important in the grand scheme of things. Appreciate the beauty in the little things, and make sure you are grounded. But every once in a while, don't forget to look up. After all, there's more heaven than earth.

-Ali Macaluso

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Getting Up Close to Art through Technology

Wouldn't it be great to take a trip to the National Gallery in London or the Museum Kampa in Prague? How awesome would it be to get up close to a Van Gogh painting - so close you could see the texture of the paint and follow each brush stroke?

Well, the Art Project, powered by Google allows you to do just that. Utilizing their Street View Technology, Google has partnered up with museums from around the world to allow you to view art in places you may never have the chance to visit, and get closer than you would ever be allowed in person.

As a study tool for any artist, this could prove invaluable. The zoom application of this site provides an opportunity to see the detail of the techniques and materials used. Study the works of an artist at your leisure, any time, day or night--even if those works are housed in different museums. The site allows you to create and save an Artwork Collection of your favorite works viewed at the zoom level of your choice with the option of adding comments, which can be utilized to make special notes. These Artwork Collections can also be shared providing artists a way to collaborate and compare study notes.

From paintings to photographs to sculptures and more, this site allows any artist the opportunity to study art more broadly than they may have the ability to do otherwise.

-Veronica Ibarra

Keeping Up with the Jones.0

Of what use are museums when technology takes over completely? Will we bulldoze the art museums when the Internet age matures? Perhaps we will use the ghostly halls of washed-up museums to hold massive servers and supercomputers where digital memories of once-great pieces of art will be entombed forever.

Thankfully, we’re not there yet. But skeptics and hopefuls alike know the embittered war between the horny, slavering monster known as the Internet and those that prefer to stay in the “technological dark age” is already over. Yankees or Red Sox. East coast or west coast. Blondes or brunettes. We could have never imagined that the debate as to whether or not technology is good for us would join the list of great debates of modernity.

There is salvation at last though. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum are spearheading a peace operation between the two. Attempting to reach some sort of harmony, both the Met and the Brooklyn Museum are looking for ways to implement technology into the museum experience to attract patrons otherwise uninterested.

According to an article on the New York Times website, the Met has already created its first app to accompany one if its exhibits, which itself is a reflection of the times—collection of cool guitars, no biggie, even the Director of the Met called it a “teenager’s wet dream.” Times sure are changing. The Met is also looking to hook the entire 21-building compound up to Wi-Fi, allowing patrons to enjoy customized tours on personal electronic devices, depending on “levels of sophistication.” Please don’t rate my sophistication, Met.

The Brooklyn Museum is experimenting with the way viewers make snap distinctions of paintings with their new exhibit titled, “Split Second: Indian Paintings.” The premise would make Bill Gates warm inside and no, I’m not referring to the microchips that power him. Participants who signed up viewed a collection of paintings for seconds at a time and were asked to make a judgment about the quality of the painting based on what they noticed in that short span of time. The result: a final ten pieces were chosen based on the people’s choice. Ah, there is room for Internet critics after all.

At least some out there are making the effort to meet the demands set forth by a rampant technological age but who really knows what the future holds. For now, you can still enjoy a trip to the museum the way we have for decades. Take your time with it; walk aimlessly, allow yourself to get lost and feel awed, even stupid in the presence of genius. You know, unplug from it all.

And if you have to, go ahead, use technology to supplement your journey. At least you’re not sitting at your desk, looking at paintings on Google.

-Alex Clark

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Thousand Word Commentary in a Composed Image

Wandering through the art exhibit (Dream Team | Works from 1995 to 2011) featuring the work of the photographer, Fatimah Tuggar, utilizing photo collages to juxtapose Western and West African cultures can impress upon one the stark contrast of perceived beauty and wealth, and how both are associated with power.  Seeing a rail thin model in a gorgeous dress next to a bone thin starving child is a harsh dose of reality: one working so hard to achieve an idealized state of beauty while the other works diligently to earn enough sustenance to survive.  What power does the wealth of jewels and gold hold when placed next to smiling family and friends?
These images are meant to make one think, but how do they make one feel?

Perspective of the viewer is just as much at play as the perspective of the artist, and even the perspective of the subject.  The pictures featuring predominant images from one culture and only a few images from the other provide a heightened contrast of disparity.  However, the images that seemed to balance the two showed similarities that one might not otherwise consider.  For instance, just as some Western children see sports as their way to a better life, so do some West African children. While there seemed to be some elements of the ridiculous to the combinations, that only served to emphasize the influence of technology on life, as the artist intended.  Every image with its placement in space has meaning.  

In art, there are no accidents.

-Veronica Ibarra

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wintertime Blues

I'm not gonna lie. This entire weekend I had a serious case of the winter blues. But as I wandered into the Charlotte Art League Gallery on Sunday afternoon, I couldn't help but notice a change in the air. The current exhibition here is called "Blues," and featured are several different artists and their interpretations of what that word evokes in them - an oil on canvas of a rich, enticing blue sky; a gorgeous photograph of the Blue Ridge Mountains; or, my personal favorite, a close-up photograph of a guitar with a cigarette (Gene Lazo's "Smokin' Blues.")The vivid colors and lush textures drew me right in, and I loved how the focus varied from dreamy hues to instruments. A dose of the "Blues" cured my case of the blues. Who knew?

-Ali Macaluso

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Introspection at the Mint

I go to the Mint Museum on a rainy day in February. The museum is empty without the occasional security staff floating through and on the second floor, there is an exhibit titled, “The Shape of Life: Contemporary Native American Ceramics.” The room is rectangular and white and aseptic and somewhere near the room, maybe in the walls, something mechanical drones as ambience. Encased in glass around the room, an assortment of ceramics sits barely perceptible. That is, until you stop and notice them.

The ceramics are of various shapes and sizes and each jar, bowl or vase is painted with deep browns and earthy reds, sharply contrasting blacks and whites. They are aptly referred to as vessels as they truly are vessels through which something deeper is transported to the third-dimension. It’s difficult for me to imagine that these impossibly intricate vessels aren’t formed in some machine and mass-produced miles away from trees and dirt and rivers. I’m humbled to learn—as noted in the plaque on the wall—they are all handmade without the aid of a potter’s wheel.

In the center of the room between two doors that don’t open, lead to nowhere, a vase the size of a large beach ball sits on a platform. As I move closer, the rest of the room fades away, leaving only the vase and the droning sound as the center of my focus. The vase slightly resembles a headless white swan and although I can’t touch it, I want nothing more than to feel its pearly surface. I circle it slowly and read the description: “Asymmetrical Jar” by Jacquie Stevens. 

First, the artist dreamed of this vase and tried many times to re-create it but her efforts were unsuccessful. She alleged that the vase was a divine gift bestowed only once. The longer you stand there, the more you begin to know it as a gift. It makes you want to break the glass and run your hands over the smooth surface. I read somewhere that introspection is the ultimate goal of all noble works of art and I leave the room.

The rest of the museum is muted after the vase. Walking to the car, introspection creeps up. It’s colder now and rainwater has massed into puddles in the parking lot. I notice the manufactured lines and curves and the advanced paint jobs on the twenty or thirty cars that have now filled the lot. In our world of cookie-cutter models and identical lines and angles, you may seek perfection but flawlessness comes at a price. The vase is a reminder that there is still imperfection in the world and not nearly enough of it.

-Alex Clark

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Taking the Next Step

If you can't beat 'em, have 'em join you.

Due to my less-than-stellar performance at maintaining a modest blog and losing traffic to good writers, I decided to hire one of them.  That decision quickly turned into a plan to hire three writers instead of one.  That's because, in the tradition of Ferdowsi, good writers are worth their weight in gold.  It's a good thing they're not union.

So, I'm pleased to announce that today marks a new beginning for The Artist's Champion blog.  Three new contributing writers will kick start this blog to life starting this week.  The new writers are Alessandra Macaluso, Alex Clark, and Veronica Ibarra.

Here's a few words from each one.  First, Alessandra:  

“Art.” It’s amazing that a three letter word could hold so much meaning. Art listens, interprets, expresses; it makes us feel, connect, grow, and change. And the beauty of it all is that this applies for both artist and admirer. It is no wonder it is referred to as “the universal language.”

I am a freelance writer originally from New York, currently living in Charlotte, NC. I’m excited to have this opportunity with Persepolis. I hope with this blog to discover art, connect art, to be a part of your community, and to build bridges within the art world with words.

Then we have Veronica:  

I am a writer who believes in the power that words have to influence and express, much like art.  My goal as a writer is to convey meaning to engage the reader, as well as to inform.  I am a freelance SEO Writer by trade, but a Word Warrior in my heart.  Writing is my love, my art, my discipline.

And finally, Alex:

Dim the lights, cue the music, and uncork a vintage bottle of whatever you fancy because I for one am excited to be here. I am told we’re here to write about art. The premise seems innocuous enough but it is much deeper than that. We are here to do the near-impossible. We are here to act as liaison between the reader and the art, to charm you with our own “art” to remind you that life is meant to be deeper than six hundred television channels and an endless Internet romp, to show you there is still art in this world and it’s more accessible than you think. Is it near impossible? Probably not, I have faith in you. I just hope you are as thrilled as we are.

As you can see, e
ach one brings a distinct voice, but the goal of their collective effort will remain the same as before - to create a resource for artists at this blog.  Each post will be powerful and short - we're not trying to waste an artist's time here.  The content will be artist-centric and timely.  We invite you to give us feedback on what you'd like to see more and what should be cut out.  After all, this blog is here to serve you, the artists.

Upcoming posts:

A review of a special collection by each contributing writer.

Unveiling by Persepolis Arts Agency of a new platform for featuring artists.

Announcing a new match-making service by Persepolis Arts Agency, connecting artists with figurative models.