Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Patterns Perk up Paintings!

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

Patterns are all around us. We see them in nature, on clothing, and in any number of decorative items around our homes: wallpapers, rugs, pillows, upholstery, etc. Patterns perk things up. Think how dull it would be if everything were solid! I can’t imagine how plain my painting entitled Fruits, (Mostly) would be without the patterns on the bowl and tablecloth. And, certainly, Spots, Stripes and Squares would be so boring without the spots, stripes or squares!

Patterns have been a big part of artists’ work for a long time. The Japanese wood-block prints influenced many painters, such as Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Toulouse- Lautrec, to name a few. The pointillists created their own form of pattern with small dots of color that become blended in the viewer’s eye to form an image.

Joseph Young is all about patterns. “I’ve always been a decorative painter,” he says Trained as an art historian, Joseph is influenced by many art movements, such as Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, and the artists mentioned above. “Even abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollack were decorative artists in their own way,” he commented.

Joseph likes to paint flat, and uses pattern to give the illusion of three dimensions. He juxtaposes colors that vibrate off each other. “If there’s no vibration, I add another contrasting color, until I get the desired effect. I want the colors to either work with or against each other to create excitement in the painting.”

To achieve patterns such as these requires considerable patience. As you can see in his painting entitled Red and White Cat and a Puppy in a Landscape, there are many different elements, and each has its own pattern. There are so many varieties of butterflies, flowers, fish and birds; yet they are grouped in an organized, thoughtful way. You can tell that Joseph has a very strong sense of design (and an amazing ability to stay focused!).

In his painting Cowboy and Two Dogs in a Landscape, we see similar floral designs and butterflies, but here Joseph has used a pointillist effect of dots and tiny patterns to create a sense of depth against the flatter, more solid elements in the work.

Rena Vandewater also uses lines and dots to give her paintings movement and a three dimensional effect. Woman with Pups is a very stylized work – the woman and her dogs are flat, but everything else vibrates because of the patterns she’s created. Pear Tree would be a pretty uninteresting painting without the textures she’s given to the sky, leaves and patches of ground that together remind me of a quilt and needlework.

“I work intuitively,” she explains. “The painting talks to me the entire time I’m working on it. The patterns and shapes evolve in the process, and although I see the images as a whole, each space has a life of its own.”

Yellow Sun Vineyard also shows the influence of textiles on Rena’s work. The shapes of the hills, each with its own pattern and color scheme, convey the look of a collage piece. The red ground that shows between the patterns and as a border around the shapes makes the colors really pop.

Tracy Miller isn’t afraid of color. She often puts conflicting hues together to give energy to a painting. “People respond to color emotionally,” she says. Tracy lives in the foothills of a mountain area in Colorado, where the wildlife she sees daily inspire her art.

Her method is so different from Joseph and Rena’s, She says she follows a “visual haiku,” meaning that she starts with black lines painted in a free-form way to create forms for a color abstraction. “That movement and pattern informs the animal I create,” she says. “It just evolves from the initial drawing.” If you look at two of her paintings, Horse and Bear, you can see the initial black swirls under the red background.

But that’s just the beginning of the work. As she adds brushstrokes of color, the animal emerges, with its shape and musculature. Tracy uses different colors to show contour, rather than more traditional lights and darks of the same hue.

Other techniques that characterize Tracy’s unique style include switching between opaque and transparent colors. The moose in Lazy Days is portrayed with strikes of transparent hues that give it a luminous glow. Tracy often crops her image to zoom in on her color patterns, as in Longhorn Series II. “It’s more about the design, than a realistic image of the animal,” she explains. And, the flourish of a splatter of paint that flies over most of her paintings is “my, fun, energetic signature.”

So, keep your eye out for patterns. They are everywhere, and they make life so much more interesting!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Tactile Art: The Thrill of the Touch

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

In my last blog, I talked about three sculptors who have found their artistic expression in three-dimensional art. All of them said that they love the feel of creating art in a tactile way. You could say the sense of touch is an integral part of their work.

To continue this theme, I talked to three other 3D artists who display at the gallery. The first two are ceramicists, whose tactile expressions are revealed directly in their art. The third is a glass artist, whose journey to a finished piece is a little more complicated.

Kari Rives began her artistic career as a painter, favoring a palette knife and her fingers instead of brushes, to create highly textured work. Her love of a hands-on technique led her to try ceramics, combining her painterly skills with modeling. “Clay made good sense to me,” she says. “Its tactile nature provides a great opportunity for expressive gesture, and I prefer to leave the evidence of my touch.”

You can see an example of Kari’s mark making on her ceramics in two charming sculptures, entitled “Hedgerow” and “Bruce” (shown above). She doesn’t sketch before sculpting, and although she refers to photos, she doesn’t strive for realism, saying that “an animal speaks to me, so I feel an emotion and convey life in the piece.”

Although Kari enjoys the painterly part of coloring her sculptures, she likes the uncertainty that results from firing a piece. “You really don’t know what’s going to happen, and the surprises can be great” she says. Often, she’ll re-fire a sculpture, sometimes as much as eight times, to achieve depth and layers of color. I think you can see these layers in her piece entitled “Emerald Turtle.”

Michelle MacKenzie also started exploring art as a painter. But she, too, loves the tactile thrill of “taking a ball of clay and creating something beautiful from it.” And, she adds, “When it’s done you can touch it!” Michelle is passionate about animals and looks to them for inspiration. She has a keen interest in birds, and says “Birds symbolize life to me. Sculpting them is so delightful. As I work, they’re in the palm of my hand and their face is looking up at me.”

Michelle’s bird series is charming. She uses old wire to form a nest, makes ceramic eggs and creates a family setting with a mother bird. Here’s an example of her bird collection:


For her sculpture entitled “Quail on a Rock,” she uses a horseshoe nail to create the quail’s topnotch.

Always on the lookout for found objects, Michelle likes to mix up her mediums. For her sculpture “Guardian,” she re-finished an old shutter door, added trim where the hinges had been and created a ceramic bas relief to depict the wolves as “animal spirits of the forest.” Although it’s meant to be hung on a wall, this piece still offers the texture and depth of three-dimensional art.

Although Tom Philabaum had a natural ability to draw and paint as a child, his initial pursuit in college was academics, But when he decided to take a ceramics class, he says “the clay grabbed me.” Tom focused on hand building, working in such a large scale that his instructor told him that his ideas were too fluid for clay, and that he should try glass.

A chance meeting in Wisconsin with Harvey Littleton changed the course of Tom’s artistic career. (Littleton and glass scientist Dominick Labino introduced glass as an art medium in 1962, and Littleton taught the first glass-blowing class in an American college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.) Tom was drawn to the expressive possibilities of glass, and, under the tutelage of Harvey Littleton, was encouraged to push the boundaries of artistic expression in that medium. He started to work with glass in the same way he had worked with clay: by creating shapes and constructing objects with them. “I use heat instead of water to make the material flow,” he explains.

You can see the unique way Tom fashions glass in his rock sculptures, made of blown glass and fashioned together. In pieces like “Small Gourd” and “Round Paperweight”, the balls of glass appear to be floating, yet delicately attached. The shimmering, multi-colored hues of the sculptures look so ethereal.

Tom says that he has learned the principles of chemistry and physics through glass making. His various techniques require new understandings of the medium each time he tries a different idea. For his sculpture entitled “Wrapped,” he combines two mediums: clay and kiln cast glass, making a form in clay, a mold from that and then pouring glass into the mold to create the final piece. In his series called “Handbuilts,” he makes coils with molten glass and then creates a form such as the vessel entitled “Canasta 18.”

A recent exploration has led Tom to a fusion of glass making and painting. “River Road” is an example of his fused glass collage painting series. In this multi-step, complex process, 2D and 3D have a chance to meet!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Three Dimensional Art: Visual physicality

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

As a painter, my only experience with three-dimensional art is when I try to show the planes in something like a table, or work with perspective to try to draw the viewer into the scene. But a painting is always two dimensional because there is no actual depth. When you add that extra dimension of depth to length and width, you get 3D art.

Sculpture is a wonderful form of three-dimensional art. It’s primarily a hands-on process, and color takes a back seat to form. I wanted to know why some of the artists at Wilde Meyer favor sculpture (how can they live without red paint??), and learn about their techniques.

Tony Dow creates abstract bronze sculptures, as well as mixed media 3D pieces. He said that he’s always loved this medium, and has the ability to visualize a three dimensional image even before he starts to work on a piece. In his artist statement, he says the following about his work: "The figures are abstract and not meant to represent reality but rather the truth of the interactions as I see and feel them.”

Tony produces limited editions of nine bronzes using the lost wax process from molds of the original burl sculpture. He describes his method this way: “The first and most important step is to create the original figure that is to be cast. My originals are done in burl wood, which is extremely hard, requiring special carving equipment. The natural contour of the wood contributes to the form of each piece. Using various saws, chisels, grinders, and sanders, the details are brought out to reflect the concept of the piece.”

The bronze sculpture is then produced using the lost wax process at the foundry. It’s a pretty interesting process used by many sculptors, which I’ll describe here. A heat-resistant mold is formed around the wood original and encased in plaster. Once dry, the mold is separated into two pieces and the wood original is removed. Sometimes multiple molds are made for one sculpture.

The mold is then bolted together and filled with hot wax to produce a duplicate of the original wood sculpture. The final wax version is dipped in a plaster-like slurry to encase the wax figure. Once hardened, the new plaster mold is placed into an oven at 1800 F, where the wax melts away through ducts in the mold and leaves a plaster reproduction of the original mold. The cavity of the plaster mold is filled with bronze or other desired metal. Once cooled, the plaster is broken away leaving a rough cast version of the original sculpture which now has to be cleaned, reconstructed if more than one mold is necessary, and sandblasted.

Now the sculpture is now ready for patina, or coloring. After the piece is washed down to remove any contaminates, it is heated to the applicable temperature depending on the combination of acids used to produce the desired finish.

Jim Budish sculpts his smaller pieces in clay, and then casts them in bronze in the same lost wax method as Tony’s. For life-size and monumental works, he prefers to sculpt in low density foam with a hot-knife, applying clay to the surface before casting in bronze.

Jim said that he loves the feel of three-dimensional sculpture, and knowing that a bronze piece “will be around in 5,000 years, even though I won’t,” He creates whimsical animals that have exaggerated features, such as the rabbit ears in “Abby,” or the long, long legs of “Moose.”

Long ago, Jim realized that he didn’t want to sculpt "photographs" in bronze. He says, “I felt that I wanted to create my own new and unique direction in representing the human form and the forms of the multitude of special creatures surrounding us, exploring the unique attitude, emotion and personality of each, while attempting to capture the ‘joie de vivre’ that I believe is lurking somewhere inside all of us. Maybe if we smile more and take each other a little less seriously, people would get along better!”

Horses have always been a part of Lisa Gordon’s life. She says that there’s an emotional bond between herself and her horses.

”I drew and mimicked them as a child; I owned and trained them as a teen; studied and revered them in college. Now as an artist, it’s natural that I sculpt the horse's image. The horse is the figure through which I actualize my ideas. It becomes a tangible bridge between the viewer and me. My goal is to render the horse with empathy and respect without getting bogged down in realities.”

Lisa’s art studies exposed her to bronze casting. She said that she loves the hands-on physicality of sculpture. Her method is different from that of Tony or Jim’s. Lisa actually works directly in wax, heating it enough to manipulate it and then carving on it when it cools. “It kind of marries the skills of ceramics and woodworking,” she said. “I work with many technical processes that are woven seamlessly together so that the viewer cannot see the complex assemblage that’s required.”

If the scale of the piece is small, such as “Rocking Foal,” she’ll make a one-of-a-kind piece that may be part of a series with a theme. For a sculpture like “Trophy,” Lisa created the horse in that manner, then cast the handles, pedestals and balls. The central column is fabricated and and colored.

After speaking with these three artists, I realized that although it’s a tedious process, the pleasure of handling the materials and creating a three-dimensional image is what drives them to pursue this medium.

In my next blog, I’m going to speak to some other 3D artists – this time, the mediums will be ceramics and glass.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

WILDE MEYER Celebrates 30 Years of Art

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

On November 7th, Wilde Meyer celebrated its 30th anniversary at its Marshall Way gallery with a party for clients, artists and “art walkers.” It was fun for me to meet some of the artists I’ve spoken with on the phone during blog interviews. I met Ka Fisher, Charles Davison and Chaille Trevor. Nancy Pendleton and Brian Boner also came for the occasion. Mark, Laura, Jonathan, Ryan, Tyler and Andrea were all there to chat with everyone while we enjoyed a delicious anniversary cake.

If you don’t already know, Wilde Meyer is named for owners Betty Wilde and Mark Meyer. Betty’s son Jonathan Henderson, also is a partner.

Since Betty wasn’t able to attend (she was at the WM party in Tucson), I decided to give her a call to congratulate her on this milestone and learn a little more about the gallery’s history. I didn’t know that Betty has a BFA in fine art, and that she had a gallery in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

In 1983, Betty and Mark came to Scottsdale and opened a gallery on Marshall Way, just across the street from their current location. They brought some artists’ work from Tulsa, but quickly, other artists applied to have their work exhibited. Over the years, the gallery has had several locations on Marshall Way. Betty said that their present location used to be a veterinarian and dog clinic. Instead of art walks, Thursday nights were for dog training classes! Wilde Meyer moved into this space in 1990. Wilde Meyer Annex, their other gallery in Scottsdale, has also had several previous locations, but has been at the Main Street site since 1997. It’s a fun place to shop, with colorful art, jewelry, gift items and some “arty”clothing.

Quite a few Wilde Meyer’s artists have been with the gallery for many years. Linda Carter Holman and Charles Davison have been represented here since its inception. Barbara Gurwitz came a little later. Sherri Belassan, Timothy Chapman, Ka Fisher, Alix Stefan and Nancy Pendleton have been showing their art here for 10 to 15 years. And, I’ve been with Wilde Meyer since 2006!

The year 2000 marked the opening of the beautiful Wilde Meyer gallery in Tucson. We artists are fortunate to have these three venues for our work to be displayed. And, sometimes, we’re featured on the walls of the Canyon Ranch Spa.

But no matter which locale you visit, you’ll find the contemporary, colorful art that characterizes Wilde Meyer. Whether it’s paintings that portray everything from landscapes to amazing chimpanzees or art glass, ceramics or sculpture, the recurring motif is quality art that pleases the eye.

Betty told me that owning art galleries is a fascinating endeavor, certainly not without its challenges. But she, Mark and Jonathan are looking forward to a bright future. “Both visitors and local residents in these two cities enjoy and support art, and we feel very fortunate to be in this business.”

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Seeing the world through rose-colored glasses: Three expressionist landscape painters

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com


Lola's House, 40" x 40"
by Judy Feldman

Question: What kind of world is it when you don’t see black, grey and brown?

Answer: It’s the world of colorists and expressionist landscape painters.

You can certainly see my own love of color in a new painting entitled "Lola's House." I enjoy painting interiors and still lifes, where color is always welcome.

But, color isn't limited to interior settings. Landscapes, too, can push the boundaries of color, especially if artists express how they feel when they look at a scene, rather than try to reproduce it. These painters are happy! I also think that the southwestern landscape seems to encourage painters to see a bit out of the box.

Michelle Chrisman does the majority of her painting outdoors in New Mexico. "Part of the enjoyment for me is to be outside, to paint quickly and record my emotional response to what I'm seeing," she said. "I love to get in the zone, surrounded by nature, and paint alla prima, that is, wet on wet, finishing in one session." Her painting entitled "Luminous Light" is a good example of her fresh style. It's as if she took in her surroundings and expressed it in just a moment, to say how it affected her.


Luminous Light, 24" x 30"
by Michelle Chrisman

Michelle is a colorist who "hyper sees;" that is, she sees the hues that make up the local color others perceive. She's very interested in the effect of light and spectral color, which is defined by Wikipedia as a "color that is evoked by a single wavelength of light in the visible spectrum…" The spectrum often is divided up into named colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.

"For me, paint is part of the experience," she said. "I want it to be luscious, to say "I'm paint, touch me!”


October in the Mountains, 50" x 60"
by Barbara Gurwitz

You can appreciate Michelle's technique and color vision in her painting entitled "Morning Light on Abiquiu Cliffs." I like the wonderful reds and yellows she uses to show warmth and light, contrasted with violet and greens to indicate the shadow side of the mountains. I think she wants us to focus on this area of the painting, as she uses much softer tones for the land and river in the foreground. So I’m guessing that it's the mountain that really grabbed her eyes. In addition to strong color, Michelle uses heavy texture with a palette knife to describe her landscape.

Barbara Gurwitz wants to create a sense of place in her landscape paintings. She takes photos and does sketches of the special places she wants to paint. But realism takes a back seat to the expression of how she felt at the time of her visit to the site. "I’m not interested in duplicating the colors of nature," she said. "I’ve always chosen colors that speak to the way I see the world, which are sometimes different from what you would expect."


View From the West, 24" x 30"
by Barbara Gurwitz

When looking at one of Barbara's paintings, "October in the Mountains," I know it's a scene of a southwestern village in the foothills of a mountain range. But her strong, primary colors give this landscape great energy and a charming, folk art quality.

Barbara also seems to see through rose-colored glasses, and that may be because she uses a red ground under her paintings. "It’s a wonderful neutral," she said. She leaves the red as negative space in some areas. This is evident in most of her paintings, such as "Santa Cruz Autumn" and "View from the West." The red under-painting makes everything glow!


Three in Ranchos, 32.5" x 38.5"
by Leigh Gusterson

Leigh Gusterson learned to paint in New Jersey and was trained in the Hudson River style of plein air painting. "It was grey and humid a lot of the time, and my paintings reflected that weather." But things changed when she relocated to Taos and experienced the effect of the light there. Now, Leigh loves to push color when she paints on location at her favorite sites.

"As artists, we train our eyes to see shapes, form and color more intensely," Leigh said. "I like to share what I see with viewers of my artwork. Sometimes, it's the awesome New Mexican landscape that displays these amazing colors!"

Leigh's loose, painterly style enables her to paint expressively. We can see her wonderful technique in "Three in Ranchos" and "Down in Pilar."

Like Barbara, Leigh enjoys painting scenes of villages nestled in the mountain foothills, with their farms, houses and church. She, too, chooses to wear rose-colored glasses, and infuses some of her work with a sense of whimsy, as in "These Sheep Need a Barn."

So, if you’re living in the Southwest, take a drive to a favorite spot and look again. You, too, may see some beautiful colors you’ve never seen before.