Friday, May 30, 2014

Collecting 101

(actually, Collecting more than 100)

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

Collecting original art can be a bit stressful for first-time buyers. You can walk into a gallery and be overwhelmed by choices of styles, subjects, colors and sizes. The prices, too, can be out of reach for some would-be collectors.

Betty Wilde, one of Wilde Meyer Gallery’s owners, said that gallery visitors are often afraid to make their first purchase. But, she tells them, “Buy your first piece, and you’ll be hooked on original art. Posters won’t do it for you anymore!”

Some people are initially convinced that they have to purchase art that matches their d├ęcor. Betty tells them that their tastes will come through in their selection. “Chances are, you’ll gravitate to colors that you like anyway. Choose what you like, and what you’ll enjoy living with in your home.”

Betty has found a way for art lovers to dip their toes into the wonderful world of art collecting, and helping animal charities at the same time. During the month of June, the gallery at Marshall Way will host a “100 for $100” show. More than 40 artists are participating, and each painting will sell for $100, with much of the proceeds going to several animal charities.

“It’s a great way to get to know many different artists,” Betty said. “It’s always easy to find a place for a small painting, and at this price, you can even make a grouping of several paintings without spending too much.”

Many of the paintings have been created by the artists expressly for this show; others, including Jamie Ellsworth and Chaille Trevor, have included larger paintings as well, because they want to help the charities.

Last year, the show was so successful, that the gallery will be selling more than 100 paintings through a lottery system. The images will be emailed to all of you next week; you can put your name on a list for a particular painting, and a name will be drawn for each painting on Friday, June 5. This is your chance to start (or continue) collecting!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cowboy Art Reinterpreted

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

The “cowboy artist” has long been associated with American art. The lore of the West and the cowboy lifestyle are good source material for many painters. Some artists like to portray these themes in a more contemporary way. The cowboy – or cowgirl – is still in the picture, but in a stylized, interpretive manner.

For example, Amy Watts – who is actually a southern gal from Georgia – has a unique style that enables her to tell her stories in a modern way.

“I’ve been a cowgirl all my life,” she said. “Western history has always fascinated me, and I was a horse trainer for 20 years. Amy received a college degree in art illustration, but she didn’t start painting seriously until she stopped training horses. Her epiphany came at a visit to the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia. “I admired the paintings of Shonto Begay, and I realized that I was already interpreting Western art in a more contemporary way.”

Amy says she likes to tell a story in her paintings. In “The Black Mare’s Life,” Amy portrays the life cycle of a horse. Surrounding the focal area of the horse and its cowgirl rider, there are smaller sections that depict its life. The upper left circle shows the young horse in a field with its mother; in the upper right circle, the horse is being trained for the first time by a cowgirl; and in the lower right area, the horse has been turned out to pasture in retirement.

A key component of Amy’s contemporary take on western art is her use of patterns and her illustrative style. “My grandmother was a quilter, and I think that influenced me. Also, I grew up around roses, and that pattern appears frequently in my work.”

“The Good Samaritan” is another example of Amy’s modern interpretation of an old story. Taken from a biblical parable of hope and how one should behave, this painting depicts a Native American man helping a stranger. The figures are stylized, and the colorful patterns create a finely designed background. It pays to look at Amy’s work closely, since something new is always emerging from the painting!

Charles Davison has a different approach to a southwestern theme. A collector of textiles, beads, buttons and other items, he creates collage pieces that present his subjects with a fresh approach. In his painting entitled “Back Road Boys,” the cowboys strike a typical pose, but the mood is very playful. The colorful clothing is cut from different fabrics, and collaged, along with buttons on the shirts and neck scarves. Another evidence of Charles’ contemporary style is his layering of paint, fabric and paint again to create the textures he wants.

His love of textiles can also result in a new textile of Charles’ creation. “Running Horses” is presented on an unstretched canvas, painted with many layers and collaged with fabrics and bits of beads and buttons.

Charles is inspired by southwestern art, as well as the rock formations around his home in Superior, AZ. “My work is more mystical than representational,” he said. In “Night of the Vision” he alludes to Native American spirituality, and clothes his characters in strips of fabric, beads and antique jewelry.

Thom Ross calls himself a “storyteller who paints.” His narrative art has a very specific theme and purpose. He focuses on iconic western American heroes who have become mythic figures.

“I’m interested in how we take a story with an historical foundation, and turn it into a more romantic version of the actual truth,” he said. “In my paintings, I like to depict these heroes as real people who are actually much more interesting as human beings with their own flaws.”

Thom sees the humanity in his figures, but he still portrays them in a stylized, graphic way. These cowboys are active, yet they appear flat. Their long legs stretch under full-length coats, and their macho look is accentuated by their strong – yet not very defined - faces under their big-brimmed hats. I especially like the geometric shadows he places under his figures. A good example of Thom’s style is his painting entitled “They Cast Long Shadows,” which refers to the three Earp brothers from the gunfight at the OK Corral.

“These men cast long shadows in our western culture,” he said. “They are insignificant outside of their mythology, which embodies the human spirit and courage.”

The “Clanton Gang” also refers to the story of the OK Corral. The Clantons are crossing Allen Street and going to their death, according to Thom. The line he painted underneath each figure is symbolic of their crossing and their courage. “With that decision, these unknown men become part of a world famous story,” he explained.

These contemporary artists express many themes we already know, but it’s nice to see them portrayed in a new light.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Art of “Texting”

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

Text is an integral part of our language. We need the written word to learn about things, to communicate and for the pleasure of reading.

When we think of art, we generally think of imagery, either in two- or three-dimensional form. But some artists like to combine images with words and numbers. From my interviews with three different artists at Wilde Meyer, this technique is used for different reasons.

Timothy Chapman’s initial education in biology informs his choice of subject matter and use of text in his paintings. According to Timothy, his paintings owe a lot to his fondness for earlier styles of depicting animals, particularly the copperplate engravings that illustrated Buffon's Natural History, as well as Victorian animal portraiture and old scientific illustration. Since there was no photography at that time, the images are not always correct.

“I’ve tried to present similarly earnest, but basically inaccurate renderings of animals by using humor, irony and a surrealistic sensibility that’s not available to the scientist,” he said. Timothy also follows the tradition of naming the animal on the painting, sometimes with the correct genus nomenclature, and sometimes with an invented Latin name that could be “plausible.” For example, in his painting labeled “Onchorhynchus Zebra,” he used the correct species name for the trout, but he created his own version, with a zebra design.

Timothy’s humor comes through in his painting of “Pets of the Pleistocene.” He said, “I tried to imagine what cavemen’s pets would be like. Smilodon is the actual genus name for a saber-toothed tiger that lived in the Pleistocene era. This cat hasn’t grown into its fangs yet.”

If he doesn’t include nomenclature on a painting, Timothy comes up with interesting titles to explain the species he portrays, like “The Effects of Diet on Pattern.” “These titles use the language of a scientific historian, but in an ironic way,” he explained.

Lori Faye Bock’s colorful paintings incorporate text as a design element. Her appreciation for words came later in life, since she had dyslexia as a child. But when she had a major birthday, her mother gave her a book of quotes by women who recently turned 50. “I started reading these quotes, and found them very uplifting,” she said.

Then, the words found their way onto her paintings. She started with a series of skirt paintings, and incorporated quotes as pattern elements. The quotes come from the many books of women’s quotes that she’s collected since her birthday gift. In “Embrace the Bloom,” the quotes are hand written on orange blocks of color that are part of the skirt’s patchwork fabric.

At some point, Lori was asked to paint a more masculine image. She came up with paintings like “Your Main Squeeze.” Here, a shirt is decorated with men’s favorite things, as well as amusing quotes. She also uses rubber stamps to create text as a decorative trim – seen in this painting, and in “Hungry?”

“Incorporating hand-lettered text is a time-consuming process, but I enjoy it, “she said. “I think the words add playfulness to my work, and enhance the design.”

Brian Boner’s words and numbers are used as aesthetic elements in his paintings. After his father developed a neurological disease that deprived him of his ability to speak and decipher written words, Brian said he started to look at text differently.

“My paintings are very intuitive,” he said. “I try to capture a passing thought. Sometimes the words come first, and sometimes the images do. Some of the numbers are significant to me, such as birthdays or other important dates. Since I paint many layers, some of the images can get all or partially buried.”

Brian’s interest in bird paintings is also a memory of his father, who was an avid bird watcher. In his painting entitled “Early Morning Dreams,” he uses some text as a faint background layer. Although the two robins are painted realistically, the other mark-making elements and calligraphy convey a very personal statement. “South Cloud Palace” also makes a reference to Brian’s father, who told his children to “stay very still” when they were bird-watching.

“The Lamb, the Birds and the Bison” is another reflection of memory: Brian said the black birds are a metaphor for something ominous – perhaps the fragility of the bison herds in his native State of South Dakota. The numbers have personal meanings, too, but they are integral to the painting’s design.

Artists have the wonderful privilege of using whatever elements contribute to their artwork. For these three, text is part of their visual message.