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!

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.

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.

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!

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!