When I started trying to promote my own artwork online I kept coming across other people's art that amazed or compelled me in one way or another. This blog has been a way for me to practice thinking and writing about art, as well as learning more about my peers and all the incredible art that is being made out there.

Search for an Artist on this blog (or cut and paste from the list at the bottom of this page)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Joel Sheesley

Joel Sheesley is an artist and art professor who's work for the last two years has focused around some puddles on asphalt, a ladder, and a beautiful way of looking indirectly at the world. These paintings are about the possibility of transcendence via an intense meditation upon the ordinary. And they address this idea in two different ways. One is symbolically, where the base crude surface of the asphalt (earth) is transformed by the rain to provide a window onto the heavens. And the man's presence with the ladder suggests the possibility of, or at least the longing for, a bridge between the two. But it is also through the act of painting itself that he addresses the idea. By focusing on something so mundane as a puddle on asphalt, and rendering it over and over, with such luminous and textural grace, he transforms it into a thing of beauty. The symbolism becomes mere adjunct to fact.
see more at www.joelsheesley.com

"Messenger" 48" x 48" 2008

"Dream at a Crossroads" 30" x 81" 2008

"Above and Below" 40" x 66" 2007

"Crows" 30" x 66" 2006

Here's two older pieces demonstrating that ladders and rain are ongoing obsessions.

"Ladder Dream" 60" x 54" 2006

"The Storm" 40" x 50"

I'd like to thank Tim Lowly for mentioning Joel's recent show at the Chicago Cultural Center on his flickr page and thus bringing another amazing artist to my attention.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ian Davis

In the late '90s I showed work in a gallery in Arizona that also showed work by this guy. His subject matter and approach have changed since then, although some elements of his style remain. He was good then and he's even better now. Several of these pieces were part of a New York City debut show that sold out, so he has to be pretty chuffed about that. A review in the New York Times treated the work a little dismissively but hey... he got a review in the New York Times! The reviewer's beef is that the work is illustrative and would be as suitable on a magazine cover as on a wall. The illustrative criticism is one that, frankly, I'm a little tired of hearing. What is generally meant is that the work is strong graphically and narrative. What is implied is that the work is merely commercial. Ian Davis' work does have a strong graphic presence which serves it quite well. If images reproduce well on a smaller scale it does not logically follow that they are less suited to their original larger size. Having seen Mr. Davis earlier work I can make an educated guess that the size of these paintings helps, not hinders, their intention.

These paintings, often featuring crowds of identical dark-suited men, portray the hollowness of contemporary progress, corporate monuments to inanity and the empty and absurd cabals of the wealthy. Today the rich and powerful are more often considered by the masses with outrage and fear. Ian Davis however, takes a cynical gander at the upper crust of the business and cultural elite and, for all the scope of their power and the scale of their projects, pokes fun at what is, quite often, merely empty posturing.

A good number of paintings can be seen at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects in New York
and, lucky him, there a few pieces at Saatchi Gallery in London

For a longer more informative review of his work check out this article at kansascity.com

"Audience" 2007 acrylic on canvas


unknown title


"Skeptics" 60" x 65" acrylic on linen 2010

"Art Collection"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Margaret Bowland 2

The last time I posted her work (December 2008) I had little to say other than "Wow", and I guess that hasn't really changed. These are paintings that speak quite well for themselves. Sometimes a visual can say quite clearly and elegantly things that words can only stumble around. But this blog has become a way for me to practice writing and thinking about art as much as it is a place to share all the wonderful stuff I keep coming across. So with that in mind, I'd like to say that Margaret Bowland is a painter of and about beauty. Beauty is an old pre-modern artistic preoccupation but she approaches it with a very contemporary awareness. Our notions of beauty have changed. We no longer think in terms of ideals or absolutes, despite the fact that we strive for and desire them. She is aware that real beauty, in art as in life, is derived from something inside rather than from the mere surface of things (or people), and so she depicts the tension between these two; Inner beauty vs. outer beauty, how the two can seem so at odds. Interestingly, her technique, the surface of her work if you well, is as beautiful as the content is challenging.
see more of her work at her website: www.margaretbowland.com

White Crows #1 (2007) oil paint on linen 66 x 56 inches

Murakami Wedding #2 (2009) oil paint on linen 78 x 66 inches

Anna (2005) oil paint on linen 55 x 44 inches

Beloved (2006) oil paint on linen 72 x 60 inches

Flower Girl #2
(2009) oil paint on linen 48 x 48 inche

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ortega López

Why it is that certain pieces of well executed realism have the power to move me, as these do, while others leave me cold, may remain forever something of a mystery. Certainly these paintings evoke a potent atmosphere. The emptiness of the scenes is suggestive, for such scenes are rarely so empty in our actual experience. This lends them an emotional quality that resonates for me. They carry in them more than a hint of loneliness or, perhaps, contemplative isolation. His compositions heighten the effect being both austere and graceful in their formality. The craftsmanship is no less exceptional. Subtle value shifts in what would otherwise be an empty part of the composition are brushed in roughly but with absolute confidence, just as a landscape painter must play with the subtle variations in hue and tone in a distant field. Ortega López brings the same effort and understanding to a concrete floor or a patch of dirt. To be sure, much of this is all part of a clear traditional academic approach. But few artists employ these techniques so well, and most who do are so captivated by the more traditional subject matter of bucolic landscapes that we rarely get to see contemporary scenes executed with equal grace.

See more at his website: ortegalopez.com (in Spanish and English)
or check out his blog ortegalopez.blogspot.com (in Spanish)

And definitely click on these images to view them larger.

title unknown 180x160cm oil on canvas 2009

"Estudio Urbana" 50x50cm oil on wood 2009

"La Playa" 46x55cm oil on wood 2009

"Estudio de Flores" 40x30cm oil on wood 2009

"Naturaleza Construida" 120x115cm oil on wood 2008

Monday, March 22, 2010

Colette Calascione

Borrowing from the surrealists and the 18th century, Colette Calascione offers up a mesmerizing assortment of, presumably, allegorical images. Decoding them may not always be easy. It may not even be necessary. Just let your eye explore the details, your mind wander the inferences, and enjoy the evocative nature of these densely depicted scenes.

"Coincidental Gathering" 24" x 28" oil on wood 2003/2004

"Dream of the Hungry Ghost" 23" x 28" oil on wood 2003

"Lost at Sea" 10" x 14" oil on linen 2000

"Alia" 11" x 14" oil on linen 2009

...and of course I simply had to post this piece. Maybe not her strongest work, but hilarious:

"Abduction" 16" x 20" oil on wood 1997

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dan May - 2

I just saw on his flickr page that Dan May is having an opening tomorrow at Rotofugi Gallery in Chicago. So for those of you who may be in that area, and those who may have missed my earlier post of his work last July, here are several relatively new pieces by a master of ethereal surrealism. The feathery detail of his work is exquisite. This is the kind of painting that might actually be kind of frustrating to view at an opening (but don't let that stop you!). The pieces are not large and I imagine would demand up close, personal and lingering scrutiny to be fully appreciated; in other words just the sort of interaction with art that is almost impossible amid the jostling elbows and craning heads at a crowded event (but that's me. I don't even like to attend my own openings).
As far as I can tell he has not yet posted the new work that will be in the show, so if you like these, keep an eye on his website and blog:

"The Weeping Tree" 16" x 20" acrylic on wood panel 2009

"Puff" 8" x 8" x 1" acrylic on wood panel 2009

"8 Marks the Spot" 8" x 8" acrylic on wood panel 2009

...and an unusual but exquisite bit of realism...

"The Still of life"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith is fascinated with art history. Or maybe he's just fascinated by all the strange gewgaws and memorabilia that litter the walls and glass cases of out local art museums. Whatever the reason, it is these objects, primarily sculpted pieces, that form the main subject of his paintings. His choices are eclectic, from from east and west, religious and secular, ornate and modest, but all from a distant enough past to contrast markedly with his interpretive approach. His paintings are large, aggressive and expressionistic. A wild array of colors are mixed and mangled together, sometimes just to render the neutral gray of clay or stone. The brushwork is frenetic and, like a good jazz musician in the midst of a furious solo, always right on the edge of failure. Not failing is the key to it's visceral appeal, and a broken note here or there can sometimes touch deeper than perfect pitch.
Some earlier portrait work from a few years back provide a nice back story to the newer works, showing where all this frenzied brushwork came from; a confident but more careful exploration of light on skin. See more at his website: aaronsmithart.com

"Chippy" 28" x 28" oil on panel 2008

"Parade" 48" x 36" oil on panel 2008

"Muck Snipe" 37" x 27.5" oil on panel 2009
(a muck snipe, by the way, is old victorian slang for someone down and out, usually from gambling losses - I had to look it up)

"Smasher" 48" x 47" oil on panel 2006

"Tracer 48" x 30" oil on panel 2006

Monday, March 15, 2010

Patrick Dougherty

My focus has always been primarily on painting, because that's what I do, and I understand it. But it's nice to mix it up once and a while.

I was really pleased to come across Patrick Dougherty's website recently (www.stickwork.net). One reason is that there is a permanent installation of his work at the headquarters of Wieden+Kennedy here in Portland, Oregon (see here and here for pics). Only I did not know until now who the artist was. And now I'm glad I do. I only wish it were possible to teleport around the planet and see more of his creations. He began by with an interest in primitive building techniques and started experimenting with saplings as construction material. He has to date, constructed over 200 of these large scale works. Nature is clearly the primary influence here and one is immediately reminded of the nests of weaver birds and the dams and lodges of beavers among others, but his work also incorporates architectural elements signifying it's innately human origins. His art creates a marvelous psychological bridge between the human and natural environments.

"The Summer Palace" 2009
Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
Photographer: Rob Cardillo.

"Around The Corner" summer 2003
University of Southern Indiana, New Harmony Gallery, New Harmony, IN
Photographer: Doyle Dean.

"Around The Corner" winter

"Spinoffs" 1990
Decordova Museum, Lincoln, Massachusettes
Photographer: George Vasquez.

"Crossing Over" 1996
American Craft Museum, New York, NY
Photographer: Dennis Cowley.

"Childhood Dreams"
Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona
Photographer: Adam Rodriguez.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kelly Vivanco

Kelly Vivanco's paintings owe much to popular visual forms like children's illustration, comic books and animation. In fact it is a perfect visual style for the ideas she's exploring. On the surface, this is fantasy. But fantasy, like myth, has long been used to explore the rich story-telling potential of young heroes and heroines on the cusp of adulthood. Her whole body of work is a vast non-linear narrative about young adults, clinging to imaginative realms of make believe and magic, but using them to explore what it means to be independent, self-reliant and possibly alone. To be fair, her individual paintings are often far simpler in scope and ambition; small character studies of anthropomorphized animals, and simple portraits of her wide-eyed young characters. The actual paintings, seemingly simple enough, are painted with a delicacy and deftness that might be easy to miss (see detail pictures like this on her flickr page). This deceptive simplicity is reflective of her work in general. It is the accumulation of these loving little touches that help realize an entire alternate world in which her principle protagonists can discover themselves and where we can recognize something in ourselves.
Go to her website kellyvivanco.com to see more.

"Curious Bouquet" 16" x 16" acrylic on panel 2009

"Sisters" 16" x 20" acrylic on panel 2008

"Gone Astray" 16" x 24" acrylic on panel 2009

I really wish this one could be viewed larger. Sorry folks.

"Predawn" acrylic on panel 2008

one of the many animal characters in Kelly Vivanco's world:

"King Woodchuck" 7.5" x 9.5" acrylic on panel

and a lovely example of charming old-fashioned story-telling with a one word title that sets up the impetus for so many great adventures:

"Exploring" 20" x 20" acrylic on panel

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jessica Hess

Jessica Hess explores two subjects in her work. One is the empty or abandoned urban landscape; the freight yard, the aging industrial area, the alleyway, abandoned buildings and especially the unused doorway. Which brings me to her other subject matter, so ubiquitous in such places: graffiti. At times the portrayal of graffiti completely takes over her paintings so that the whole exercise becomes an interesting riddle in artistic authorship like extensive sampling in music. This may be, conceptually, the more loaded approach but on a purely personal level I prefer the atmosphere she evokes when the graffiti is more pared down and the context of its environment comes to the fore. Either way she has a rich vein of material to mine and shows little sign of needing further inspiration any time soon. You can see a great deal more work on her website at: jessicahess.com

"Allston II" 36" x 48" oil on canvas 2010

"Eureka Night II" 36" x 48" oil on canvas 2010

"Graffiti on Alcatraz Wall" 60" x 36" oil on canvas 2006

"Graffiti Truck" 32" x 24" oil on canvas 2007

Thanks to the folks at artistaday.com for introducing me to her work.