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, April 22, 2014

Jackie K. Johnson

"Lures at Mill’s Edge"   2014   oil on canvas   48” x 60”
photo by
Aaron Johanson

"Paragraphs Stand in Dance"   2014   oil on canvas   48” x 60”photo by Aaron Johanson

"Stories Off the Hip #2"   2012   oil on canvas   40.75" x 32.75"

"Thinking of Shad"   2010  oil on canvas   48.75" x 60.5"

"Stories Off the Hip #1"   2012  oil on canvas   40.75" x 32.75"
"Hand Work"  1993  clay   12" x 7.5" x 8.5"
Jackie K. Johnson has a new show of work up in May at Laura Russo Gallery in Portland, Oregon, which means I get to actually go see it. I'm not sure if I've ever seen abstract art that suggested a narrative potential to me so strongly. On the face of it, this doesn't make all that much sense. How can abstract art be narrative?

Clearly the abstraction is not complete. There are representational references, not least of which is the three dimensional modeling of the shapes, suggesting that they are not simply shapes, but things, and things have names. The human mind giddily imposes meaning on everything it absorbs. In some of the paintings I see trees and leaves, hills and waterways, and bits of architecture as if they were aerial landscapes or maps.

The reference to landscape is at times unmistakable. But they don't strike me as just any kind of map or scene, mere depictions of a place, but maps as interpretive illustration, depicting journeys or histories. Some even use the imagery of lures and bobbers to accompany the occasional fish like forms that hover cloud-like overhead, lending the pieces even more specificity to their potential interpretation. And yet they remain inscrutably, mysteriously abstract.

Some of her work is organized quite differently, suggesting a kind of arranged presentation, a still life perhaps, but still grounded in a story, like Marsden Hartley's famous "Portrait of a German Officer". The fact that they are titled "Stories off the Hip" gives me hope that my narrative reaction to the work is not so far off base. Some of her older sculptural work is more obviously representational but somehow less narrative and more purely visual. But there is a definite visual consistency between them and the paintings.

I may be way off base about the whole narrative issue but it hardly matters. At any rate, artistic intent isn't everything. Skill and a practiced hand can lead artists to accomplish things beyond their ideas, and preconception can be a restraint on creative potential. At the very least these are a hell of a lot of fun to look at. I'm looking forward to doing so in person very soon.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Kris Manzanares

"Girl at Rest / Speed"  oil on panel  48" x 32"  2014

"Fight"  oil on panel  14" x 14"  2014

"Eggplant"  oil on panel  14" x 18"  2014

"Leaving Austin"  oil on panel  23" x 14"  2013

"The Mustard Eaters"  oil on birch panel  32" x 49"

This is a post that's long overdue. Turns out I started to write one in 2012 but got sidetracked and apparently forgot that it never went up. I knew Kris in Arizona more than 15 years ago when she was a sculptor. Having children made that work more difficult but she found time and space to paint instead, a difficult transformation that she made look all too easy. It also transformed the very nature of her art, much of which involves metaphorical narratives based on the lives of her children. But her work is as much about atmosphere and technique as well. She combines very controlled drawing and realism with expressionistic brushwork, the backgrounds often dissolving into pure abstraction. There's something about them that really captures the bright heat of summer days in the southwest. But whether she's painting figurative psychological narrative, a simple landscape or a still life, they are all clearly echoes of her personal life, the small moments and seemingly insignificant objects that together constitute a life.
You can see much more of her work at krismanzanares.com
and if you happen to be in the Phoenix area go see her work in person at Paul Scott Gallery in Scottsdale.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Gayle Bard

"Bainbridge Island Cloud"

"Skagit Flats"

"Franklin County"  2013 oil on canvas 42.5 x 54"

"Bateman's East Sussex"

"It's a Boy"
Gayle Bard's paintings explore volume and light, most recently in the form of vast cloud forms looming over the land. The land is often, but certainly not always, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. She currently lives and works on Bainbridge Island across Puget sound from Seattle, but she is originally from the midwest, and one senses that her youth accustomed her eye to open spaces. Her landscapes are less about the land itself that they are about abstract three dimensional space configured in two dimensional representation. And yet a real sense of place matters as well. The colors of the northwest, a subtle but radiant array of blues, greens and grays, suffuse her work. The sky in her paintings is not simply occupied by the occasional cloud but is a true atmosphere, volumes of air and moisture fading into each other and through which we all move and breathe, more like fish in the sea than figures moving about through empty space. The air is as real and present as the land below. And when it comes to light, she seems to relish not the scintillating prismatic wonder of it portrayed so famously by the impressionists, but the way it fades, and how colors ebb into gray when the sun is only indirectly present.

Her career has spanned over 40 years and covered far more territory than what I've described here, including a wide array of subject matter and approaches including installations. I'm sad to say I've only just discovered her and I wish I had been able to see a recent retrospective of her work at the  at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. If you feel the same and happen to be in the area, you're in luck. She currently has work on display at Linda Hodges Gallery in Seattle.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mark Shetabi

Afterimage (Brontosaurus)
oil on linen
60" x 84"

Fog Machine
oil on linen
18" x 24"

Tanker (Night)
oil on linen
60" x 84"

Tanker (adrift)
oil on linen
60" x 84"

Tanker In Dry Dock
oil on canvas
60" x 76"
 Mark Shetabi is a painter and sculptor who teaches art at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. His large, nearly monochromatic paintings cover a wide range of subject matter with a particular focus on architecture, engineering and industrial design. There is a low contrast soft focus treatment that lends the images a nostalgic quality reminiscent of old photographs. But keep in mind that many of these paintings are 7 feet wide echoing the monumentality of their themes and subjects. Some more recent paintings reverse this scale depicting such humble things as pipe fittings on canvases only inches across. But it's these epic pieces that initially grabbed and continue to hold my attention. There is a feeling of dreamlike unreality to them, as if such things are barely conceivable, much less possible. That they exist in the real world seems almost absurd.

 You can see more of his work at Jeff Bailey Gallery in New York City.