Studio Visit: Anne Muntges

Anne Muntges, Skewed Perspective, 2014. Installation in The Center Gallery, Jamestown Community Campus, Olean.

Anne Muntges, 2014

When I visited Anne Muntges in her Buffalo studio last year she had just finished up a Bemis Art Center residency where she had been working on a weird “kitchenette” drawing installation. This was not a drawing of a kitchenette, but rather an actual kitchenette transformed by drawing. To begin, Muntges covered all of the surfaces of things that make up a kitchenette with white paint: a section of wall with cupboards and a counter, a microwave oven sitting on the counter, a rotary telephone with coiled cord hanging on the wall, a circular table, salt and pepper shakers, a wooden chair, a broom and dustpan, etc.. All of these are painted white, their surface decor and detail erased so that they can serve Muntges as a continuous drawing surface or vast blank page.

Inspired by the black and white drawings of Edward Gorey and Shel Silverstein, Muntges uses black line to cover every square inch of the installation, bringing into being an odd whimsical drawn world comprised of crosshatched patterns in varied shades of grey.

Intrigued by her work, I invited Mungtes to install an expansive installation in a small gallery—The Center Gallery—located on JCC’s Olean campus. She spent months preparing and with the help of gallery staff (that is, with the help of Colin Shaffer) Muntges filled the gallery with the contents of a small furnished apartment, all of its surfaces encrusted with her obsessively drawn patterned crosshatchings. What the viewer encountered when they walked into Muntges Olean installation entitled Skewed Perspective was a surreal in-between place, made of readymade objects that no longer seem solid or “real.”  By changing the surface of things,  like surrealists Man Ray or Meret Oppenheim, Muntges managed to deconstruct the normal existence of things and reconstruct them as part of an uncanny imaginary world.

Talking about Skewed Perspective, Muntges said that she is currently trying to figure out ways to place herself inside the drawn space of the installation and has gone so far as painting her hands and drawn on them. Hearing this I began to understand that the practice of drawing (she works for hundreds of hours on the installation) and the drawn space are an immersive place of fantasy for Muntges. Very interesting.

Studio Visit: Liza LaBarge at UB

Liza LaBarge is a second year MFA student at the University of Buffalo. She’s just about to graduate and already has a few gallery exhibitions set up.

When I visited her studio, every surface, including most of the floor was covered by the large charcoal drawings she’s made over the past two years. I was surprised to encounter a young artist’s work so thoroughly engaged with historical art.Holy Family, charcoal on paper, 40" x 66", 2013

Focusing on narratives of femininity in art, LaBarge switches out the mythic characters of Renaissance and Baroque narratives and replaces them with contemporary figures or contexts.  In one work, the Virgin Birth takes place by Caesarean section and angelic nurses preform the operation. In another, plastic hospital tubing entangles the Holy Family.

Reflecting contemporary debates about the origin of Adam and Eve as prehistoric apes, LaBarge  remakes  the first humans in a marvelously strange drawing.  Acting like monkeys, LaBarge’s Eve chomps indelicately on bananas while Adam picks fleas from her hair.

Women’s close relationship with jewelry is another of LaBarge’s favorite themes.  Strands of old-fashioned family jewels weigh small children down, while young women hungerly stuff strands of diamonds and pearls into their mouths or wear them across their faces as masks.

I find LaBarge’s dissonant refashioning of femininity refreshing. It is a pleasure to see a young artist tackling this well trodden feminist territory in new ways.

LaBarge’s thesis exhibition will be held at Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University.
May 18- August 30, 2014
See her work also in VENAT at Indigo Art Gallery in Buffalo.
May 2 – May 31, 2014

How to Pop-Up

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The pop-up gallery phenomenon is everywhere. “Pop-Up” is now a well-recognized term meaning a quickly assembled, one-night-only exhibition event which usually takes place in borrowed vacant retail space donated by the property owner.

I like pop-ups because they are typically parties. Filling unused retail space with art, music and people, pop-ups disrupt rustbelt retail dormancy and remind the community of the possibility of growth instead of “decline.”

In Kenosha Wisconsin, Francisco Loyola is the master of the pop-up. Working with volunteers and artists and in partnership with Kenosha Art Association and his ExposeKenosha crew, Loyola has taken the “Windows of Kenosha” program to a new level by mounting a series of highly visible dynamic pop-up galleries in downtown Kenosha this summer.

Loyola was inspired by pop-up galleries in other cites like the Phantom Galleries in San Jose and the Pop-Up Art Loop in Chicago. It’s important to point out that pop-ups are often collaborations between city and arts organizations. For example, Pantom Gallieres SJ is produced by Two Fish Design, in partnership with the San Jose Downtown Association and the San Jose Redevelopment Agency. In Chicago, the Pop-Up Loop is working with the City of Chicago to create a “HOW TO POP-UP” guide. Loyola says that, “after working with building owners all over downtown for years with the “Windows of Kenosha,” it was not difficult to ask to use the empty retail spaces for very short occupancy pop-up exhibitions. In Kenosha, we need a permit and permissions from the city and the support of the businesses in the area, but we leave that part of the process to the building owner because every city has a different process.” 

How does he get so much participation from artists? They bring their work, hang it, help transform the space into a gallery and then clean it up the morning after the event. “Since September 2007,” Loyola says” ExposeKenosha.com has been promoting the arts and creativity in Kenosha with events and its online ezine. Over the past few years we establish a network of connections with many local arts organizations, educational institutions and individual artists.  The ExposeKenosha.com announces events and reports on events and of course it’s tied in with facebook. Also, before the Pop-Up galleries, we had already set up exhibitions through ExposeKenosha in coffee shops and ice cream parlors. So we have experience working with alternative exhibition spaces.

Most of the time artists are invited. “Sometimes we have been able to persuade artists to come in from Milwaukee or the Chicago area.”  In July legendary comic artist John Porcellino, creator of “King-Cat,” the oldest running comic zine in the country participated. Porcellino came in from Chicago, Loyola reports, “he set up right along side Kenosha’s own nationally syndicated comic strip artist John Hambrock (“The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee”), Dan Pavelich (“Just Say Uncle – Kenosha News “Kenosha County:”), and Ryan Pagelow (very funny dark webcomic-Buni). Porcellino later blogged about selling a bunch of stuff in Kenosha.”

Why are pop-up galleries a good idea instead of starting a traditional gallery with regular hours and staff?  Loyola says “The one-day events create excitement and a sense of urgency.  It is easy to get the word out through facebook and email and it’s a party, an opportunity to share the artwork we make in the community with the community. If artists sell their work that’s great, but the success of the event does not hinge on sales as it would in a gallery.”

What makes a pop-up gallery successful? Loyola says “it’s both good content and taking time to make a really good presentation.”

How do you get good content? “We think in terms of themed exhibits. In June it was quilts, in July it was comics, in August it will be gardens, flowers, fountains. Think ahead and plan themes based on what’s percolating in the community. We keep our eyes open for art that will best suit a pop-up venue. For example, John Porcellino’s whimsical  illustrated book Thoreau at Walden (Center for Cartoon Studies, 2008) was first exhibited at UW-Parkside Galleries and the director loaned them to us for our show.  In November the plan is to have the participation of the photographers of the Kenosha News for a Pop-Up Gallery sponsored by the newspaper. Every January the Kenosha News publishes a special edition of the best editorial photography of the previous year.  Our pop-up gallery will feature a slide show of all the best photos of the year  and the 12 best photographs (selected by the newspaper) printed in large formate. ”

Although one wouldn’t expect it, a professional presentation is surprisingly important for the success of a pop-up. No one wants to be involved with a shabby event. ” The space has to look great by the time of the event. Even when it isn’t  finished retail space, we put in track lighting even though it is for only one night.  The artwork needs to look good on the walls and viewers need to be able to see it clearly.”

It’s exciting to hear that ExposeKenosha and the Pop-Up Art LoopKen organizers are talking about doing an informal artists exchange . It may be that pop-up galleries will do for artists what musicians have always done: that is, take their art on tour to a sting of one-night gigs around the region.

First Painting

I recently moved to the village of Fredonia in western New York State.  It’s a small college town of about 11,000, just south of Buffalo. In my first week here I met a painting I really like. I ran into it unexpectedly on my second day in town over wine and cheese at a colleague’s house. A small group, including the artist, were assembled to suss out the best spot  to hang a recently purchase landscape by Tom Annear featuring the College Lodge, a SUNY-Fredonia outpost, in the home of its new owner.

Tom Annear, Landscape with Mist, College Lodge, approximately 9 by 12 inches, oil on board.

Tom Annear, “Landscape With Mist, College Lodge,” approximately 9 by 12 inches, oil on board.

I had a chance to talk to the artist about his work before the painting was unwrapped. Annear is a plein air painter who stresses the importance of working from nature, whether it’s his wife’s garden or the woodlands of Chautauqua County.

When the painting was unwrapped for hanging it surprised me. Instead of a work in Monet’s palette of bright white, sunny yellow, lavender and blue, which I had expected, the painting was a little spooky and reminded me of the 19th-century American Romanticist Albert Pinkham Ryder. The stylized clouds, stormy seas, and moonlight often featured in Ryder’s landscapes echo the passions of his symbol-laden foreground figurative scenes.

Albert P. Ryder, Siegfried and the Rhine Maidens, c 1890. (National Gallery Washington)

Albert P. Ryder, Siegfried and the Rhine Maidens, c 1890. (National Gallery Washington)

Of course, Annear’s work is very different from Ryder’s, but his College Lodge painting reminded me of Ryder’s turbulent stylizations more so than a quickly painted work from life. I’m thinking of the way that milky waves twist upward from pockets of angry blue water and break into clouds of mist that rise across Annear’s scene.  The colors in Annear’s painting are moody and a little dark–the trees on the horizon are done in brownish tones and muddy greens, and the late evening sky has an apricot glow.

Annear gives stability to his scene of churning water by laying in a series of short dark vertical marks that lead the viewer through the pictorial space. Do these marks signify saplings sheered off for a clearing, random broken branches, or are they cattails? I can’t really say, but they do form a pleasing visual bridge from foreground to background in a beautiful but somewhat forbidding scene.

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Detail, waves twisting upward.

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Detail, apricot sky.

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Detail, vertical pattern of lines.

Annear’s painting stuck with me in the days following my introduction to it. Knowing Annear had painted it from life made me curious about the place.  In a move very unlike me, I decided to go to the College Lodge to look for the scene depicted in the painting.

Driving southwest through the countryside on Rt. 20, which runs parallel to the eastern shore of Lake Erie past vineyards of concord grapes and farms, I took a sharp turn left before the town of Brocton. East of the lake the road climbs and becomes wooded. Before long I came to a sign for the College Lodge.

As I turned onto a heavily wooded access road, the trees thickened and the light dimmed. I was surprised that as I entered the woods I felt a wave of memories, about a car camping trip I must have taken but can’t  remember, wash over me.

College Lodge access road.

College Lodge access road. Photo taken from the driver’s seat of my car.

There were no other cars in the Lodge parking lot.

I was alone.

It was raining.

I got out of the car and walked past a few modest buildings and through a clearing that led to the woods. Following the perimeter of the clearing I searched for a path or opening into the wild growth. Soon, I stumbled across a small amphitheater made of logs that took me to muddy trails. With Annear’s painting in mind I walked down the incline thinking it might lead me to the water pictured in his landscape.

College Lodge woodland shadows.

College Lodge woodland in low light with soft rain and mist hovered in the trees.

I worked my way through the woods. My shoes slipped in mud. I heard the rain falling. Twigs broke under my feet. There was mist, like in Annear’s painting, but I couldn’t catch it with my camera.

lodge ground

Rich growth all around.

Ferns, ivy  and seedlings grew everywhere around me. Lush, wet, alive. Was looking for the spot where Annear had worked searching for a needle in a haystack, or would I just know it when I saw it?

college lodge 5Wherever I looked, branches, seedlings, and tree trunks stood out dark against illuminated greenery. Were these the inspiration for the pattern of vertical lines in Annear’s painting?  I think so. Deeper in the woods I saw shallow pools of water and eventually a true pond, too heavily wooded to approach. These must have inspired Annear’s watery scene.

As I walked back to my car, I realized that I had it wrong when I went looking for the particular spot, or more precisely, the particular picturesque view. Working from nature for an artist isn’t necessarily about sight and documentation. Annear hadn’t looked for a picturesque view to document it. Instead, his landscape is an amalgam of views–growth, branches, saplings, mist, water, dim light, marsh.  Annear isn’t driven by the search for a view to depict but rather  the desire to get out of the protective capsule of modern conveniences, get mud on his shoes, smell earth, be surrounded by lush live growth. I got it.

I went looking for a picturesque scene that day but didn’t find it. Instead I found the thing that more likely drives Annear’s practice of working from life: being alone without a map in the woods. It’s a testament to the power of Annear’s little painting that it got me to that place. Instead of bringing nature to me, it took me to into nature.

Pop Up Galleries Have Become the Norm in Kenosha

Quilts by member of Milwaukee Modern Quilt Guild shown at Kenosha Pop-up gallery.

Quilts by member of Milwaukee Modern Quilt Guild shown at Kenosha Pop-up gallery.

One-night-only Pop-Up Art Galleries are becoming the norm in Kenosha, another indicator that the arts are alive and well in this Chicago-land city. For years I have watched ExposeKenosha coordinate the “Windows of Downtown” exhibitions in abandoned or unoccupied commercial storefront windows with ephemral exhibitions of photography, student art work, artists projects, guest gallery showcases. After three years of windows exhibitions the Kenosha Art Association is now part of the ephemeral art team and the program has expanded to produce pop-up galleries – one-night-only exhibition/ party / events which are bringing out  artists and audiences this summer.

BEFORE: Retail space donated for one night to the pop-up gallery. This is the old Wallgreens's store on 7th Ave in downtown Kenosha.

BEFORE: Retail space donated for the pop-up gallery. This is the old Wallgreens’ store on 7th Ave in downtown Kenosha which is being renovated for the next tenant.

AFTER: Interior with installation of art and quilts.

AFTER: Interior with installation of art and quilts and lots of viewers.

This month the gallery popped-up in the old Wallgreens store on 7th Avenue, which has long served as the anchor window of storefront window exhibitions.

Pop-Up Gallery--the windows of this old Wallgreens's store have been donated for years to area artists as a store front gallery--but on Saturday the entire refinished retail space was donated as a gallery.

Pop-Up Gallery–the windows of this old Wallgreens’s store have been donated for years to area artists as a store front gallery–but on Saturday the entire refinished retail space was donated as a gallery.

As is often the case in Kenosha arts, Francisco Loyola was the backbone and mastermind of the project coordinating many artists and volunteers. Loyola brings the pop-up style of exhibition from the Chicago where artists have been staging these for years.

Margaret Heller of “Ready for Bed Quilts” (a new Kenosha Business) mobilized the quilting community who exhibited their work. Many quilt artists from the Milwaukee Modern Quilt Guild exhibited their work.

Erik R. Sosa was one of the featured artist with fun colorful canvases that reflected the quilt theme of the evening.

Eric Sosa at work.

Eric Sosa at work.

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Eric Soza’s paintings.

Artist Josie Rodriguez painted a mural for this event on the boards that cover the vacant building’s windows while it is under construction. During the event the boards came down to shown party and the art.

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Josie Rodriguez painted the mural on the front of the building. Francisco Loyola designed it.

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Artist Josie Rodriguez painted a mural for this event on the boards that cover the vacant building’s windows while it is under construction. During the event the boards came down to shown party and the art.

During the event the boards came down to shown party and the art. Josie shown here.

Jason Besier, a featured artist showed flowers made of welded recycled glass in the windows for this event.

Sylvester Costabile’s Cy’s Piano Jam Band” and also Nelson Snyder provided music – Pop-up events by ExposeKenosha always have music.

Mary Pat Andrea set up a Kenosha themed boutique.

As always Pat Kosser from Kenosha Art Association brings her organizational abilities and hard work to these events which could not happen without her.

It is hard to believe that the Kenosha Art Association ran the Good Old Summertime Art Fair last weekend and now this. With so much going on in Kenosha arts, it’s honestly hard to keep up. This is indeed a high compliment.

Report on the 38th Good Old Summertime Art Fair

The Kenosha Good Old Summertime Art Fair was a wonderful success. The day started wet and stayed pretty cold, but the venders and artists and craftspeople stuck it out as did the visitors. I had a great time meeting the artists and learning about their work. Some of the award photos ended up being taken on my phone and the spirit of the day comes through in them.

This man and his wife had yard flowers and fountains made out of thrift store china cups and saucers and fancy crystal serving dishes. Their work was whimsical, subtle and poetic.

This man and his wife make yard flowers and fountains from of thrift store china cups, festive serving dishes, kitchen canisters and other little chotsky. Their work was whimsical, subtle and poetic. Pat Koesser of Kenosha Art Association and I delivered the awards of excellence!

Wilfred Fang makes his own colorful paper from pulp and then constructs delightful constructions out of it.  You see some in the background here.

Wilfred Fang makes his own paper from pulp and forms it into colorful shallow 3-D constructions . You see some in these background here. Fang has been the grand prize winner in the past and his booth was crowded with customers all day.

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Weaver working with cast off materials. Her husband does the weaving and is blind. We talked about the importance of designing the rugs instead of just random weaving.

Weaver working with cast off materials. She told me her husband does the weaving and is blind. We talked about the importance of designing the rugs instead of simply randomly weaving scraps.

Woodworker gets second prize in crafts. He pulled out his "first" place from last year as we walked up!

Woodworker gets second prize in crafts. You can see his amazing bowls. As Pat and I walked up, he jokingly pulled out of his register the “first” place ribbon he received last year.

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Beth Cumbo got the Best of Show honor.

Beth Cumbo got the Best of Show honor.

Beth Cumbo, Heading Home.

Beth Cumbo, Heading Home.

I  like the way Cumbo’s dynamic metallic lines are constrained in the silhouettes of the running horses in her Heading Home (above). These horses remind me of those on the Parthenon frieze. She creates an activated horizontal with the shapes of the animals and sandwiches it in between  other horizontals bands that make up the composition, which is understated yet enlivened by controlled tension.

The music played all afternoon, and was acoustic but more  indie than folk. Kai Andersen, playing with Shaun Fishman and Shane Madsen, was most memorable with  familiar covers but mainly original tunes.  Click to hear a tune by Kai Andersen: reverberation.com

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Music played all afternoon. All acoustic and more indie than fold. Kai Andersen' was most memorable  - I would check this guy out.

Kai Andersen

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SAMSUNGIt’s unfortunate that Racine and Kenosha regularly have their summer art fairs on the same day. It would be a great idea if they could bring themselves to coordinate and do them on different weekends next year. Come on you guys–you do “get behind the arts” together, can’t you talk to each other about this schedule?

Life on Lake Michigan at the Turn of the Twentieth Century – glass plate negatives made into large format prints

I became obsessed with UW-Parkside Archive’s collection of dry plate negatives last year when director Anna Stadick shared them with me. I determined to scan, print and research a group of the negatives for a little show at the Parkside gallery.  We have just installed  an exhibition of  large format digital photographs pulled from high quality scans of the original negatives that date to 188os to early 1900s. These photos primarily show beautiful boats on the Lake Michigan, but there are a few other subjects as well. Enjoy this slide show and vista Parkside’s E. H. Mathis Gallery located in the theatre lobby if you can.

By researching the names of the vessels mentioned in the index to the slidesI found that many of the ships shown were well-known racing yachts at the time. I had no idea that yacht racing was a popular spectator sport at the turn of the century, and that the Lake Michigan Yachting Association hosted a regatta in 1901 that sailed between Chicago and Kenosha. The images are marvelous.

What is a Dry Plate negative?

The Dry Plate process was first invented in 1871. It replaced a messy and time-sensitive process that required the application of wet chemicals (wet collodion) to a glass plate minutes before a photograph was taken. This means that before the Dry Plate process, a photographer could not take a photograph without having a “dark room” to create a light sensitive “Wet Plate” for use in his or her camera. The Dry Plate process made photography much easier because the light-sensitive silver gelatin emulsion was applied and allowed to dry on the plate before it was used by a photographer.  A photographer could simply carry dry plates and load them into a camera to take a photograph. By the 1880s factory-made silver gelatin dry plates were widely available, and this brought photography to a wide audience of amateur practitioners.  Glass plate photography began to decline when flexible roll film was invented and it virtually disappeared by the mid-1920s, replaced by George Eastman Kodak cameras that used only flexible roll film. (from the galley website)

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