Sunday, September 9, 2018

Fall Semester

Lamberton Conservatory, Highland Park
Rochester, NY
September 8, 2018

The real thing takes your breath away... and this is just one visit to a local park to do some research for my class this fall semester.   I take my students to the conservatory to work on their art, and maybe paint a portrait of this hibiscus.  In my studio I am preparing new art myself - for exhibitions.. and just to see what happens.  I can invent forms, but nothing so spectacular as this flower above.

My monotype: "Tropical Radiance"

One thing I have found out, working with imagery derived from mathematical functions - there really is some strong similarity to the forms found in nature and those that are derived or rendered from a numerical matrix ( just look at the color burst in the center of the flower).

Before I go down to Brooklyn this weekend to drop off my prints for a show at SITE:BROOKLYN in Park Slope, I check out some shows in our area, including one collection of paintings by John Ruggles at The Geisel Gallery in downtown Rochester.  

I know John from R.I.T. and welcomed this opportunity to see what he has been doing lately.  It is also interesting for me because I have been reading a book by the author Leonard Shlain titled:  The Alphabet Versus The Goddess - this non fiction book published in 1998 recounts a history of the written word and how it is often in conflict with imagery.  John E. Ruggles takes letters from the Hebrew alphabet and illuminates them in his paintings, often taking the viewer on a mysterious journey. 

Pey: Mouth of Fire
by John E. Ruggles

An interesting thing about the book by Leonard Shlain is that he goes back through the history of the written language and spends some time to explain the origins of the letters that are the subjects of John Ruggles paintings.  Of course you don't have to read the book before you go and see this show, but it is a remarkable experience to see what can be done to create a painting based on calligraphic strokes and the ornamentation that is the result of a painterly manifestation of literacy.

John E. Ruggles 
Letters on the Wind

One letter per canvas is the starting point in this show, and John provides a little cheat sheet if you don't know the names of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet.  John writes an artist statement that begins with his orientation:  "I work in the space that exists between ideas, or objects, and the paths we forge through them".  That is the job of the visual artist as he sees it - walking through the doorway to a new set of possibilities using his paints and brushes to shed some light on this new path.

The next day I attended an opening for the artist Nate Hodge at Axom Gallery at 176 Anderson Avenue in Rochester.  His show is called: The Blues, and has examples of his latest paintings and drawings on view through October 13th, 2018.  When I think of the blues - I think of music, but when I see the artwork of Nate Hodge - I may reconsider that.  His show does have blue as a major color factor, but  I would say that this artist is in love with a kind of hand made architecture.

The installation brings his drawings to life and gives the visitor a lift.  Take a look first at the wall of intimate drawings and paintings - there is an obsession with a fine line that is  multiplied many times over as it builds upon itself.  

Nate Hodge working drawings

Nate Hodge: installation

We were prepared for this show after seeing paintings by Nate Hodge in the Hall of The Memorial Art Gallery, and also on view outdoors  in a mural he painted in 2015 for Wall/Therapy.  Stopping to chat with Nate Hodge we asked how long it took to paint the mural down the street - and we were amazed to learn that it took him ( alone ) a week to do the job.  His is a form of improvisation, paint a portion, going back to fix something, make it better and continue on, so here my thinking about music returns, because his description is very much what I feel when I listen to modern jazz - so maybe it is the return of the blues....

Nate Hodge is industrious....

Giving form to feeling is the motivation here.  The need to express oneself is important, and maybe it is carried through your life if you are an artist of some sort, and have the skills and the staying power to keep at it.  New directions are being forged, new paths are being built upon in visual arts that may not be so easy to grasp at first,  but keep trying, because it is worth the effort .