Saturday, August 21, 2021

Finger Lakes Connections


Shayna Kiblin  "Touch Me"  hand tufted rugs, and plywood
The Artist Invites Patrons to interact with this piece

Rochester/Finger Lakes Show

The Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York

Even during a pandemic there comes a time when - if you are feeling well - you just have to go and see for yourself and find out what is going on in the art world.  We have had our anchor down for so long, we need to allow ourselves a bit more space for our imagination to roam and ruminate.  So, I invited my brother Paul to accompany me and go out to see The Memorial Art Gallery and tour the new show that has just opened celebrating the visual arts here in the Finger Lakes.  This is the 67th Rochester/Finger Lakes juried show and it fills the central Docent Gallery in the museum now through October 17th, 2021.

Amanda Chestnut selected the artwork on view and I would say that this show strives to have something for everyone.  Margot Muto writes an introduction to Amanda Chestnut: "As a curator and artist, Chestnut's work focuses on social justice issues around race and gender identity."  Many of the 112 pieces in this show address contemporary topics and these subjects form the core of the show she has mounted at the MAG.

Zane Leo "Destructive Hope",  a cut paper collage

I like to think that a show like this one at the MAG will help in making connections between news items and our own understanding of the times we presently live in.  Maybe a piece of art will resonate with us and remain in our field of vision as a force for change or at least something to contemplate.  Please....don't rush through this show!  Give the art some time to sink in.  Take a look at a work like "Destructive Hope" by Zane Leo.  What is the significance of this ( painful ) image?  The struggle of the human hand and the dying flowers becomes a symbol, but how does this relate to the title of the work?

"Forget Me Not" by Portas
at The Rochester/Finger Lakes show

Religious imagery can often instill hope, and in the little painting from Portas, we see beetles, and bees and flowers and fruit, and it could be viewed as a passage from the Bible.  Then we can also reflect on the news that insect populations worldwide have been drastically reduced because of global environmental damage.  The title "Forget Me Not" is not only the name of a flower but also a reminder to care for the nature from which we all spring and eventually return to.

Painting of Dandelions by Emily Glass

I am acutely aware of the connections one can make between people in our community, and having been a Professor in the College of Art & Design at R.I.T. for so many years, I am pleased that the present show includes some of my teaching colleagues and very happy to see some of our students who have been selected for this new exhibition.  There is a realist work by Emily Glass who now teaches painting at R.I.T. and you can admire her ability to understand and render the effects of cool light on the dandelions in her still life ( above ).

"Burn The Binding" painting by Athesia Benjamin

Finger Lakes connections include strong portraits by artists I know like Athesia Benjamin and Unique Fair-Smith.  You have to commend their way of capturing the human presence.  These artists galvanize your attention and they are at a flexion point in their careers.  Ms. Benjamin captures a look and feeling of this moment especially in light of the social movement we have witnessed here with Black Lives Matter.  Attitudes can change and artists can help make that happen.  We have to look seriously at our own behavior and work out ways to address inequality.  This also goes for the art world which has to be ready to engage and move forward.

Painting by Unique Fair-smith at The Memorial Art Gallery

Certain works stand out for me in this show like the decorative rugs that announce "Touch Me" on the boxy sculpture by Shayna Kiblin that greets you at the  entrance.  "Touch Me" could have been the title for this show!  Artists selected for this exhibition have stories to tell.  One of the stories is about "Death in the Pressroom", a kind of installation that seems to sum up the situation for the printed newspaper in our country.

"Death in the Pressroom" 2021
at The 67th Rochester/Finger Lakes Exhibition

The physics of imagery really stands on its head in the dimensional work by Ryann Cooley.  We begin to see the lens effect at work and it must have taken some real experimentation to find the perfect spot to   mount the little glass sphere so that we can view the portrait of Rosa.

"Rosa" by Ryann Cooley
Dimensional artwork in glass, wood and digital pigment print

So my brother and I enjoyed the show and went down the hall to see some of the other features of the museum.  We stopped to look at the large painting by Jerome Within, and also saw that there is a new mural installation going on in the hall on the way out.  I wasn't familiar with the artist called Salut, and later found out this mural was by Bradd Young.  The imagery  has a bit of a children's book look to it and  I was not sure that the art was in the final form, maybe it is still in development...

Painting by Jerome Within at The Memorial Art Gallery

New Mural by Bradd Young 

Your community extends around you, and I was reminded of this by a painting I saw on the way out of the Finger Lakes  show.  My student Beverly Rafferty has a brisk landscape/seascape painting from La Jolla, California included in the show.  Several years ago I was on the walkway around that beach just  enjoying the stroll on a beautiful day, and I nod my head to Rochester's Albert Paley who passes by me.  You never know who you will meet and greet halfway across the world, and I am thankful for my Finger Lakes Connections!

The Beach at La Jolla, California, by Beverly Rafferty
at The Memorial Art Gallery
Rochester, New York

Friday, August 6, 2021

Longevity and Maps for Tomorrow

 I spent some time today, here in my first month of full retirement from teaching at Rochester Institute of Technology, and lo and behold - I found my way back to the Bevier Gallery to see the show from the Arena Art Group " 70 Years In Making".  If you don't know the Bevier Gallery it is found on the ground floor of Booth Building at R.I.T.  The show closes soon, so you should get in your car and get ready to rock and roll!

Painting by Zanne Brunner of 
The Arena Art Group show
"70 Years In Making"

You have to celebrate a group that has been involved in the visual arts here in Rochester - especially a group with such longevity!  I have become familiar with many of the artists, and at the show there were many pleasant surprises.  Just for this past year the Bevier Gallery had been occupied as a studio/classroom, so it is nice to see that it has returned too its original purpose.

Paintings by Jim Thomas "Flow" and "Contain #2"

When I came to teach at R.I.T. in 1988, one of the artists I met and worked with on the faculty at R.I.T. was Jim Thomas.  Jim is represented in this new show with two large abstract paintings full of color and movement.  We actually taught a drawing class together when I first came to Rochester.  I was glad to see Jim's new pieces and happy that he is up to the challenges that we face in the studio.

Richard Harvey with his ceramic collages of "Main Dog" and "This Side Up"

When I left the New York City area to move up to Rochester, I didn't know what  I would find at R.I.T. having only been familiar with a few university programs such as the one I attended at Cornell University. I remember there that the faculty had a difficult time with one another at Cornell but I found the opposite at R.I.T.  In fact, the working environment at R.I.T. was so supportive that the faculty actually worked well with each other and this made for an enjoyable transition for me and my family.

Courtney Gruttadoria paints the "Devils Bathtub"
in Arena Art Group Show

I started out writing about art when I was living on Park Slope in Brooklyn, NY.  Back then in the early 1980s I was paid by magazines to publish my articles on art, but now in the 21st century I write this blog for free  because I get a great deal of enjoyment and connection to this community of artists here in western New York.  I like to follow the exhibitions and it is great to see the Arena Group in this present show.

Paintings by Steven W. Justice including a portrait of Greta Thunberg "I Told You So"

Artists and their artworks evolve, and some have a signature style and purpose.  Stories can be told through artwork which can show great character..  Take a look for example at the paintings by Steven Justice, or the painting that introduces this show on the postcard by Zanne Brunner.  Steve Justice paints a portrait of activist Greta Thunberg whose hair here resembles heavy chains.  Zanne Brunner mates the Horseshoe Crab with a lens on the Finger Lakes in a reminder of how precarious the natural world may seem in these days of a global pandemic.

"Orange Is The New Black" painting by Sherry Tulloch

Even seemingly abstract work such as the one painted by Sherry Tulloch we are again confronted with signs of the times.  "Orange is The New Black" is the title of her work and the painting asks you to sort out what you are seeing - are those handcuffs and restraints?  This heavily textured acrylic painting is made by an artist who was in one of my first classes that I gave at R.I.T.  It brings me satisfaction to see one of my students going on to make a really powerful statement!

The Community of artists represented in the show at the Bevier Gallery gives you some idea of how vital the arts are in our region.  The show lets us know that this group is "70 Years In Making"  from 1951 to 2021.  And to think I was only one year old when they started up!  I take my hat off to them!

Maps for Tomorrow is the name of a printed book I picked up later at Shop One on the campus at R.I.T.

I understand that the artists who made this beautiful product ( Cecily Culver, Rebecca Aloisio, and Sarah Kinard ) also staged a show of their work which unfortunately I did not know about.  I have been following the art by these three women who are painters, printmakers and sculptors and they really deserve a much larger venue for their achievement.  A local museum should take this cue and put together a new show for them that traces a new trail for art to take.  I expect to see much more from this group!

"Maps For Tomorrow" features art by Sarah Kinard, Cecily Culver and Rebecca Aloisio