This past Saturday I caught a ride with SOIL member Saya Moriyasu to the New Members talk. 7 of the 10 new members were present to share about their work. Each person articulated with ease about what they do as artists. I often enjoy artist talks, partly because I am an artist, but I think too, that the art can take on another level of meaning based on conversations around it. Here’s a brief synopsis of what I saw and heard from Saturday July 10th, 2010 at SOIL.
Susanna Bluhm is working on a series of paintings based on her interpretation of The Song of Solomon; also known as The Song of Songs. Her paintings are meant to create new visual representations of the biblical work. In dealing with this love story that takes place within a lush paradise, she is using a rich palette and working on abstract landscapes. She mentioned that people can know the meaning or not, and if they only see an abstract landscape that is fine. Her paintings are vibrant and flat, and on closer view deep and luscious. In the end she plans to create 40 paintings for the entirety of the project.
Chris Buening discussed his work as portraits that are often about memories. He draws and outlines with whiteout, then cuts shapes to make new forms within the topography of the surface. He also talked about using whiteout as a metaphor for covering up life’s mistakes. His work reminds me of complex explosions as seen under an electron microscope. For me his use of layering, hiding, and cutting away is both formally and metaphorically beautiful.
In Cable Griffith‘s work he is inventing, improvising and exploring elements of control. He said, When do you stop? How do you organize? Both the aquarium piece and the painting are using flattened shapes, but he extends the flatness. In the aquarium, the layering of panels creates a heightened dimensional space; he calls it a thriving artificial environment. In his painting titled The Mountain, he is playing off old renditions of the Tower of Babel paintings, and commenting on what he calls the Tower of Academic Painting. It is also a playful study of space, piles, and it reminds me of the children’s book Hope for the Flowers. I think the comparison might be fitting in terms of where, as artists, we think we are supposed to go, and where we are really able to go, and accepting, creating and living life.
In general, Tim Cross uses basic materials like pencils and paper, but for the SOIL show he shared some amazing transparencies on light boxes. Each of them had to do with some type of transportation and failure. One was a plane crash the other a bridge under construction. In his work he considers breakdown, failure, and re-building, like Beuning’s work, also a nice metaphor for life. I see it as a re-use or possible expansion of materials. Tim is one of those artists who takes on the exploration of man in his industrial environment, and uses industry to promote thought and ponder the beauty, creative and destructive forces within and around us.
Derrick Jefferies reminds me of the artist Tim Hawkinson. He’s interested in nature, biology and the human body. During a root canal, I wanted to watch the process with a mirror and was asked if I was either a scientist or an artist. Perhaps because we like to thoroughly examine our world, artists can be classified as scientists. In Jefferies work he layers and builds materials hoping to transform and perhaps transcend the object and image, he said, your eyes can’t grasp it, what they see is not what the mind comprehends. Some folks may wonder, “What is that?” He likes and encourages the guessing games. Often using simple materials like chewing gum and latex gloves, he seems to be making internal fleshy organs as a way to turn ourselves inside-out, and possibly create an entry into exploring some of our deepest fears about our own sexuality, identity, and humanity.
Curtis Erlinger‘s background in collage gives him multiple access points to glue concepts together. Using photography, painting and time-based video he makes work about the past, present and future. He discussed his painting based on an old negative his mother had taken. On the opposite wall he presented a live projection on a monitor, in between the painting and the monitor is a camera that is shooting the painting and then sending a live feed of the inverted positive image to the monitor. Erlinger is thoughtful and curious in considering the past before he was born. In listening to him share about nostalgia and the potential dangers there in, it had me thinking of my past, the potentiality of living in the present, while also considering future endeavors. I often ponder the richness of knowing where I came from and digging deep can offer treasures as well as a skeleton or two. Erlinger mentioned that he is trying to illuminate and retrace the past, and in doing so he owns it.
The last to share was Timea Tihanyi. Ellen Ziegler, the fabulous MC of talk, first let us know that Tihanyi had studied medicine before her studies in art. Again here’s the science and art connection. She discussed her work in relation to the physical experience of being in the body. In sculpture, there can be a multitude of variables and unknowns, she related this openness and organic quality of those unknowns to the organic quality of our own bodies. Explaining that her previous education was in neuropsychology made sense. Her sculpture, consisting of toothpicks dipped in plaster and set betweens panels of pink insulation, reminded me of illustrations of synapses firing in the brain. Tihanyi has a delicate yet powerful sensibility with materials and the subject matter. The height of her piece matching her own height; perhaps suggests a self-portrait that shows strength, malleability and fragility, like our own tenuous human experience.
Not present but also new to SOIL are Kirk Lang, Joey Veltkamp, and Philip Miner.