June 28, 2019

A Chair as Art

I have been working on images of chairs. The chair, in all its various permutations, serves as a poignant symbol of the human condition. It can invite the guest in to the fold of company. The chair can validate a person’s sense of community belonging, as the expression "having a seat at the table," implies. Yet the chair constrains as well, with its subtle imperative not to rise but to "stay seated." A chair can even frighten or intimidate as a possible item to be bound to. An empty chair can serve as a reminder of solitude and loss in its haunting vacancy.

In order to create my art with chairs, I have started with documenting chairs that have a certain character. I found this chair on a porch of an abandoned home. There was this curious looking toy frog stashed under the seat.

Although my painting takes this subject from reality, I decided to paint it as an hallucination, naming it "Sit back and Let the Frog Inform Your Mind." The butterflies are painted from those found around the zinnias in my garden. As I painted, they became super-sized, as did the frog.

One small detail that most viewers would not notice is the small embryo at the tip of the frog’s tongue. I painted this after reading the news of neighboring southern states rolling back women’s constitutional rights to abortion. I never understood the logic behind the granting of greater civil rights to an embryo than to the fully grown person who carries it. Hence the strange hallucinatory, irrational quality of the painting.

June 15, 2019

Tyrone Geter: A Message Across Media

In the summertime, my art work slows down. This is in part due to hotter weather and the need for more attendance to my gardens. People seem to be more outdoors than inside looking at art, leading to a more leisurely paced commercial life for me. And lastly, as a former educator married to an educator, my circadian rhythms are permanently set to a school year.

The seeking out of inspiration in numerous museum and gallery exhibitions, however, along with opportunities to exchange ideas with colleagues and generally catch up with fellow artists becomes more lively in the summer months. In this last regard, I was finally able to devote some time to studying the last figurative artist in a series I started nearly a year ago.

Gallery Neema, in Charleston is now hosting an exhibition of the drawings and paintings of Tyrone Geter. Many of these are new works so this was an exceptional treat.

Entering the gallery, I saw monumental mixed media drawings. These included works such as "Trouble and Pain" and "Freedom." Too large and heavy to be hung on the walls, a number of these giants were instead propped up against it. This had the benefit of bringing the subject closer to an intimate eye level, for a greater appreciation of the seamlessness of charcoals blending with black fabrics.

Many of Tyrone Geter’s recent figurative drawings feature exuberant - hair that seems to take on a life of its own as it rises from the body, transforming itself in to fantastic botanical forms. This exhibition did not disappoint in this theme. Yet the hair of the woman pictured in "Blown Away" took on a more aggressive presence, seemingly slicing through its paper surroundings. Ruminating about the unsettling disappearances of black women while creating this piece, the artist’s lament becames palpable in the wrenching tears of paper - like the shedding of tears in tearing.

Other topical pieces in this exhibition included "Six Weeks," a visual representation of the recent draconian anti-abortion legislation sweeping through the south, in particular in states like Alabama. The embryos in this piece - proto-human life forms now granted more civil rights than fully formed living teen age and adult women -were symbolized by a glass full of multicolored dried beans with a pastry brush stuck upright in the middle (I did a little research here and found that a human embryo at six weeks is indeed about as tiny as a bean so this is quite clever). Hovering above the dried bean offering was an oil portrait of a half hidden child, obscured by vegetation, her own personhood neglected. The presence of an ivory carving beneath her portrait, brought a modicum of hope to an otherwise somber piece.

Throughout the exhibition the artist flexed his artistic technical prowess in tackling a richness of painting, drawing and mixed media techniques, like a linguistic translating ideas into various languages. I particularly enjoyed the delicate portraits painted entirely with a palette knife, and the surprising little details embellishing the surface of charcoal drawings, like the ivory colored cowrie shells affixed to a portrait.

The complexity of this well considered exhibition and its rich variety was a worthwhile experience, and elucidated unequivocally why the artist, Tyrone Geter has recently received so much acclaim both regionally, as a Verner Award recipient, and nationally as a Yaddo Fellow.

The exhibition is up through June 30 of this month.

Next Blog: A Conversation with Tyrone Geter




June 1, 2019

A Better Place: A Verdant View of Norway

I favor working in black and white. Pencil and charcoal are the best media for making my information packed illustrations and gestural figurative work. But public sentiment requires color and a certain sweetness, especially if an artist is to remain solvent.

So today I finished a large oil painting which I have entitled "A Better Place." It is too sentimental for my taste but hopefully someone will be moved to acquire it. This would seem to be more likely than finding a collector for my drawing, "My Wee Brain Sampler," posted earlier. But I am often surprised at what clients may or may not like. People do collect my complex drawings - just not as often as my oil landscapes.

The title for this painting, "A Better Place," is purposely ambiguous. Initially it seemed to be literally a better place for it is based upon a scene I came across in Norway last summer. "A Better Place" dovetails with the old saw about "the grass being greener," in one’s neighbor’s yard. Norway in the summer was lush and verdant, though. We were present at a good time to take a break from the heat, both in the literal climate and in the heat of the social/political life of the United States. I spent time talking to Norwegians about their lives and work. Coming from the United States, it was difficult not to be envious of six weeks of paid vacation a year, paid maternity leave, paid child care, free college and universal health care.

Norway seemed a better place for the country’s commitment to renewable energy and reduction in waste. This was quite clear in even the most mundane daily experiences like having breakfast in a hotel lobby. There were no plastic, paper or Styrofoam utensils. Instead there were ceramic plates and silverware - all washed to be reused the next day. There were no packaged goods. A freshly baked loaf of bread with a cloth over it graced the serving table, guests cutting off the slices that they needed. What a contrast this was to the post breakfast bulging bags of plates and utensils in an American hotel or service center.

So there was this memory of Norway that informed the title "A Better Place." A place that seemed clean and humanitarian. Of course it is always wise to remember that this visit was during a summer vacation. Who knows what sentiments a long, dark winter would bring, or that strange feeling of isolation that being apart from one’s native land stirs. So "A Better Place" is something of hyperbole, in its verdant and sanguine beckoning.

"A Better Place," because of its empty chairs, could be interpreted as referring to that colloquial expression for departed souls having moved on to "a better place." I am not religious, so it took me a while to realize that a viewer could interpret the work in this way. But I have no qualms about such an interpretation if it gives someone comfort.