Three Art Shows

Show #1:
In the House: Sculpture for the Home
Northern Illinois University Art Museum
South Galleries
August 23 - October 29, 2011
Curated by: Michael Bennett

From the Gallery Notes:

"DeKalb resident Michael Bennett, and artist and education for several decades, is a passionate consumer of visual culture. As he was organizing this exhibition, he shared some thoughts with the museum staff:
'Being close to Chicago affords me the opportunity to visit museums and galleries and over the years I have developed an eclectic aesthetic for many directions in three-dimensional work. When building my own collection I naturally search for small sculpture that will fit the scale of my home. This show represents a diverse group of eight artists whose ideas of form and content are directly influenced by the materials that they use.'
Those materials are often discarded bits of everyday "glotsam and jetsam", re purposed according to each artist's unique aesthetic. The recycled elements add lays of meaning, bring their own histories to the context of the sculpture in which they now find themselves. A visual and conceptual patina develops through this process. Patina and pattern have the same root - in fact, here's a strategy for looking at this exhibition: think about how each artist uses pattern and texture to enhance their visual vocabulary and convey a message."
Recycled wood, acrylic pigmented grout
Michael Ferris, Jr.
Courtesy of the artist and Packer Schopf Gallery, Chicago

"Man on the Floor"
Wood, prosthetic eyes, Apoxie
Michael Ransdell
work by:
Michael Ransdell

My favorite artist from this show was definitely Michael Ransdell. He seemed to be the most unaffected by the success of his work. He was an ordinary guy who does extraordinary things.

I kept notes during the artist talks. He started off as a painter at Northern Illinois University and left as a sculpture; he did maintain his love of the 2-D by photographing his sculptures in natural environments and printing on aluminum through the process of sublimation.

The rooms that he creates were part of his process and not the final product. His original idea was to photograph these works and it was these photographs that would be hanging in a gallery.

His ambition is to create a mystery by combining what is God-made and what man has made. The use of wood burls in his work is the God-made, natural portion. He was in high school and brought in some burls. He wanted to make something out of them. His woods teacher told him that he couldn't improve on it. So, he agreed and gave up the idea. Later, he used these biomorphic forms to contrast with the man-made shapes.

Many in the audience were disturbed by the burls being used as human forms. They found the distortion of the figure as a transformation into the horrible. The holocaust of WWII and nuclear holocost came to mind. I found them comforting. The natural shapes reminded me of nature - the way things are supposed to be - before humans came along and bent them to their will.

Show #2:

In the Studio and Garden: John Balslery Sculpture and Collage
Northern Illinois University Art Museum
Rotunda Gallery
August 23 - October 29, 2011

From the Gallery Notes:

"... Balsley's work evokes a sense of humor and dream-like whimsy, juxtaposing formal elements ranging from precisely executed craft to a smorgasbord of crude materials. From the carefully machined "Fallen" to the improvisational "apparition, Balsley transforms found materials, giving them an other-worldly existence - where the amusing and fantastical run wild and stick-in-the-mud reality is left behind."

Remains of Phantom Square" (Detail)
Wood Carving
John Balsley
"In My Garden"
Collage and Ink
John Balsley
"In the Museum"
Pyro Print and Ink
John Balsley

sculpture by:
John Balsley

You could tell right off that this guy was fun. He liked to talk about his art and process and his face shone when he did. He was very comfortable with all eyes on him. His entire family is involved in the creative arts: his son is a cartoonist. It was easy to see that he was proud of them.

John Balsley seemed to be an experimenter. He didn't mind trying new things. This led to his pyro prints. He heats zinc plates, then places them on the paper to burn the image into the paper. It isn't just a brand though, the heat escapes and leaves an imprint showing the waves of heat spreading out from under the plate. He said that he, "likes taking materials where they aren't supposed to go."

The wood carving came first. He purchased a hooked X-acto blade for this purpose and taught himself. Then the 2-D collage came because he now had the X-acto. Most recently came the 3D collage. His wife suggested it and he denied the idea... until he tried it for her sake - and loved it.

Show #3:
On the Body and in the Hand

Northern Illinois University Art Museum
August 23 - October 29, 2011
Curated by: Jamie Obermeier
Work Horse II, Details: Baby Shoes
Found Baby Shoes, Sterling Silver
Shayna Egan
BFA Beadwork and Jewelry
May 2010
Artist is reflected in glass

Jewelry has gotten a bad rap lately. Everyone is creating jewelry and there is a saturation in the market. What makes this show stand out is that is isn't "just" jewelry, it isn't "just" the work of fine craft persons; it is art. There is concept behind the pieces.

The artist - and I didn't catch his name - (face palm) - discussed his pieces in detail. He is a fourth generation confectioner. He combined sugar  and silver. There were many reasons for this: sugar is an nontraditional jewelry item, there is a similarity of the sugar trade and the fine metals trade's use of slave labor, there is a a juxtaposition of the perceived extravagance of precious metals and the everyday item of sugar, it goes on. He used some interesting techniques as well such as using 3D printing techniques where layers of substrate are printed one atop another until a completed product is manufactured. Al very interesting.

If you get a chance to see any of these shows, it is well worth the drive!

No comments: