Going On Foot

We are a weak and vulnerable people, but we can walk a little, every once in awhile. Atlanta is not kind to pedestrians, in general, and yet there are some wonderfully walkable places here. Hark sidewalks and crosswalks, bike-ped advocates and young urban planners, we salute you!

A recent exhibit at Georgia State University's Welch School Gallery (partly reviewed at ArtsAtl.com) on Peachtree Center Avenue.

A recent exhibit at Georgia State University’s Welch School Gallery (partly reviewed at ArtsAtl.com) on Peachtree Center Avenue.

The GSU area is very walkable and bejeweled with all sorts of coffee, waffle, and burrito joints.

Seen near the corner of Edgewood and Boulevard, less than a mile from GSU's Welch School Gallery.

Seen near the corner of Edgewood and Boulevard, less than a mile from GSU’s Welch School Gallery.

Very walkably east of GSU is the Martin Luther King Memorial and Auburn Avenue historic area. For refreshment, consider a game of checkers or billiards with beer.

A set of fine follies near that same intersection of Edgewood and Boulevard. Martin Luther King's Memorial and the street car line are a block away.

A set of fine follies near that same intersection of Edgewood and Boulevard. Martin Luther King’s Memorial and the street car line are a block away.

A recent visit to Greenville, SC, reminded us that the folks who love art and love to make it their business, also love to walk around, to be on foot, to check out the scene from a more human point of view than the automobile provides. The up and coming Pendleton art district is bound to boom.

In the Pendleton art district of west Greenville, SC, Clemson University hosts a studio outpost.

In the Pendleton art district of west Greenville, SC, Clemson University hosts a studio outpost.

Kenney, Moneyhun, and Volta at Stanley Beaman Sears

Super convenient, super interesting art situation last night at Stanley Beaman Sears, an architecture firm in the heart of downtown Atlanta that hosts quarterly exhibits in its super fine space.

Gallery 180 at Stanley Beaman Sears, open during regular business hours.

Gallery 180 at Stanley Beaman Sears, open during regular business hours.

As explained by Burnaway, Steven Williams of Jacksonville’s Florida Mining gallery, who is the spitting image of Stanley Tucci in The Devil Wears Prada, brought three of his artists to Atlanta to give our city “a try.” Last night’s opening gathered the artists, Mr. Williams, and a compelling exhibit for a delicious, uncrowded, and memorable night of viewing.

Marcus Kenney before his work composed of box springs and vintage jewelry.

Marcus Kenney before his work composed of box springs and vintage jewelry.

Marcus Kenney gave an amusing talk about his work, and made himself accessible for chatting with all comers. The entertainment value of his work here is far higher than a Hollywood movie. Mr. Kenney’s resume is notably full, you collectors. He also shows his work at Marcia Wood Gallery.

Hiromi Moneyhun's "Doppelganger."

Hiromi Moneyhun’s “Doppelganger.”

Hiromi Moneyhun’s paper-cut works generated a lot of buzz in the gallery. Many viewers in attendance last night were architects who marveled at the extended concentration and perfectionism that Moneyhun’s work demonstrates. The conversation seemed never quite to reach the imagery that Moneyhun pursues, full of flowing hair and curvilinear garments.

Kedgar Volta’s video works stand on a firm set of ideas that Volta enjoyed discussing. The works on display are understated, stripped of color, and in this gallery, lacking sound. Better for you to visit Volta’s website and watch his work on your home system.

Not sure what we think about gathering all of these artists under the banner of “Southern artists,” though we advocate the South finally admitting the diversity inherent in its artists and art.

Aimless Winter Wandering

Wandering with wandering eyes brought us some fine amusements and nourishing reflections recently.

Marco Razo’s work at the Decatur branch library is worth pondering. The brush work suggests long experience, while the paintings’ forms seem to limit themselves to rudimentary symbolism.

Marco Razo, "Las Sandias"

Marco Razo, “Las Sandias”

Across the street from the library, Georgia Perimeter College’s 2-D design class is carrying out a participatory project consisting of two large chalkboards with writing prompts. See more at decaturseedthoughts.tumblr.com. Magnet for floating thoughts.

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Perimeter College design class project

Up in Buckhead, the relatively new Buckhead Atlanta development offers pleasing locations for selfies. Significant facade yardage is given to tasteful if unchallenging art. But then, you’re probably not there to be challenged except in your personal finance.

At Buckhead Atlanta on Buckhead Avenue near the Hermes store

At Buckhead Atlanta on Buckhead Avenue near the Hermes store

A pop-up gallery at Peachtree Road and East Paces Ferry looked promising but was closed temporarily, or perhaps they were “pop-down.” If the website is still up, you might see something useful at starkartpopupgallery.com. We could only peer through the glass door.

Just inside the pop-up appears to be a piece by Karl Kroeppler of Woodstock, GA.

Just inside the pop-up appears to be a piece by Karl Kroeppler of Woodstock, GA.

At the Alan Avery Gallery, Margaret Bowland’s oil paintings were exquisite and challenging. Her pictures of African American girls explore problems of human aesthetics, race, and the construction of identity. High-quality representational technique! On Bowland’s website she says, “I believe in that space—outside the golden circle inhabited by the princess.” We wish Bowland had stayed in the South.

Margaret Bowland, "The Tea Party"

Margaret Bowland, “The Tea Party”

The Bowland experience was heightened by our visit to Jackson Fine Art, with its preview of Gordon Parks’ photographs. Parks’ works are intimate, loving, unflinching, and therefore capture all sorts of dynamic beauties and contradictions.

Gordon Parks, "Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama"

Gordon Parks, “Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama”

We in these parts still have a lot of healing to do. Bless the healing image-makers and those who allow us to appreciate them in this place.

In Norcross: Open Exhibition at Kudzu Art Zone

As we have bragged before, we are not afraid to leave the vibrant tumult of the urban core to find art in the metro’s extremities. We devote today’s blog to a visit to Norcross and its gallery/studio space called Kudzu Art Zone.

The Zone currently hosts a juried exhibition that was open to all Georgia artists. Professor Craig Dongoski of Georgia State University, a multimedia artist, served as juror for the open competition.

Openness can be wild and chaotic. Judging by the work selected for exhibition, Dongoski must have been overwhelmed with flower power in the work submitted. There are lots of studies of flowers and fruits on display. Does everyone who thinks of Norcross think of agriculture, wild plants on the borders of pasture land, or the flowered surface of swamp ponds?

What caught Dongoski’s eye as meriting awards were mostly not flowers or even landscapes, but dreams.

The blue ribbon went to Ed McGrath’s painting titled “Whaling Town.” The style resembles that of Mattie Lou O’Kelley, with its compressed perspective, and numerous routine events occurring all at once in miniature and rudimentary forms.

Ed McGrath, painter of "Whaling Town"

Ed McGrath, painter of “Whaling Town”

Mr. McGrath was present at the Zone when we visited, and he requested that his work not be photographed. He said his wife had urged him to make the painting, and it was a gift to her, and she did not want it to be photographed. He said he has made many more pictures in the same style and has never shown them publicly.

The red ribbon was awarded to Don Dougan for his three-dimensional work, “Verdigris Dream: Two Natures.” Dougan’s representation of eery feelings that lurk beneath a soothing surface has the power to haunt, and also the power to amuse with its silly collection of found symbols.

"Verdigris Dream: Two Natures," by Don Dougan, 12.5 x 30 x 4, Mixed media, copper, found objects

“Verdigris Dream: Two Natures,” by Don Dougan, 12.5 x 30 x 4, Mixed media, copper, found objects

The white ribbon was awarded to an artist identified as Vision Bear for the painting titled “Ocelotl Dream.” This work is packed with imagery suggestive of dream-journeying and ritual objects, its colors pulsing with heat and alchemy.

"Ocelotl Dream," by Vision Bear, acrylic on canvas

“Ocelotl Dream,” by Vision Bear, 20 x 16, acrylic on canvas

Several honorable mentions were awarded. Here is a tip of the hat to one of the fans of flora, Mary Jane Warren Stone.

"Water Garden," by Mary Jane Warren Stone, watercolor

“Water Garden,” by Mary Jane Warren Stone, 34 x 48, watercolor

Kudzu Art Zone’s Open Juried Exhibition is on display through July 19, 2014.

Another Saturday in May

On May 17 we started with pottery at the Signature Shop and Gallery, moved on to the High Museum, and finally to the Marcia Wood Gallery.

"Saucey Pitcher," Jenny Lou Sherburne

“Saucey Pitcher,” Jenny Lou Sherburne

At the Signature Shop: We love the title of this show: “Potters of the Roan,” which is also the name of the artists’ guild in the Roan Mountain area. Searching for works that go beyond the decorative has its pay-offs. (Through June 28.)

Stoneware plate by Michael Kline

Stoneware plate by Michael Kline

The show includes works by many others. Michael Kline was a resident artist at the Penland School, and Jenny Lou Sherburne has been a studio potter for over 25 years. Mr. Kline’s blog includes a Vine clip showing creation of a scalloped rim.

At the High Museum: The big show is currently set aside for concept cars. We felt drawn instead to the new display of African masks. According to the exhibit, “Pende masks with black-and-white faces are often referred to as masques de maladie, or sickness masks. Each represents a person who has fallen into a fire and whose face is permanently disfigured. Performances of these masks promote compassion toward individuals who have suffered such calamities.”

Pende Artist, Democratic Republic of Congo, ca. 1875-1925. Wood and pigment.

Pende Artist, Democratic Republic of Congo, ca. 1875-1925. Wood and pigment.

On the question of what should or should not be displayed as “art,” Dr. Jerry Cullum in an essay at Burnaway.org explores the harmonies between showing automobiles in an art museum and the Carter Center’s showing (through September 21) of functional objects from Kongo society as an art exhibit.

Medford Johnston’s works at the High through June 8 perhaps represent aspects of a foot-borne culture from the viewpoint of an American raised in a car culture. (Johnston was born in Decatur, GA.) The Museum’s wall text: “The jagged contour of the [herder’s walking] staff in juxtaposition with the graceful poise of its owner, seen in silhouette against the horizon of East African plains, inspired Johnston’s years-long study of balance, counterbalance and dissonance in the interdependent relationship between people and nature.”

Three works from "Counterpoise," by Medford Johnston

Three works from “Counterpoise,” by Medford Johnston

At Marcia Wood Gallery: David Humphrey gave a delightfully casual talk on his paintings and sketches. The exhibit title, “Blind Handshake,” is also the title of his book of art criticism and studio art. It was obvious that Humphrey is an intellectual force. He was mostly unfazed by an overly confident and vocal thinker in the gallery’s audience. Thank goodness for Ms. Wood’s hospitality on the patio, and for afternoon sunshine.

David Humphrey at Marcia Wood Gallery

David Humphrey at Marcia Wood Gallery

On Regionalism–an Opinion or Two

Stephanie Cash of BurnAway.org poses the question of whether regionalism is a help or a hindrance to the development of art in our region. Here are a few thoughts.

For many years now the thinking among marketing professionals is that the best way to market places of tourism and the arts in a state like Georgia, is to market them as unique to their place and time. Heritage tourism, history tourism, eco-tourism, agri-tourism, literary trails, and food tours, are the result.

Downtown Hapeville, April 2014

Downtown Hapeville, April 2014

The trend will probably continue. Artists can expect to see arts marketers positioning the arts within their particular time and place.

And yet we can expect young artists, who are taught that the highest art transcends its time and place, and who are encouraged to aspire higher, to resist the regionalist thinkers and marketers. Can we blame them if they seek to move to, and grow in, the world’s centers of art? We can certainly forgive them if they feel a chill as they perceive the narrow markets for their work outside major cities.

We can also forgive them if they feel no reassurance when it is proposed in academia that there is no such thing as transcendence of context, but only our own contemporary interpretations and evaluations of the art that we consume and discuss.

In current conversation and writing about contemporary art, we may or may not discuss the artist’s particular time and place. One suspects that the more distant in time the artist is, the more that context is allowed to matter.

In many art galleries along the southern coast, where the walls are covered with pelicans, driftwood, and sunsets, it’s hard to see how any of the artists look outside their communities for intellectual challenge. But they are older artists, and perhaps lack the obsessive vision of greatness, relying instead on the joy of continuing to work and notice what is set before them.

From the world of pop music, an interesting and perhaps instructive example of a small place achieving greatness is Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The finest pop artists from London, New York, Nashville, and Los Angeles sought out that little place to make great records. You might find the documentary film Muscle Shoals, by Greg Camalier, to be stimulating on questions of regionalism.

Video: Whitney and Micah Stansell at Whitespace

We don’t know whom to thank for the “Scarlet Air” show at Whitespace. Yes, we know the names of the players. Susan Bridges, owner of Whitespace. Micah and Whitney Stansell, the artists.

That being said, we think this work transcends the players. Therefore, we thank God, and the Buddha, and William Shakespeare, and Goddess Athena, and Pachamama. We thank Ingmar Bergman. We thank the parents of the Stansells. We thank the Muses.

“Scarlet Air” is a film utilizing three full-size screens in the brick enclave of Whitespace’s big room. It’s a film, we wanted it to be a film, and don’t argue that it is not a film and therefore we don’t need a comfortable chair in which to sit and view. In Whitespace we sat on the brick floor. Perhaps we could have sat on the little stool there, or could have stood like gallery rats. But we are old and need to sit.

Two of the three screens in play during projection of "Scarlet Air" at Whitespace.

Two of the three screens in play during projection of “Scarlet Air” at Whitespace.

Also we needed to sit because it was not at all tolerable to watch “Scarlet Air” once or twice through. We needed to watch it several times. It’s a film simultaneously 1. overloaded with images that need three big projections running simultaneously, and two soundtracks, and brand-sweet colors, and sounds that vibrate your back if you lean against the right part of the gallery wall, and 2. shot through with holes, skips in narrative, sonically obscured dialogue, and unexplained imagery.

Still from "Scarlet Air," courtesy of Whitespace.

Still from “Scarlet Air,” courtesy of Whitespace.

Setting aside the artists’ statement for the time being, what is this thing, “Scarlet Air,” about? Most of the attention is given to a young woman having both typical and atypical experiences in romance, work, friendships, and family, and these are portrayed in settings and styles from a few decades ago. The narration is in a woman’s voice, perhaps the voice of that same young woman who is now older. Part of the narration says something like, “This is a memorial; this is a remembrance.”

Each scene in the film is followed by a still shot of a few key objects from the scene. They are laid on a bedspread—the model-500 telephones, powdered doughnuts in cellophane, hammer and gloves, VHS cassettes with Hollywood movie labels. Objects that seem to function as memory triggers, or possibly memory-creators.

Meanwhile the narrator reflects on the repetition in job tasks, the atmosphere of rural outdoor settings, the longing for connection with certain people, the nature of ordinary objects in daily life.

Still from "Scarlet Air," courtesy of Whitespace.

Still from “Scarlet Air,” courtesy of Whitespace.

The musical score (by Blake Williams) sounds very much like a conventional film score, though perhaps a subdued one, pursuing melodic themes, enhancing certain scenes’ emotions or tensions, implying an emotional context that is not obvious in the film’s visual elements, or drama, or narration. Overall, the score harmonizes with the narrator’s attitude and concerns, a voice of reflection, of loss and low-intensity grief, of earnest interpretation of youthful experiences, and of the fragile confidence of a maturing young woman. A young woman whose thoughts are philosophical and seek out the subtleties of life’s threads.

Our culture is awash in movies and supposedly high-quality television series, just as it is awash in novels and lists of the 10 dieting tips that will change you forever. The Stansells and other poets go on making their exhaustively detailed works that sail right over the cultural cloud and address those subtleties of our lives within it.

For that we are eternally grateful.

“Scarlet Air,” by Whitney and Micah Stansell, is on view at Whitespace through May 10, 2014.