Tag Archives: Drawings

Grown-Up Toys: John Tindel’s Works on Paper at Kai Lin Art

Some little boys like dangerous little toys: pocket knives, matches, homemade explosives. Toy guns sometimes offend, but they inflict no damage. A really dangerous toy can poke out your eye. The little boy knows this but thinks, “A little pain is worth it to be able to watch the progress of a good puncture. Besides, who needs two eyes when one will do?”

"Blame it on My A.D.D.," John Tindel; pencil, spray paint and watercolor; 18 x 18 inches.

“Blame it on My A.D.D.,” John Tindel; pencil, spray paint and watercolor; 18 x 18 inches.

When the danger-boy grows up he may become an artist like John Tindel, who is now showing mixed media works on paper at the Kai Lin Art gallery. The pictures have sharp edges, suggest troublesome thoughts, and interfere with productive activity. Some pieces use a form of caricature to depict young men who were probably also danger-boys, but who seem to have traded in their illegal fireworks for that adult toy called hard drugs.

Tindel’s pictures sometimes deploy words within the frame, and they usually bear interesting titles (for example, “My First Skull.”) None of Tindel’s words make explicit reference to methamphetamine, but plenty of implications appear, such as pictures of crystals forming out of clouds, and one danger-boy picture being titled, “Blame it on My A.D.D.” (Atlanta Art Blog doesn’t know much about methamphetamine, but the Wikipedia article on that drug says that a form of it is sometimes prescribed for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Slang names for the drug include “cloud,” and “crystal meth.”)

"Flower Pot Setting #2," John Tindel; watercolor; 18 x 24 inches.

“Flower Pot Setting #2,” John Tindel; watercolor; 18 x 24 inches.

The pictures don’t give the sense of glorifying drug use, or suggesting that the use of methamphetamine could inspire artistic work, spiritual revelation, or anything positive. The danger-boys, and one danger-girl (titled “She Was a Hallucination”) have wide-set, large eyes that suggest a capacity for deep thought, but are surrounded by prematurely aged and discolored skin. These are the eyes of young people exhausted by life at compulsive hyper-speed. Hope for them is in peril.

One sharp edge to these pictures is that most of them carry the hand-lettered message, “You Make Me Feel Special.” The works also include some lush watercolors of floral arrangements with no references to danger-boys or crystals and clouds—these florals, too, carry the lettering, “You Make Me Feel Special.” It’s almost as if Tindel is in the middle of sketching out a line of greeting cards to be marketed to addicts and their friends and families. That market had better love irony.

The pictures include visual references to African masks, Shamanic power animals, and holy men. It’s another trait of the danger-boy to mix up a bunch of flavors and see if the final product is edible. In fact, Mr. Tindel displays in these pictures how adept he is at creating unusual combinations. They may begin carelessly but they end by showing that the danger-boy is someone curious about mortality, and someone who fits in with his nervous friends and family.

The John Tindel exhibit, “You Make Me Feel Special,” is on view at Kai Lin Art through September 6, 2013.


Landscapes, idylls and ideas: three artists at Poem 88

At Poem 88 you get something extra, a lagniappe. It’s not a cheapie thrown in like a thirteenth beignet, though. It’s something fully nourishing, a dish in itself. During the current show, it’s the title theme, “Et in Arcadia ego.” Even in that idyllic village, people die. Poem 88 refers you to the paintings that address this idea, and then draws a connection to the works currently on display. It’s delicious.

The three artists in the show make works that refer to a kind of idyllic village.

Allyson Ross shows sculptural works on paper, and they depict scenes from the Yosemite Valley.

Half Dome, detail, by Allyson Ross, via allyson-ross.com

Half Dome, detail, by Allyson Ross, via allyson-ross.com

Ted Fair shows photographs that seem to be from a spirit of purposeful wandering to find the strange juxtapositions in the American landscape.

Untitled, by Ted Fair

Untitled, by Ted Fair

Sean Abrahams shows drawings that manifest an artist’s imagining of a specific cartoon-like wilderness.

Landscape, by Sean Abrahams

Landscape, by Sean Abrahams

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The Sketchbook Project at the Goat Farm

The art of the book may be fading in the digital age, but the Sketchbook Project now in brief residence at the Goat Farm proves that the book will always be around.

The feel of a book in one’s hands is different from the feel of a Kindle or Nook or iPad. Yet the book’s unique feel is not easy to define. I have heard several literary people with great nostalgia for the book reach a kind of verbal brick wall when they begin to describe why they want to hold a book in their hands. Maybe it’s because the book has been around for a long time, and we have taken it for granted.

While the book seems to be under threat from electronic readers, it would seem useful to understand and describe in words what the value of the book is. The simple, handmade books of the Sketchbook Project are of use in this effort.

The organizers of the Project provide the blank sketchbook, a small thing of simple paper, though the artist is really only restricted to the format size, not the material. All are invited to participate, so anyone with $25 becomes an author. Samples are available from around the world. When you look inside the finished sketchbooks, you see a bursting of energy that seems to be propelled by the very limitations of the small, paper format with its repeated pages, its center-fold, its front cover and back cover.

Excerpt from Creatures! Observations, by Shari Moore, The Sketchbook Project

Excerpt from Creatures! Observations, by Shari Moore, The Sketchbook Project

In Decatur artist Shari Moore’s “Creatures! Observations,” each page is filled with a carefully composed pen-and-ink drawing of one or more whimsical characters and humorous text. The bareness, the suggestiveness and the simplicity of the well controlled lines allow for beautiful interactions between the artist’s imagination and that of the reader. Imagination and ink on paper—it’s a kind of purity at play.

Cover of Farewell Cliffdene, Gareth Watkins, The Sketchbook Project

Cover of Farewell Cliffdene, Gareth Watkins, The Sketchbook Project

British artist Gareth Watkins’ “Farewell Cliffdene” provides a similar pleasure, with affectionate drawings of a beloved chalet on a cliff in Dover, along with photographs. Watkins’ work also contains examples of the purely tactile potential of the book, as it contains remnants of wallpaper and other bits of the chalet, whose demolition is mourned. In touching this one, you’re really touching part of Dover and part of Gareth Watkins himself.

Excerpt from Dream of Creatures, Mary Blaney, The Sketchbook Project

Excerpt from Dream of Creatures, Mary Blaney, The Sketchbook Project

Mary Blaney of Michigan takes the tactile potential of the book even further, filling “Dream of Creatures” with thick animal shapes, beads, and all manner of glued in, glittery cut-outs.

What about words? In the eight samples I viewed from the Project’s traveling library, I didn’t happen upon the wordy artist. Did the Goat Farm’s goats eat them? We’ll have to return in search of more words.

From what we did see today, it’s apparent that the book is so rich with potential and challenge, and also with cup-and-saucer simplicity, that it can’t help but survive and thrive.

The Sketchbook Project, presented by MASS Collective and Goat Farm Arts Center, is on display at the Goat Farm through March 17. See also http://www.sketchbookproject.com.

Susan Cofer’s “Draw Near,” an exhibit of drawings at the High Museum

In Susan Cofer’s drawings one finds a range of composition from mild and gentle to bold and troubled. They range from figurative to abstract and their approach to their subject matter leaves a curious viewer with plenty of room to wonder–about creation, sin, beauty and the fragility of life.

Most of Cofer’s drawings in this survey since about the mid-1980’s are composed of vertical pencil strokes carefully applied to reveal both imaginary and realistic detail. In an interview on the High.org website, Cofer said that her preference for vertical strokes comes from her feeling that they are easier than horizontal strokes, allowing a meditative process. Perhaps similar to the chanting of a mantra, the repetition of a standard stroke may induce a mood of calm. I’m not sure I agree that a vertical stroke is, in general, easier than a horizontal stroke. Still, as with a meditative mood, it may be that the vertical stroke encourages a movement of diving downward; meeting the surface of a thing and then going beneath that surface; going deep.

Some of the drawings display natural landscapes that are mostly devoid of evidence of a human presence. The view tends to be from a great distance. A view from the middle distance is rare. The vertical strokes suggest motion, perhaps the vibration of the earth, a motion-pattern apparently knowable through observation, though the knowledge gained is not explicitly set out here. Most of the other drawings take their small subjects in close-up view. From the mid-1980’s forward we see so many drawings that take as their subject: a seed, a fruit’s flesh, an embryo of uncertain species, womb-like abstractions, some phallic shapes. Perhaps the artist’s meditation on a landscape leads to meditation on one small element of that landscape. This may lead to a problem: Diving below the surface for answers, we frequently find . . . more surfaces.

In my view the pivotal series of drawings here is the set of 16 drawings that focuses on the story of Eve’s time in Eden. Again we see the fruit, the womb-like images, and a snake. The drawings’ titles remind us of the natural setting of a wooded paradise, mostly devoid of people; of the innocence of exploration, of questions borne of curiosity. In one drawing there appears a small, dark, beastly face-shape. We know that sin is present, the danger of fatal punishment, and sinister purpose.

After viewing the Eve drawings I sensed that Cofer’s art wants to make a path toward the secrets of creation. The images of embryos and vessels and reproductive organs and early stages of biological development seem to be crucial as subjects because of their apparent proximity to creation. The artist is passionately curious, wants to “Draw Near,” as the exhibit is called. And yet there is hesitation in the work. Cofer’s colors are very mild, and perhaps even vague until the mid-1990’s, when we begin to see purer greens, violets, and reds. Is that a hesitating shyness, or is there an ethical concern about curiosity here? Perhaps the artist imagines that Eve was punished for being curious, and if so, couldn’t the artist be punished for the same offense?

This is only my speculation about Cofer’s drawings. Still, it seems to me that the limitations and dangers of curiosity are very relevant to our time. Intellectual inquiries are frequently dismissed as pretentious or even dangerous to creativity and productivity. On the other end of the scale, science is testing the limits of ethics with its study and use of reproductive technology.

For me, Cofer’s work stimulates questions about whether curiosity is always innocent, among many other compelling themes.

Susan Cofer’s “Draw Near” was on view at the High Museum through February 10, 2013.

Resource: To view the interview with Cofer currently (early February 2013) on the High Museum’s website, http://www.high.org, visit http://youtu.be/sAM7wgw951s .