Tag Archives: Landscape art

Lyndon House Arts Center’s “Big” stuff, plus art of Ossabaw Island

We promise not to stray from the capitol very often. That was our promise when we launched the Atlanta Art Blog. But the fact is, the term Atlanta covers a multitude of suburbs.

On June 15, we opened our eyes in Athens (no one calls it a suburb), where the Lyndon House Arts Center hosted an opening reception for an exhibition of work by a handful of artists with southern connections: Duane Paxson, Scott Stephens, Judy Majoe-Girardin and Briana Palmer. This show is apparently entitled “BIG,” which refers to the larger scale of the works.

"Memorial to a Slug," by Duane Paxson

“Memorial to a Slug,” by Duane Paxson

We viewed the work on display in the Center’s Atrium gallery a bit after the lunch hour. The Atrium insisted that its own personality be heeded, dressed in the splashy orange glow of the mid-day sun as it poured through the glass ceiling and electrified the brownish orange wood floor of the gallery.

Perhaps all of that tinted sunlight was appropriate for the artists’ biological references: Briana Palmer’s work referenced cell biology, Paxson insects and slugs, and Majoe-Girardin and Stephens the arboreal realm. Paxson’s large sculptures hung from the ceiling and managed to command both awe and a childlike curiosity.

"Behind the Dunes," by June Ball

“Behind the Dunes,” by June Ball

One can almost escape the Atrium’s orange light in the upstairs gallery, where the Ossabaw Artists’ Collective displayed extensive and perhaps repetitive portrayals of skeletal beach trees, driftwood, herons, and saltmarsh moonrises. Notable works included certain oils by June Ball in which a sky’s freedom is so vividly re-created, and works by Paula Eubanks in multiple media that see Ossabaw as not just an island landscape but a place that holds a human history that is worth the struggle.

“BIG” works are on display at Lyndon House Arts Center through September 27, 2013, as is “Ossabaw Island: Holy Ground.”

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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 .