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Art Seen

Art I'VE seen, that is...museums full of masterworks, whimsical outdoor sculpture gardens--I never tire of taking it all in. Here are a few of my favorites, as well as some recent "acquisitions..."

March 1, 2013
Recently had a chance to work with a great group of art-minded folks during my six-week Alternative Landscape class at Arrowmont Arts & Crafts community in the Smoky Mountains. Here is a selection of the great work produced during that workshop, in which participants were challenged to add dimension to their work by utilizing abstract elements.  Additives to the paint or paint surface were an option, including cut paper collage, fiber pieces or organic objects. Others chose the route to abstraction by way of diminished detail or alternative color palettes.

Anne Fontaine of Gatlinburg, TN took the idea of collage to a new level with elements such as chains, raffia, leaves and feathers.
Anne also carried several themes throughout her inspiring work. In the diptych (above) windows became an integral part of the design.

At left, Anne's use of collaged faces and figures create a stunning landscape that reads like a seek and find.

Dee Bryant of Sevierville, TN amazed the group with her landscape intuition and her prolific production. At right, her misty, moody mountain scene offers the viewer a distinctive sense of place.

Dee also had the inventive idea of incorporating actual photos of her daughter (at different ages) into several of her pieces.

Dee used a technique of painting into collaged elements that gave her work added dimension and interest.

Lisa Martel, of Seymour, TN tackled a scene near and dear her heart. Her painting (in progress) at left is a lovely nature abstraction, making use of unusual colors to convey the depth of the scene and to demonstrate the practice of placing  emphasis on form and shape over realistic color.

This small square piece by Lisa is a great example of spatial use as well as subtle use of collage.
Lisa had great success with her beautiful field of sunflowers blowing in the breeze. This piece features a painted backdrop with the main subject constructed from cut-paper collage.

 Carol Grantham, of Gatlinburg, TN practices print-making with a recurring theme of trees. She tried her hand at acrylic with this strong spatial composition using her favorite subject matter.

In the piece on the left side of the easel, Carol has created an innovative collage using portions of her own block prints, clipped carefully and combined with acrylic brushwork to make a unique mixed media piece.
 Annalee Bohon of Knoxville, TN works as a professional Faux-Finish Painter. She was looking for a way to depart from her usual creative constraints and deadlines.

Annalee chose this painting of her late father working in his garden. Her background painting creates a soft, subtle impressionistic backdrop for singularly selected collaged elements. The result has great visual impact.
Victoria (Ann) Armerding prefers to work in watercolor with a subject matter of portraiture, so this was an experimental adventure for her!

She stunned the group by producing this beautifully executed seascape. The piece exhibits exceptional texture-detail in the painted sky, water and land. She then delved quite successfully into her first applied cut-paper collage by adding the seaweed and land elements.

Ann's second piece (in progress) at right shows just how intrigued she has become with cut-paper! She is creating a replica of her sister's seaside home in England. This piece, she says will be entirely cut-paper collage.

April 5, 2012

Benjamin Young - Kettering, Ohio
Rich colors, expressive brushstrokes, impacting compositions. You might think I’ve just been on a museum trek to view an exhibit of Abstract Expressionism. In fact, I didn’t venture far from home for this one. I could say this “Art Seen” is nearby in home AND in heart. 
"The Garden" by Ben Young 
     Recently I’ve been blessed with the friendship of an inspiring “young” artist. Benjamin Young, to be exact. I met Ben a few years ago when he signed up for my Acrylic Painting class at a local community arts center where I teach. In sharing the material and watching Ben express his own personal style through the wonderful medium of acrylic paint, I was inspired, to say the least
     After the class ended, Ben stayed in touch with me, updating me periodically with his further pursuits in art. It seemed he had found a passion. I had a chance to catch up with Ben recently. I was amazed at the body of work he has begun to build since I met him just a few years ago. Brush strokes express Ben’s emotions while vibrant colors exemplify his inner vitality, much the same as those beloved Expressionists in our history did.
Works by Ben Young, exhibited in his Kettering, OH home
When I study works of art, very often the element that makes the art effective is the understanding of the particular process the artist has used in its creation. Experimental approaches, unusual perspectives, perhaps a personal story behind the art—all of these can factor into the overall impact of the work. 

The truth about what makes this “Art Seen” a particularly inspirational one is the fact that Ben Young creates his paintings from a wheelchair to which he is confined, as a person living with Cerebral Palsy. From the first time I observed Ben working in my class, to convey his meaning through paint on canvas, I was incredibly moved. As I learned to communicate with Ben through a letter board he keeps handy to spell out his words, (and as he can attest I’m a slow learner) I began to gain insight into this brilliant young man, determined to become an artist, and share his artistic expressions with the world.
"Gotham City" by Ben Young

I had the opportunity to spend an evening in Ben’s home earlier this spring. His wonderful family, mom, Jan and brother, Joe proudly pointed out various paintings of Ben’s throughout the house, including one, which seems to be a point of some friendly contention—Jan says it should be hanging in the living room, but Ben keeps the painting in his own room, which doubles as his office. They both agree on one thing, however: It is not for sale. On the evening of the visit, Ben was celebrating the sale of a painting through a promotion he had done. 

"Nova" by Ben Young
Ben has recently tried his hand at collage, in a workshop I was leading. As with everything I’ve seen him try, he conveyed his meaning with a flare. He says he intends to further explore the use of collage to express his feelings about war and other deeply felt world issues. I think the most successful artists are those not afraid to explore new ways of expressing themselves; to keep evolving through experience. I am excited to see where Ben’s art takes him. He is currently planning to add to his body of work in hopes of having a one-man exhibition in the near future.  

Ben Young Artist Statement...

"When I look around my house, I see paintings I have produced and cannot believe I made all of them.
There is a painting I love. It is my version of the fictitious Gotham City from the 1939 comic “Batman”. Fifty years later, in 1989, Tim Burton brought the comic to the big screen.  In most of Burton’s films, he creates dark settings. I like dark colors. For a while my bedroom was black and red. Sometimes I think the painting is a window and I am looking at the city.
I think people that are not members of the  art community expect us to paint brightly all the time. However, I think the darker the better."

You can see more of Ben's work by visiting his blog:

Thanks to Randy Jennings for photographing Ben and his work!

Oct 21, 2011
Art in Erie
The annual Photomedia Center “Small Works” show  was on our to-do list this past weekend. Why? Because my husband, photographer Randy Jennings was one of the seven artists whose work was included this year. The show travels, each year occupying a section of definitive gallery space in one city or another. This year’s very cool locale was at The Glass Grower’s Gallery in Erie, PA. The reception was held on Friday, Oct 21, to coincide with the city’s “Gallery Hop.”
Artistic photography—lots of great people to meet and chat with—a totally “green” museum and an historic firehouse-turned-restaurant…a lot of ground to cover in this “Art Seen!” Better get started…

We’ll begin by walking in the door of Deborah Vahanian’s Glass Grower’s Gallery. A myriad of sparkling color, yummy for the eyes, greets the clearly loyal clientele. Nicely arrayed local art graces the high walls and every shelf is lined with irresistible objets d’art.
Randy chats with Eric Grignol of Photomedia Center. 
At the back of the gallery, arranged as in an avant garde sitting room, currently hangs the “Small Works Show,” juried this year by New Orleans-based Louviere+Vanessa. My own Randy Jennings, also known as HolgART for his preference of the toy “Holga” camera, is represented by three of his extremely cool images--ones made by this little plastic "toy!"

At right you can take in one of Randy's three images, Ghost Cabin no. 7, an infrared Holga shot that creates (pardon the pun) quite the eerie effect. The show garnered critical attention in local papers, including one writer that states of Randy Jennings specifically..."there is just something about black and white photography in the hands of an expert..." read the article

More about the Glass Growers Gallery...Deb started her gallery in 1974, in Erie, but at a different locale. She sold her own glass and silicone pieces that formed sculptures, lamps and terrariums. Two moves later, Deb and daughter, Vanessa Vahanian, open their doors at 10 East Fifth Street, Erie PA, in the heart of the town's art seen.  They welcome art lovers from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

You can check out Glass Growers  here

Just a hop and skip outside the door, with its artistic main entrance, is the Erie Art Museum. It seems the museum sprawls over most of the entire block, with side hallways leading to other nearby art destinations, including the Glass Growers Gallery. Opened just a year ago, this unique, if disjointed space boasts several small pockets of art in exhibition. One of the coolest things about the museum is its totally “Green” M.O. The Museum is unique in many aspects. First, its design, created by Edge Studio, Pittsburgh, allows for the use of an already existing space, once known as "The Old Customs House," the building was constructed to open in 1839 as the Erie branch of the U.S First Bank of Pennsylvania. The Museum has embraced sustainable practices such as energy-efficient heating, cooling and lighting systems, a comprehensive waste stream control system and a storm water management  that returns most of the rain falling on the complex to the water table instead of the sewer system. To "top" it all off, the building also has a vegetated green roof!

At the museum, we had time to stroll through two contemporary exhibits. The first offered a refreshing slant on the recent trend of “functional art.”  Aptly entitled, Dysfunctional, the show offers a satirical look at the odd, the unusable, the ironic, and the amusing, through works of sculpture and video installation. Picture a folding bowl on hinges, or a giant scoop covered with holes, whose mouth is a set of fringed finger-like extensions. One piece features a pool cue that ends in a limp section of rope, complete with signage that likens it to sexual dysfunction in men. 
The second exhibit, "The Politics of Snow and Double Exposure" seems another apt representation of the museum’s core environmental attitude. The twofold exhibit features the work of oil painter, Diane Burko, presented alongside photographs by Brad Washburn and David Arnold. Burko’s paintings are nearly abstract in their representation of aerial views of famous glacial landmarks. Photographs taken by Washburn some 70 years ago, are placed next to like-composed images by Arnold, of the same locales in present day.  
TTogether, the three elemental factions of this show--the old and new photographs and the oil paintings, speak volumes about Earth’s changing climate and the effects of global warming. In this case, through Art, we see undisputed visual evidence of the disappearance of glaciers from Earth’s surface, leaving the viewer to wonder what changes another 70 years will bring.

 All this Art hopping makes my belly rumble so…upon Vanessa’s recommendation, we hoofed it around the corner to Pufferbelly’s, an historic firehouse transformed some 25 years ago into an upscale eatery. Photos and vintage news articles on the wall tell the story of the century-old firehouse that was in operation from 1908 until 1979.


The name of the restaurant derives from the nickname given the first steam fire engines in use during the last part of the nineteenth century. 
Today, the restaurant boasts one of the nations most impressive collection of fire-fighting memorabilia. AND the food was yummy!

Always working... Randy never met a giant green frog he didn't photograph! The name of the restaurant derives from the nickname given the first steam fire engines in use during the last part of the nineteenth century. Today, the 

Sept 20, 2011

Broadway Street, Nashville, TN, U.S.A.

Who DOESN'T need a weekend in Nashville once in a while?
The night scene is an amazing mixture of neon, honky-tonk and music lovers, kickin' up the pavement in their cowboy boots!
Music streams from every doorway up and down Broadway, while incredibly artistic neon signs light the way!

You never know who you might meet on the strip!

And speaking of “The King” we ended up on a surprise tour of the historic RCA studio ‘B’ where Elvis recorded his every hit! Turns out, Belmont University (being scouted by my son, Ben) actually owns the studio! 

This legendary sound space is now used as a teaching facility. This time next year, Ben could be learning audio engineering on the console where some 1000 top ten hits were recorded! But I digress…since we’re supposed to be talking ‘art....’ 

Let’s take a peek at the 1942 Steinway grand piano, living at RCA studio ‘B’ since 1957, and playing along on ALL those hits! Randy shot this cool photo that captured the amazing instrument’s very special aura. Who knows what spirits remain.

...OR we could definitely note the giant headshots adorning the lobby. Stars like Dolly Parton, Charlie Pride and Roy Orbison (shown) who found their way to stardom in this very building!

Architecture? No shortage of that on the campus of Belmont University where we spent an entire day (and Ben left his heart)! We’ll start with the “Belmont Mansion.” Originally named Belle Monte, meaning Beautiful Mountain, the mansion was inspired and built by Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham, an heiress from a prominent Nashville family. The mansion was completed in 1853, reflecting the style of an Italian Villa. Six years later, it was remodeled and enlarged by Prussian-born architect, Adolphus Heiman to include a bowling alley, a conservatory, a greenhouse and even a zoo!

Today, the mansion serves as the center piece for the beautiful campus of Belmont University, situated just minutes from downtown Nashville.  The mansion, along with its elaborate gardens and statuary, set the pattern for the architecture across the sprawling Liberal Arts campus. The slightly downward stroll from the portico of the mansion across campus to the student union, one can imagine the shrewd southern woman, Adelicia, as she surveyed the grounds. 

Newer buildings, like McWhorter Hall, reflect a like architectural style, its fa├žade reaching grandly to the blue sky.

Next this whirlwind “Art Seen” continues on the historic path with a peek at some antiques—but not just ANY antiques…actual “picks” from my favorite show on the History Channel. Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz of American Pickers, have a new space in the South, and we scouted it out! Nashville’s historic "Marathon Village," a turn-of-the-century automobile factory provides the perfect spot for Antique Archaeology's 2nd location. 

Can't even describe how cool it was to see and handle some of the actual "picks" from the show!

Only thing that would have made it better was if the "Iowa Boys" themselves had been there.
Maybe next time!

My music boys drooled over some of the guitars found in basements, attics or outbuildings over the last few seasons of the show.

...As the sun sets on this "Art Seen," I have one final next acquisition will no doubt be a funky pair of cowboy boots!

Aug 24, 2011 The Dayton Art Institute

Ok, so this may seem like cheating, since my most recent “art seen” is fairly obvious—not to mention practically in my back yard! Then again, it’s not every day that the work of one of your favorite artists in history comes to your back yard! 

So, my son, Shaun and I made an outing to The Dayton Art Institute, with just a few days to spare before he headed back to school in Cleveland.

Simply put, I love DAI. I practically grew up there—taking Saturday classes throughout junior high and high school. I know the galleries like my own living room. When my boys were growing up I used to bring them on different days so we could have one-on-one time together, but it had been awhile, so Shaun was interested in seeing it all again, from his new Liberal Arts-student perspective. 

Peter Paul Rubens, Study Heads of an Old Man, 1612

Being a creature of habit, I tend to take the same path through the museum each time, moving through the European wing, across the Great Hall and into the American wing. 

Next, I go down the winding stairs and into the peaceful realms of the Asian Wing. 

I always feel so meditative walking through that quiet dimness, soaking up the history while moving through the many maze-like rooms. I love the archways and alcoves you pass through while voyaging through Pre-Columbian, Oceanic and Japanese artifacts. A soul could sink into the past so easily.

Departing the Asian realm, across the lower court and into the North Gallery, we came to my featured“Art Seen." Since late June, DAI has been hosting a special collection of the wood engravings of Winslow Homer. Homer, one of my favorite American painters, was best known for his prolific body of paintings, and especially his unusual use of watercolor as a finished medium (not common in his day).

But many people don’t know that he began his career in commercial art, as an illustrator, a job he worked from 1857-1876, prior to gaining fame as a painter. His work was featured in Harper’s Weekly, among other publications of the day, and exemplified scenes of everyday America, as well as documentation of such historic events as the Civil War. What I find amazing about Homer is his ability to tell a story sans words! Even in his later paintings, if you look close enough, there is some type of narrative going on between the elements in the composition. I recently taught a special week-long class at DAI that focused on the Homer exhibit, and the connection to story-telling through art that he so well exemplified. Homer’s incredibly detailed engravings are well worth a peek.  They will be on view through Oct 2.

My pick of the day? Other than the Homer exhibit, my pick is a best kept secret. It is an area of the museum known as the Italian Cloister. Located off the Great Hall, it sits adjacent to the more popular Gothic Cloister. A sweet circular courtyard with a fountain in the center, looks up to the open sky, and a wide, paved walkway under roof provides a shady wall for sitting, impressive architectural elements, and a picturesque glimpse into several rooms of the  American Wing.  I spent some time there recently with students, painting a beautiful little tree I love. Shhh. It’s my secret. If I am ever MIA, just check here J

Shaun’s pick? Loving bright colors (like his old Ma) he cited several contemporary pieces including this recent acquisition of the museum’s by Elmer Bischoff. He also liked the de Kooning and Rothko, of course! 

Last but not, least, I would be remiss in talking about DAI without including my all-time favorite piece by my spirit-mentor, Georgia O’Keeffe. How lucky I am to see it whenever I want!

Purple Leaves, 1922

Aug 7, 2011 Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park, Hamilton, Ohio

We finally had a chance to get away for an afternoon with our friends, Scott and Pam Geisel of Yellow Springs, Ohio. We decided to check out the very cool sculpture park, Pyramid Hill in Hamilton, Ohio. 

After a yummy picnic lunch at the highest point we could find—where we could enjoy an overview of the park, we rented our own “art cart” and set out to roam the hills and valleys, perusing some 50 plus sculptures designed for the outdoors. 

Some of the sculptures are mammoth, towering over our heads, while others create archways and interesting frames for the natural growth and botanical accents throughout the park. If that isn’t enough for the most ravenous art lover, there is a full-fledged indoor ancient sculpture museum!

Here's me, standing inside just a small portion of George Sugarman's "Cincinnati Story." The sculpture consists of colorful giant steel ribbons interwoven and overlapping to create the effect of rivulets of water. Very cool! 

(Left) One of my favorites was Sam McKinney’s “Wherefore Art Thou,”  featuring a back-to-back positioned, bronze Romeo and Juliet, separated by a quartz slab and just missing one another in the final act of the play. At the top of the 1,800 lb. sculpture, their two hands, reach toward one another, just shy of touching. Hey, what can I say? It speaks to the romantic in me!

With Pam’s daredevil (I mean expert J) driving, we navigated the hills and valleys and seeing it all! 

(Left) My pick of the day is Antoinette Prien Schultze’s “Keepsake.” This seemingly simple granite arrangement attracts the viewer with it’s spatial structure. But it isn’t until you stick your head in the center (and trust me, you can’t resist) that you get the real “wow” of the piece. 

Looking up, you find a fiery glass oblong window the pulls the light into the dark granite center. One by one, we all did it, and we all had the same response—whoah!! 

Should you go?—yes! Would I go again? Yes! Maybe on a cooler day!  
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Mid-May 2011 Knoxville Museum of Art/Arts & Culture Alliance
Spent a few days in one of my favorite cities, Knoxville, TN. A walk through the Knoxville Museum of Art proved interesting as always. 
Among special exhibits on view: a unique community involved textile installation that features a 75 foot length of woven cloth, which was created under the direction of visual artist, Anne Wilson.  The colorful, banded cloth was created by 2,100 volunteers along side 79 professional weavers on a single loom within the museum’s gallery space over three months.
The exhibition meant to bring to light the global crisis of skill-based textile labor. Many of the fibers donated for the project came from factories facing closure in the Southeastern United States.

A short walk through the ever-changing Market Square outdoor sculpture garden leads to Gay Street, boasting the historic Bijou Theatre as well as a very cool retro-refurbished movie theatre, The Royal Riviera. 

...and a bit further down, our artistic "home away from home,"
The Emporium Center, a very urban-chic gallery space where regional and national artwork can always be enjoyed. 
In the upper level gallery, The Balcony, we found an impressive group exhibition. Of particular interest were the large scale photographs on canvas of Richard Allen Foster. At first glance, these photos seemed slightly out of register, but then we noticed a podium in the center of the room offering up the 3D glasses we would need to view Foster’s pieces properly. Wow! With the silly glasses in place, the images, architectural scenes around Old Knoxville, seem to loom toward us. Very memorable indeed.


...And last but not least, a visit to "Olde Town" K-ville is a must! Cool old brick buildings and hilly streets yield inspiration and plenty of retro sites....
 what a great place for a roving art-lover to get a cup of joe!