As I entered, I noticed that the first room to the left was completely bare except for an easel in the center where a dining room table might otherwise reside, along with a small table with paints and art supplies. “I’m a minimalist,” Atwater explained. The other downstairs rooms had no clutter, seemed to be placeholders for her paintings, some quite large and colorful, others muted. One piece reminded me of Arshile Gorky, another of Spanish painter Pere Salinas; all of it captivating.
The original purpose of my visit was to interview this Duluth-based New York City abstract landscape painter for the Reader. What I learned is that the house itself has stories to tell as well. For example, Sinclair Lewis used to come to the Crasswellers to play chess when he was living in Duluth for a time. What I also learned is that Atwater has an exciting project coming up during the month of July called PROJECT 30/30: Artist at Work on the 200 Block, Superior Street Downtown Duluth. This latter is why I'm posting this today and not waiting two weeks for the Reader. PROJECT 30/30 begins tomorrow, hence the timing of this blog entry.
I first became aware of AJ Atwater through a recent show at the Washington Gallery downtown called Urban Nightscapes. Her abstract paintings energized the room, and perhaps one should not have been surprised as her work was about the vibrancy of New York City at night. But not the way you might expect.
We talked about New York and the art scene there. We talked about the business of making art. We talked about her favorite artists, many of them names we've both appreciated from the New York School. We talked about her teacher there, Ronnie Lanfield. And then we talked about her upcoming project.
Atwater will be painting daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and during special Downtown events. The project was a brainchild of both Atwater and gallery owner Penny Perry. The showing will be at Perry Framing on July 31st from 5-7 p.m., so mark your calendars. I just marked mine and aim to be there.