Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mixed Bag Saturday

I woke a little early this morning and was still half in my dream state it seemed. That is, I was conscious of the world here, but also seemed to be following the events in my dream, as if the dream were continuing and I could follow it even though I was now conscious and awake. Not sure if such things are possible but that was my experience. In the dream I was reading an article in a magazine about the stock market. The author of the article was saying that for the past two Americans have been holding back from spending due to fear and uncertainty about the economy, but that now they would start spending again and the market was going to go up.

Disclaimer: This is not in any way, shape or form to be taken as investment advice.

This week a new exhibition opened at the Duluth Art Institute with a reception Thursday at the Depot. The two featured artists have created a lot of buzz here in Duluth. A retrospective of photographer Wing Young Huie's work fill one gallery and the other gallery space was filled with paintings by painter and retired UMD art professor Adu Gindy.

Here is Adu's Artist Statement from her website:
Spontaneous gesture plays an important role in the initial stages of many of my works. I like the idea of coaxing a figure or its quasi-facsimile from the interplay of marks, lines, shapes and colors--grasping it as it emerges from some general abstraction. Painting in this manner keeps me in touch with my own innocent eye and my inner self. Though I create images after my own desires. all of my images aren't gesturally conceived. I have, and probably always will, borrow freely from a wide repertoire of cultural icons. For example; Egyptian, Mexican, African, and others.

This summer I'd heard quite a bit of buzz about Gindy's new work and was looking forward to seeing it. She has been making paintings on one foot by one foot canvases, and there was some excitement in the voices of the people I'd heard discussing it this past month in an area gallery. The show is aptly titled "Bits and Pieces: A Visual Journey." When I saw the work displayed in the John Steffl Gallery at Thursday's opening reception, however, I was disappointed.

On the other hand it stimulated a fair amount of cogitation and I strove to understand my personal reactions to what I was seeing. It forced me to wrestle again with questions that have beset me all my life: What is art? Who decides what is good art? What is the purpose of art?

Here’s another question this exhibit raised for me: If art is just about having fun painting, then why do artists always lobby for more funding for the National Endowment for the Arts? I suspect that the buzz I had been hearing has more to do with Adu's ebullient personality than the quality of the paintings themselves.

When I came to Duluth in 1986 the Duluth Art Institute had organized a studio tour for the general public to meet artists and see their studios in the lofts above Superior Street downtown. Being from New Jersey I did not know any of the names, but Adu's brightly colored furniture and spotty works were memorable. I saw/met John Steffl for the first time and was quite impressed with his work, as well as a number of others whose names I have since forgotten. But Adu's work was distinctive, and I have not forgotten those first impressions. So perhaps this, more than anything, is what disappoints. I expected more. I had expected to see the mature works of an influential local artist in her prime, and instead saw work that felt haphazard, hastily expressed, and not reflecting much of what I would call talented draftsmanship or even design. Maybe the fault was my own. I was expecting the Le Guernica and I got a child's water color.

I do see some of her influence amongst a number of young artists in this town. I'd be curious what other local artists and students feel about Adu's work.

In the meantime, pursue your dreams. If you aspire to be a redwood, go for it.... and if a blackberry bush, make the best you know how.

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