Saturday, April 13, 2013

Summing Up Last Night's Art Stroll

Uppercut by Tyler Johnson
Over the past several years we've gotten spoiled. Warm weather came early, and Jack Frost recoiled northward. Not so in 2013 as we've just been docked with more than a foot of snow and drifts as high as three feet in certain places around our property. Naturally when spring comes early I remind people that it wasn't that long ago we had eight-inch snowstorms on the second and third weekends of May. And three years ago I had to wear gloves in July. So, let's just make those necessary mental adjustments and get on with it.

Despite being snowed in all day yesterday, I was able to make it out to several art openings on Second Friday downtown here in Duluth. Another great evening of art and social experiences.

We started at the Washington Gallery where Flo Matamoros and Tyler Johnson were displaying original work in the two regions of the gallery. Both are younger artists expressing themselves in different styles. Matamoros presented images she created using a Sharpie on cardstock or on wood panels. Most were simple but some exemplified a greater complexity, playing off the natural grain of the wood. She also showed several paintings for a total of 30 pieces.

Detail from "Practice Makes Perfect"
Johnson, who is a fledgling staffer at the Duluth Art Institute, presented some interesting work that became moreso as you dug into it. Many of the pieces conveyed a recurring sports motif and I inquired as to its significance. Johnson said that he'd been reflecting on American ideals and certainly sports has become a high profile example of what our country seems to be about. He asks the question, "Why is the Golden Boy our standard?"

Detail from "Practice Makes Perfect"
The pieces themselves varied but always gave a sense that there was more there than meets the eye. That is, were one to ask about what was going on in the pieces we'd have a good evening of discussion going. On one wall, for example, there is an X and an O, with the football characters interspersed strategically here and there. Upon further investigation I learned that the X and O were derived from the X's and O's that coaches make when outlining a play on the drawing board. "Wilson, you go here and Swanny will hit you on three."

Interestingly enough much of Jen Dietrich's exhibit at the PROVE Gallery also featured sports related iconography. Dietrich the football fan has made visual some interesting observations about gender perceptions by superimposing the images of powerful women over NFL legends. We see Hillary Clinton paired with Dick Butkus, except the all-star middle linebacker is only visible through Ms. Clinton's features, not alongside it. Mike Ditka and Gloria Steinem share another composition, as do Vince Lombardi and Elanor Roosevelt among others.

A handout helped explain the backstory for these pieces. "This new body of work investigates my all-consuming obsession with American cultural identity as well as personal identity." It's interesting that when men are aggressive it can be deemed strength and leadership, but when women are aggressive they are deemed bitchy.

Dietrich also presented a set of seven compositions featuring Ed Hochulis, a lawyer who has become one of the most popular referees in NFL history.

Sandy Gillespie
The dynamic work of Sandy Gillespie filled the back half of the gallery. Gillespie is a Minneapolis artist who has recently returned to the midwest after 22 years in Alaska in order to be near her children and grandchildren. The new work expresses her struggle through this year of transition, what she calls her "personal conversation with loss and grief, betrayal and anger." The materials she works with are uncommon: encaustic, journal pages, hair, nails and acupuncture needles.

We strolled down the alley to Ochre Ghost after this, which brought us into the psychedelic mindscape of Zachary Moser. The space had been converted into a multi-media montage of images, animations and something wholly other. The show was titled New Mythology: An Installation by Zachary Moser. If you missed it because the weather held you back, they will be opening their doors this afternoon from 4 - 5 p.m.

Meantime... life goes on. Keep your eyes open and take it in.

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