Sunday, June 30, 2013

AJ Atwater and PROJECT 30/30

Every house has a history as well as the signature of its current occupant. Artist AJ Atwater’s home was built in 1888 by one of Duluth’s influential, Frank Crassweller, an attorney who was active in the city council, the library board, Commercial Club of Duluth, Duluth Curling and the Masonic order. He and his wife Alison shared this Lakeside home for many a year, with its wide baseboards and narrow hardwood floors. The current resident is a painter and writer who seems to be in her prime and riding the wave.

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.

In addition to being an artist Atwater is also a writer of literary fiction. Much of her work is online and has been printed at small presses. She currently has a novel which is just about set to go to an agent. The novel "is about a woman with eleven sons called Lisa’s sons." Her two passions, writing and painting, contend for her time. "Painting has pulled ahead but writing is also competing." She has no lack of energy for her work.

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.

PROJECT 30/30 is essentially thirty days of painting, in public at Perry Framing, with the aim of having 30 finished pieces when done, 30 canvases for 30 days, all 30” x 30”. The description of the project forced on me a question: Why thirty days when July has 31? Atwater laughed. On the 31st she'll have an art opening at Perry Framing… a showing at the end of the 30 days. Ah!

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.

No comments: