Monday, July 18, 2016

AJ Atwater Talks About Her Upcoming Event: 400 Paintings

Discovering AJ Atwater initially felt like re-discovering an aspect of myself. Atwater is an abstract painter who has derived inspiration from the New York School. Perhaps it's a little like musical tastes in which one can still appreciate Motown or folk while being swept away by Dave Brubeck, or Beethoven.

I first saw her work at Duluth's Washington Galleries. Later in 2013 she conceived what she called Project 30/30 in which she publicly produced 30 paintings in 30 days at Perry Framing on the 200 block of Superior Street. The following year she produced a show called New York Paintings.And last year she collaborated with Elizabeth Kuth in a show called Affordable Fine Art, another fine show. Her latest endeavor is called 400 Paintings.

Atwater lives in two worlds that could not be more different, Manhattan and Duluth. The Big Apple is continuously abuzz with its big city energy. In contrast, Duluth is something akin to a seaside resort with beautiful vistas and plenty of open spaces to indulge the senses in a different way.

Though ambitious, 400 Paintings is the kind of thing I've come to expect from this energized, almost frenetic artist.

When I asked, "What's new with AJ Atwater?" She enthusiastically replied, "Life is incredible, amazing. I just got back from Manhattan again where I painted at the Art Students League of New York with Pat Lipske, a successful geometric hard-edged artist. It's always inspirational being in Manhattan, and influential... Manhattan is my Lake Superior."

As Atwater moves between these two worlds – Lake Superior and Manhattan – she's influenced by both.

"I'm now moving into large scale pieces," she explained. Her current project for 2016 is five panels that will end up 7 x 28 feet. "Working in scale, small and large, is pretty fascinating."

My own largest project in my college fine arts painting class was 8' x 12' and I found it exhilarating. When I shared my experience, he replied, "You're almost in it because it's bigger than you."

But every piece, no matter what scale, involves a push and pull, whether four by six inches or massive, she's observed. "It's interesting to move between sizes, just like different locations."

"There's really no difference," she explained. "There isn't a shift in mind. You have more real estate, but your thought process, composition, shapes, aesthetics... draw upon the same elements. Both call upon the same things whether big or small."

Atwater's upcoming show has an unusual twist to it. There will be a week of viewing where the work will be displayed online beginning at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, August 12. And then the show goes live for purchasing, again online, beginning at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, August 19, closing at midnight on Sunday evening, August 21.

"The largest pieces in 400 Paintings are three foot by four foot," she said. "A good size for a painting on a wall. I think about my clients/customers." The price includes free shipping to the lower 48 states in the U.S.

Atwater noted that the title of the show is literal and not figurative. There are 400 paintings in this show. "The idea came from a place where all good ideas come from. Having an online show where people could see a huge range of my work from 2009 to 2016, select pieces.... Range gives people a lot of opportunity to find different sizes that work for them.

She shared how some of the work involved "conversation between colors, the interaction between the colors... letting them have conversation on the canvas." That was an interesting concept.

The reason for this online show was due to the quantity. "I wanted to show a body of work by an artist in one spot... in their living room late at night while sipping wine... to browse at your leisure."

It makes sense that an artist would visualize the people enjoying her art. It also opens the exhibition up to a wider audience, not limited by geographic proximity.

Breakwater Two, 36x48. Painted in MN, 2015
I myself am occasionally concerned about the proper representation of the colors when I put my work online. Atwater stated that this is not a concern of hers. "I work really hard on that to make sure that the colors are close. Also, the lighting in everyone's home is different, because of lighting or the color of walls. But I work very hard to get the colors right."

On another topic, I commented, "I've heard it said that the New York School has been played out. Why are you still enjoying the possibilities of this kind of abstraction?"

"I completely disagree," she replied. "If you go to Art In America for example, you will see right up front (paintings by) Willem DeKooning, Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell... Those names still dominate the gallery shows and the auctions. I love that. I'm so happy to see that's still the case. They're the foundation of abstract art. It's still as strong and sought after as any art movement."

Because I've been doing a lot of reading about the future, I wanted to know her thoughts on the future of art.

"I think the future of art is going to continue as it is, and I don't think the appeal of the New York School is going to go away. But one thing I like is conceptual art and I think conceptual art is going to expand.... Why not have the big yellow duck floating down the river. I think art can and should become all kinds of things we don't really think about. I think the same for online, bringing things out into the world that people don't see.

The Two Of Us Nestled; 10x10 wood panel. Painted in MN, 2016
"I still think the sturdy foundation that comes from Picasso to Pop is still so influential. The future will build upon the past."

Morning Sky; 12x16 140 lb cold press. Painted at Art Students League, 2012

One thing that's apparent is the influence of technology on the art scene. "This show takes advantage of technology," she said. "Being able to sit in our living room at midnight and browse a show of this caliber online... People can look and ask themselves, 'What do I want? What kind of colors do I want to bring into my life?' The technology brings exposure to lots of people. Because it is online it isn't just for local audiences but for anyone who finds my website."

Awning Shell; 6"x8" canvas panel. Painted in MN, 2016. 
Here's where you can learn more:

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Pricing on some of the paintings shown above:
Breakwater Two -- $1400
The Two of Us Nestled -- $400
Morning Sky -- $150
Awning Shell -- $50

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Get into it.

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