Last weekend I was delighted to discover that artist and curator John Sims, who I've known from community projects and shows here and there, has a studio in my neighborhood, Gillespie Park. What's more, I also learned that he was hosting a show as part of his MathArt Project series for talented artist Aaron Blackall, whom I know primarily as the pleasant young man behind the curtain at BlueLine who has never failed to help me many times to meet a color printing deadline.
Months back, Aaron gave me his prospectus for a concept series entitled "Things Could Have Been Different." The series is a gorgeous story-line of colorful paintings composed of multi-colored lines splayed tightly across canvas. I was impressed with the work and with his very clear articulation of the concept behind it: that every decision affects the next, and our life is a series of decisions that could all have led to very different configurations.
Poking myself into the comfortably packed crowd inside John's studio, I now had the surprising pleasure of seeing Aaron's work up on the wall. There's something uniquely satisfying about "being there," if even in the most tangential way, to witness an artist's emergence.
My friend and I entered the show during Sims' introduction. What struck me was his explanation of his choice of venue for the show: small, intimate.He told us that most people in any standard show spend 10 seconds looking at any given piece of art. 10 SECONDS! When you consider the time the artist put into the work, that is nothing. John's goal in creating a show in this small space on 10th St. was to create an intimate experience where the art can receive its due attention---to be seen, engaged with, perhaps revisited---thus giving the viewer a fuller experience.
The intimacy was indeed refreshing. And I'm not sure if it was the influence of Sims' opening words or just the space itself, but the experience overall felt significantly warmer, more personal and ... well, more real than most other gallery experiences I have had. Despite being an artist, I often feel intimidated and a bit out-of-place at your typical gathering and opening. As my friend LeeAnne described the other day, it's as if you're expected to know or think something significant about the artwork. I imagine this might be the case with many other people out there who like art but don't want to be put in a spot to feel at a loss for words, or worse, the embarrassment of saying something and being scoffed at by folks who think of themselves as more knowledgeable about art than they.Sims has succeeded in creating a place in which I think a more accessible, inviting conversation can emerge. And equally importantly, Blackall's artwork is an excellent focus for this first in the Math and Art series. Speaking as a "layperson" (i. e., a non-critic), I found the work at once playful, reflective, and beautiful.
Another artist, Ha Pham, shared this response to the work:
"I love the visual effect of it. His work takes you into another dimension, into a galaxy somewhere beyond this world. It gives you a psychedelic mystery that draws you into the painting and makes you stare at it, trying to find the end point, but you could never get there---yet you are enthralled by the fact that you can't reach the end point. Above all I admire his dedication, discipline and hard work that he put into this project. He literally had to watch paint dry throughout the whole process!"
If you missed the lovely opening, don't miss this Saturday's Closing Reception, which will feature a slam poetry performance by Matteo Kelly, lead singer/MC of S.N.A.P.M., who has composed a piece in response to Blackall's paintings.
Also on the docket for this weekend is tomorrow's Closing Reception for Sishir Bommakanti's "Friends and Monsters." This talented Ringling student's skillful experiments with portraiture and distortion will be up at the newly renovated Clothesline Gallery, the first in the Gallery's exciting line-up of emerging local artists, coordinated by creative entrepreneurs Austin Kowal (Clothesline owner) and Van Jazmin.
Personally, I'm excited about the upswing of new venues and energy around art in this town---of new faces on the scene, of people eager to see and support their emergence and the creative play going on around how we present and "package" the experience of sharing and viewing human creativity, a.k.a. "art."
What brings you to art shows, or keeps you away?
If you've seen either of these shows, what did you think?
What else have you seen happening locally that excites you?