Saturday, November 6, 2010

Somerville Open Studios 2010: A fun first wander for me!

Spent most of yesterday (once I was functional) at Somerville Open Studios, for the first time. There are maps available on the street in colorful holders at various locations around town. You walk around the town and see various artists' work. It is free to enter all of the exhibition spaces -- whether they be in homes or art centres, there is a free shuttle as well (although we walked -- good exercise but murder on my left knee and feet in the sandals I wore by misjudgement), and many folks have little bowls of munchies. Tashari chose the places we went -- Mike's been before, but he had no preference -- and Mike and I ended up walking not only from home to Davis to meet her, but as far as Union Square, and all over, from noon to 6 or so. Amethystmoon gave us a ride home from our last stop, at a potluck for a new project and teaching space called Artists' Asylum (no website yet) which will have equipment ranging from soldering irons, sewing machines, and jewelry-making tools to a C&C router (they already have the router), drill presses, and the like. Saw bits of Somerville I'd never been to before, and got to visit Reliable Market, a spiffy Korean grocery store, where I got my contributions to the Artists' Asylum potluck (which had lovely food) and Tashari bought me my birthday present, a pair (two sets) of the flat metal Korean chopsticks I've been trying to find again ever since I dated Argonaut (I'll use the code name since none of you will know who he is and he shares a name with someone else I know) back in the spring of 2003.

I intend to visit 1 sometime today, the studio/apartment of friends of Tashari's who live not far from us -- Sydney Hardin (who I've met at Tashari's parties, I suddenly realize) and Eric Herot. It was one of Sydney's works at the Somerville Museum group show that encouraged me to do so -- a painting of Sarah Palin as a blow-up lovedoll against a waving American flag. The workmanship was astounding -- the curves of the plastic painted in a style strongly reminiscent of Lichtenstein, but a content and conception entirely fresh and new (to me at least). I linked her name to her website above--some of the content is, as might be gathered from the URL, entirely NSFW.

Yesterday we visited a tiny fraction of the community-wide exhibition, moving across the map from west to east. If I were rich, I would have bought several pieces. As it is, there are one or two low-priced very small landscapes and gouache pieces I looked at seriously as gifts, but I'm still not sure if I'll get them. Wish we had R with us, he would have enjoyed himself. : (

25 and 26 are right by each other. Tashari sells supplies to many of the people at 26, so she had a fun time talking to them. My favorites there were Kent Vienot, who does cartographically inspired prints with engaging detail and color choices, and Jane Goldman, whose watercolor and printmaking work were, impressively, almost indistingusihable, and who was doing very interesting things with shadows.

Then, because I'd never been before, Sarah brought us to 15, Museum of Modern Renaissance, by Nicholas Shaplyko, and my brains exploded. Besides the obvious influence of Russian church and folkloric art, their most recent pieces have a Mesoamerican influence. Tashari and Mike don't like it very much with the smooth gradients and too many colors, but I was in absolute heaven, and I intend to attend the concert there on May 8 (need to find and double check the flyer) somehow -- Gypsy violinists and dancers + old Masonic hall turned into what feels like a church of art = fun. There are fantastical creatures everywhere, the influence of Russian ikons, of William Blake, and in recent work, as I said of Mesoamerican glyphs and monuments -- everywhere. Delicious. I was enthusing about it for ten minutes after we left.

We proceeded to 43, which I also enjoyed, specifically the work of Bekka Teerlink, who I told about Arisia and Boskone and strongly suggested that she exhibit there, saying "I can see your book on YA sf novels, you could sell to publishers, you really need to get it under editors' eyes" -- and I meant it too. There was a painting that even had the perfect place for a spine to go in its middle, not because it was any less detailed, but just because of its layout. She's the person whose mini-landscapes I wish to buy. Her best work isn't online, but I grabbed a few of her postcards with a truly standout surreal painting of a little blond girl in a frilly pink dress leading an iguana on a leash, standing motionless at the edge of a field full of oil derricks. It is the kind of painting that looks as if it ought to go with a novel; all of her large works are. She is technically skilled but imaginative as well . . . very excited to discover her. Maybe I'll be bad and go back today and get one of those little landscapes, just for me. Yow.

It is around now that it becomes clear that genre work has spoiled me; I tend to get bored by paintings with no fantastical element. Well, I lie because plenty of the work I found interesting or well-executed yesterday isn't fantastical, but a lot of it is . . . strange.

We next visited 55, Bill Chisholm. He is very good at portraying volume and weight; found his avocados (with evocative pallette-knife work), mushrooms, and onions ( good treatment of skin fissures) most satisfying. Had a nip of wine, too, which served to quiet my bothersome knee a bit (I'm a cheap date).

Our next stops was 69, where nothing leapt out at me particularly besides Christine Price Hamilton's beautifully geometric paper lanterns, and the space itself, which is used for theatre and arts activities. It is a lovingly restored old Armory building. For some reason they did the interior in purple. It works.

We proceeded to 71 and 72, The Somerville Museum and the Art-For-All Studio. Only two pieces jumped out at me there -- the one by Syd and a photograph, I don't remember the artist -- Dickey might have been his last name -- with the title "Glamour", with a slightly bent magazine photographed through a chair arm with a blonde wig draped over and near it, giving the impression of a flattened, twisted face -- very Surrealist, and more effective than I make it sound. At 72, standouts included Jen Levatino, Nancy Wood, Nancy Kramer, and Michael Harnett, who doesn't seem to have any of his most impressive work online -- detailed strip paintings which combine a medieval flattening of scale with some Escherian touches. The 3rd on the page I've linked to above hints, but the resolution isn't great. I saw at least two paintings I would have bought if I had the money in his studio. The strong, supple lines in a sketch visible through the narrow door to her corner of the attic drew me toward Jennifer Levatino's muscular, classically inspired work, and her technically accomplished brushwork and surreally costumed characters engaged in metaphorical-feeling activities kept me there for a bit. Of course they're not online, but I loved her sketches and final work with a Greek serpent motif. The most jarring and fascinating of these was a woman (in the middle of a cornfield) treading on said bug-eyed bearded serpent (which appears to be oozing crude oil) in a stance rather reminiscent of Apollo defeating Python, holding a Swiffer mop as Apollo might hold his spear. She is wearing Superman underpants, a faded tshirt, and a kerchief on her head. I wrote down the atparty website address (hadn't had the foresight to bring cards) for Nancy Wood, whose work is mathematically inspired, and one of whose detailed line drawings, a series with spheres, and another painting that reminded me very much of Murakami Ryu's work (this last does not appear to be on her website) all appealed to me. I'm not usually into work like Nancy Kramer's, but her color sense appealed to me.

We only looked at tiny fraction of the work on display in one half of the 66/67 pair better known as Vernon Street Studios, although we did see some folks we know.

Our final stop before proceeding to the Artists' Asylum potluck (in the same space as Arisia Storage, on Windsor Street) was Hilary Scott, who was the artist guest of honor at Arisia a few years back. His family's house is a hoot; I pretty much knew what to expect, and I still enjoy his work, which has been lauded enough that I don't need to go on about it . . . except that unlike seeing his work at Arisia, seeing his garage workshop made me itch to make things in a hopeful way. I think this impulse will bear fruit in the next year, and I bless him for it. Seeing older work and work-in-progress, discovering that he was self-taught, and his willingness to explain what materials he used to make several of his sculptures inspired me. There are people whose enthusiasm and positive outlook are infectious . . . ( :

From his place we walked to the potluck (I need to get back to Reliable Market). Our travels also laid the foundation for further artistic explorations in the area -- Tashari said she'd never been to the deCordova Museum (same thing with some of the folks I know at Gambit, startlingly) and Hilary Scott has a show on at the Higgins Armory which I have wanted to go see for a while . . .

I think I shall make Somerville Open Studios (both days and better shoes, next time) a tradition. Yowza. I feel motivated to make art again, and not just to fill compo categories either.

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