Sunday, October 30, 2011

A View of the World Unclothed

(To learn more about the "Viewfinder Project" see the original post.)

Rarely do most of us scrutinize a person's features beyond passing glances much less get a good look at a person unclothed. An essential aspect of drawing the figure from life is an intense study of form. Figure drawing is challenging in part because of judgements about proportions and shape. If the draftsman's observations are off, then the rendering will look less like the model. Figure drawing is also one of the few opportunities to see the human body in an unobscured or unmediated way. After one draws from the figure it becomes easier to imagine or invent figures based on this study.

Heyd Fontenot's "Viewfinder", Paul Sitting On His Feet, 6 by 4 1/4 inches, Ink, 2006

Heyd Fontenot and Brian Jermusyk present a view of life unclothed. However, their work transcends mere study. Both artists offer a commentary on the way we live and the way we choose to see ourselves. They also use a comic style that mixes seriousness with humor. Fontenot will often draw and paint the unclothed figure coupled with animal counterparts. He also emphasizes the relationship between facial expressions and pose revealing a range of raw emotions such as surprise, boredom, disgust, and ecstasy. In the image Hyde sent to me (seen above) the figure appears to turn his head to the viewer, with a coy knowing look, while shifting the body to emphasize his back. Like old Hollywood movies there is mystery; we think we know what is there but we can not see everything.

Brian Jermusyk,"Viewfinder", 4 1/4 by 6 inches, Graphite, 2006

Brian Jermusyk has worked on a series called The “T” Drawings which are informed and influenced by reading the published diaries of Kenneth Tynan. Jermusyk presents a complex view of the sexual being. Sex brings pleasure but attached are inevitable psychological and at times physical costs. Many of these drawings depict a seductive cycle of birth, life, and death all in the same image. When Jermusyk places these stages in close proximity a mixture of pain, pleasure, and anxiety feel palpable.

The drawing seen above seems to be a beginning piece to a narrative. This drawing appears to depict the curiosity found in recognizing another's form as sensual. Given connections both in terms of subject and approach to other drawings included in the "T" series, the assumed result of this encounter point toward a scene of a birth amidst a specter of death. Although the idea of death can not be separated from birth, the latter drawings mentioned serves as a reminder of how dangerous birthing has been (and still is in certain parts of the world) to both mother and child.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Steve Keister's View to the South and East

(To learn more about the "Viewfinder Project" see the original post.)

Recently, I finished reading the Hermann Hesse novel Journey to the East. There is an unassuming and mysterious character in this book named Leo. He turns out to be a person of utmost importance. Steve Keister reminded me a bit of this character. I worked with Steve for several years at Princeton University and I have always felt a certain balance and kindness about about him (his importance was always apparent to me).

Steve Keister grew up in "Amish Country" (Lancaster PA). However, I feel his view has been consistently directed beyond the local (I suspect in order to explore the larger world and see it in a personal way). Keister spent time in Rome as an undergraduate student and later completed his Master of Fine Art degree there as well. Since the late 1970's Keister's work has been inspired by a study of pre-Columbian artwork and he has made numerous trips to Mexico.

Steve Keister, Skull Plaque III, Ceramic, 2010

What is fascinating about Steve is how he is able to see possibilities and look outward not only in a geographic, and historical way, but also in a material way. I was amazed to learn that Steve started out as a painter, became a sculptor, and then a ceramist. These changes don't seem tentative, he set out for knowledge and a mastery.

Steve Keister, Viewfinder, 6 by 4 1/4 inches,  Paint on Paper, 2006  

One aspect I fine most compelling about Keister's work is how it skews a modernist time line of artistic advancement by pointing out cubist techniques often overlooked in the genius of earlier graphic and “craft” based works. Perhaps this ancient work did not get the attention it deserved because it's exaggerations and graphic nature often pointed to humor rather than an overt seriousness. A wry sense of humor is apparent in Steve's work. It is a subtle humor (without a punch line) related to the way one can see the world and choose to smile. It is the kind perspective one would imagine a Buddhist monk chuckling about. This leads me to believe (returning to my earlier connection with Hermann Hesse) that Steve Keister has also already made a “Journey to the East”.

For more about Steve Keister's work visit his website also take a look at information about his exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A View of the People by Shelley Spector

(To learn more about the "Viewfinder Project" see the original post.)

Shelley Spector's "Viewfinder" reminded me of the the Occupy Wall Street movement. It is about ordinary people joining to do something bigger than themselves. I was heartened to read an article in the L.A. Times about how the Occupy Wall Street protesters are generally unexcited about celebrities coming to the protest and making a spectacle. They are concerned that their message (broadly defining problems of income disparity) may be co-opted and used for personal gain. Because Spector's method appears direct she is able to create an image that feels like a spontaneous gathering and event comprised locals (similar to the assembly in New York). Hopefully, the Occupy Wall Street movement will be able to maintain a sense of independence and truly represent the people. This responsibility, much like the human tower depicted, is a tall order.

Shelley Spector, "Viewfinder", 6" x 4 1/4", 2006

For more information visit Shelly Spector's website. Shelley has also created a website called Art Jaw that fosters first hand accounts about the art community in Philadelphia.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

J. Todd Allison and Joe Moccia: Views From Another World

(To learn more about the "Viewfinder Project" see the original post.)

Since I was young, I have been interested in stories about how a distant world may come in contact with our everyday life. Recently, I read a book by Gary Lachman about the German spiritual leader and philosopher Rudolf Steiner. At a certain point in the biography Steiner receives hidden knowledge from a person identified as the "Master". One gets the feeling this mysterious person is either part fiction or comes from a different dimension. It has also been intriguing to hear a recent interview on NPR with physicist Brian Greene who discusses the possibility of parallel universes. Although Greene speaks about plausible science and does not indicate how parallel universes may interact, at the very least his discussion allowed me feel as if my intuition has some connection (if not distant) with concrete data. These visceral feelings are related to the way that art is able to revealed worlds that exist beyond our humdrum routines.

J. Todd Allison, "Viewfinder", 6" x 4 1/4", 2006

Both J. Todd Allison and Joe Moccia sent me "Viewfinders" that point to uncharted worlds. Allison's painting (seen above) seems to combine body organs with mechanical parts and what looks to me like a woodpecker. All of this occurs amidst floating bubbles and a blue background. I can't help but feel like this is an interior scene and this is a world within a larger body. In this regard, I thought of the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage. In this film individuals are miniaturized and travel through a human body.

Joe Moccia is a graphic designer who now works with motion graphics in the Washington D.C. area. However, when I was getting to know Joe he had an obsession with robots (he is also a bit of an inventor). His painting/ pen and ink drawing (seen below) seems to be an extension of his interest in science fiction. The strange cloud made with iridescent paint appears to be an alien life form or U.F.O. that can shift shape.

Joe Moccia, "Viewfinder", 6" x 4 1/4", 2006