Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Open Studio Tour

I like the annual open studio tour. It gives me a chance to poke around an artists' studio, see their naked work and ask enveloping questions without feeling I am being intrusive or infringing upon their time. I also have a specific interest because I need a studio and am trying to figure out how to get one. With this in mind, I started by visiting the one I most covet. Located in on Olive in the east of U-City, it is recently developed and owned by Sheldon Johnson. Sheldon paints, primarily abstract but also some landscapes, building with layers and textures, experimenting with different paints. He has been renting space and shopping for his studio for three years. It must have been crowded because his new studio of 3000 sq ft has all of the walls covered with his work. He rents some of the space to other artists. Sheldon did caution that the U-City inspectors were picky. That’s a mixed blessing in that it can be a real pain but can also keep an area nice. Sheldon’s art is available at the Gateway Gallery.

Next, we headed to the Hill. Had lunch, of course, and went to the gallery of Gary Mitchell. Gary does hammered aluminum sculptures of a scale maybe 2x. They are fairly large, mostly of women’s torsos. He had five of them on display in an empty first floor apartment. During the tour, we were joined by young painter, a twinkling Iranian from Kentucky who found Gary’s work of special interest. Gary explained a bit about the process in his basement studio. He starts with a model made of oil based clay. I found it interesting this clay doesn’t dry. It can be reworked and refined. From the model, he lays out a grid work and builds a full size armature from plywood. Not solid, but more like cubed up. From there, he shapes the aluminum by hammering it on an anvil and rivets it together. Since it is large, his work is often displayed outdoors in sculpture parks.

Stopped by Evil Prints. It’s second floor front office was nice with many young printmakers working throughout. Walls covered with interesting prints. Kitchen, lounge chairs. Cool and comfortable. A feeling of community. The back was more industrial. Good light but hot in July. Still, lots of room, clean and neat. It was nice to meet printmaker, Thomas Huck and watch him carve on the plate for his next print. It is large ( maybe 2’x6’?) It took two weeks to draw and will take several months to cut.

The Luminary Center for the Arts has interesting possibilities. It is a community based group located in a former convent. The studio spaces are made from the former sleeping quarters. A bit small but the interesting part is that many artists could work together. I believe they offer open studio sessions for the general public several days a week. Even some talk of music. There are also community rooms, including the former chapel, which are quite lovely. This is a new project, not quite going yet but great potential.

The final stop was the most engaging, the studio of painter, Laura Beard. Friendly and knowledgeable, she was generous in sharing information. She spoke of other studios to visit, other painters to observe and of her recent and I think successful show at Perimeter Gallery in Chicago. She also has access to reasonably priced and locally made high quality stretchers.

Her studio is a residential storefront with very large arched windows. Inside, they were covered with a frosted white diffusion panel providing abundant soft light. It is one large room with partial petitions for hanging each separate work. This is relevant as she works fairly large. This is all interesting but it was the art it that made this stop important. Laura paints large “non representational” work. I think I shall just describe it as “indescribably beautiful” and leave it at that. Locally, she is represented by Bruno David Gallery and will be showing in the next group show.

Finally, I had a chance to visit Mark Pappas’ studio last week. It wasn’t on the tour but it is one of the coolest studios in town. It is a converted Carnage library, brick and carved stone. Into the corner of the building are carved the words “Art” and “Music”. Mark is also a musician. It has two levels allowing the main floor for painting and the lower auditorium for music. We gathered there last week to paint. As I mentioned, I am looking for studio space if you know of any. More on what I need at my website: http://www.photoimage.com


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