Homegrown talent takes center stage in March

03/04/2009, 5:11 pm by Richard Anderson
photo by David Swift via the Art Association website

Center for the Arts photo by David Swift via the Art Association website

Local artists take over the ArtSpace Galleries at the Center for the Arts in March, with four Art Association shows honoring homegrown talent.

Openings start on March 6 in the ArtSpace Loft with “Photography to an Exhibit,” the final exam, of sorts, for a class led by the Art Association’s Jon Stuart in which four valley shooters produced new work, selected images to display via a jurying process, and orchestrated all stages of the culminating display.

On March 13, the Art Association will host a grand opening reception for three other locals’ shows: “Consequences of the Exquisite Corpse,” an invitational surrealist art game curated by Bronwyn Minton, in the ArtSpace Main Gallery; a “Kids Only” exhibition set for the ArtSpace Lobby Gallery; and a Print Studio Show and Sale, a fundraiser for the Art Association’s print program, to hang in the ArtSpace Theater Lobby.

Both opening receptions start at 5:30 p.m.

Photography to an Exhibit
The four photographers who signed up for Jon Stuart’s class last November are a varied lot.

Kristina Loggia is a professional shooter whose work has appeared in Time, Spin, Detour, ESPN and Fortune magazines. Nancy McCarthy studied graphic arts at the Pratt Institute a while back and has picked up and put down her camera many times over the past 20 years. Laura McWethy considers herself a serious amateur whose interest in photography has likewise come and gone, though she’s taken quite a few classes recently. And Jeffrey Kaphan still isn’t sure he considers himself a photographer.

As expected, their individual artistic sensibilities cause their lenses to be turned toward disparate and wide-ranging subjects. How, then, might one go about curating a coherent and cohesive exhibition of images by four unique personalities? That was part of the challenge of Stuart’s class, descriptively titled “Photography to an Exhibition.”

Convened in mid November 2008, the quartet has been meeting weekly ever since, first to look at and discuss each other’s existing body of work, then to go forth and produce new images, then to choose eight frames per student to hang in the ArtSpace Loft Gallery.

“That took a couple weeks,” Kaphan, a goldsmith by profession, said of the selection process. Each shooter presented perhaps 24 to 30 images, and then had to sit quietly while the other three pored over them. Sometimes, Stuart helped the group, urging it, for example, to consider how the entire collection would work together, rather than making selections based on individual images.

“That was very enlightening,” said McCarthy. “We were told to choose photographs that flowed, photos that went well together, not necessarily the photos we liked the best.”

In each photographer’s case, the group’s selections did not match 100 percent the individual’s favorites. McWethy said perhaps 80 percent of her favorites made the cut. Kaphan guessed the average was more like 25 to 50 percent.

“I think each of us were biting our lip,” McWethy said, though she readily conceded that was part of the point of the exercise. “It’s important having an objective person. You always have your favorite, but that isn’t necessarily appropriate for the whole grouping. … That was one of Jon’s points: Your favorite is not always the one that fits in with the show.”

Kaphan observed that, as a goldsmith, he has often made a piece and fallen in love with it only to have it languish on the rack for months. Conversely, pieces he was not especially excited about have walked out the door in a few days. “It’s similar with photography. Sometimes you get a little more emotionally attached to something. That doesn’t mean that when someone else looks at it, they have the same feeling.”

“You’ve just got to let go,” Loggia concluded. “I was willing to go with that, and I think, when they’re all together, they’ll all work.”

That final step – arranging the 32 images on the walls of the Loft Gallery – will be taken next week, along with promoting the event, sending out invitations, laying in a store of wine and cheese, and playing host to the March 6 opening.

Exquisite Corpse photo courtesy of the Center for the Arts

"Exquisite Corpse" courtesy of the Center for the Arts

Consequences of the Exquisite Corpse
This spring’s ArtSpace Main Gallery show has Bronwyn Minton’s fingerprints all over it.

An award-winning artist, adult outreach coordinator for the National Museum of Wildlife Art, and past curator of several fun, fascinating, collaborative Art Association exhibitions over the years, Minton has for this event enlisted the assistance of more than 60 local artists for a round of Exquisite Corpse. Adopted by the Surrealists in the early 20th century, the game involves dividing a piece of paper into sections – sometimes by folding it, in this case by cutting it – and having a different artist (or “mortician” as some surrealist wag put it) draw a different part of a human form. The first, in other words, would draw a head and neck – extending the lines of the neck to the next section so the next artist would know where to start his shoulders and torso – and so forth down to the feet. Or some other bottom-most appendage: Being surrealists, the artists – among them some of the most famous and infamous figures of the movement – took great liberties with their assigned body section, resulting in heads attached to ironing boards and dressers with chicken feet.

“I love Exquisite Corpse, and I love to look at them,” Minton said. She’s been playing the game since she was a child. “My mom used to play with my brother and me when I was really little when she was trying to keep us occupied – playing in airports when a plane was delayed or to pass time, trying to keep two kids entertained.” Minton also played it in college with friends, both the artistic and the written versions, which actually is the how the game started in the 19th century with the name “Consequences.”

“I had this idea for a few years that it would be really fun to play it as a community,” she continued, “because that’s what these shows I end up curating end up being – community events.”

Mark Nowlin at Master’s Studio donated “a ton of nice drawing paper” and Bronwyn took some large pieces, separated them into four parts, added registration marks – where necks would meet shoulders, etc. – and sent them out to about 60 artists in the valley, including Amy Larkin, Ben Roth, David Gottfried, Emily Boespflug, George Leys, Kathy Turner, Laurie Thal, Lucinda Abbe, Barbara Trentham, Lyndsay McCandless, Cary Tijerina, Susan Thulin and dozens of others. In some cases, the co-artists knew each other; in other cases, they didn’t. Once reassembled, the corpses will range in size from five and a half to 14 feet tall. In nearly every case, the results are bound to be funny, stunning, striking, disturbing, weird, ugly and/or fascinating.

To the original Surrealists, the results supposedly captured the “unconscious reality in the personality of the group,” as one artist of the time, Nicolas Calas, put it. Minton points out she and her fellow morticians are playing their game in a time that is very different from Calas and his cohorts. “We are doing it with a whole bunch of history in our pockets, in our psyches,” which ought to yield very different results.

More importantly, however, “playing a game with a bunch of other people and not knowing the outcome or how you fit into it [is] fun,” she said, and freeing. “Collaborating also can be a hard thing to do with artists unless you know them really well, but this a nice way to get people together and have them feel free enough and also maybe working in a medium that is not their main medium. I think it’s freeing for people.”

A print from the Recession Proof sale at the Center for the Arts

A print from the Recession Proof sale at the Center for the Arts, March 13

Print Studio Show and Sale
The Art Association’s Borshell Drawing Studio has always been one of the sleepier corners of the otherwise bustling Center for the Arts. Despite its commanding view of south Jackson and Snow King Mountain, the spacious, open room on the third floor of the Arts and Education Pavilion often feels forgotten.

But now Travis Walker and a handful of refugees from his art co-op, the Teton ArtLab, have found a new headquarters there, giving Walker’s experiment a new charge, and bringing life and activity to the studio. Starting March 1, Walker and seven or eight of his ArtLab cohorts will take the wheel of the studio, offering affordable studio space for artists who, if not quite starving, are at least hungry for the sustenance of regular interaction with like-minded creative types.

To rededicate the space, raise awareness about the changes, and maybe even raise a little money for Borshell Studio activities, the Art Association will host a Print Show and Sale in the Center Theater Lobby on March 13. Organized by Clint Green, the Art Association’s studio manager, the exhibit has been dubbed “Recession Proof” as a nod to hard-working artists who refuse to let a little thing like a teetering economy get in the way of their passions.

“We’re trying to take the negative energy of these hard times and make it positive,” Green said. “Artists are still working and being creative, even as the pillars are faltering.”

Green and Walker are two of eight artists who will display up to three works each in the ArtSpace Theater Gallery. Joining them will be David Gottfried (one of the few frequenters of the Borshell Studio) Ben Roth (also a well-known Art Association stalwart), Tom Woodhouse (who just about lives in the Painting Studio, just down the hall from Borshell), Megan Fitz, Rachel Kunkle Hartz and A.J. Best. The eight printmakers are expected to turn their talents on a wide variety of subject matter and to use a variety of printing techniques, from tried-and-true intaglio methods to graffiti-esque stenciling.

Green’s work for the show juxtaposes Newport, R.I., -style mansions – apt symbols for the old economic order – with “For Sale” signs, errant cattle and shabby touches of neglect. Gottfried’s large prints are bright and colorful cathedral-like structures of geometry and depth.

“We’ll try to do an annual print-making show,” Green said, “and make it a fundraiser for the Art Association’s printmaking program.”

Kids Only Show
Why should your refrigerator get all the glory? Drop off artwork by your burgeoning young artists aged 18 months to 18 years and share it with the rest of Jackson Hole in the Art Association’s “Kids Only” show.

Work by Art Association members or students who are currently enrolled in an Art Association class or who have taken one at any time in the past is welcome. It will hang – at just the right eye level for young art appreciators – in the ArtSpace Lobby Gallery starting March 13.

Submissions are due by March 9. Call the Art Association at 733-6379 for additional details.

(This acticle previously appeared in the Center for the Arts’ newsletter. It is used with the author’s permission.)

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