Cathy Breslaw's Installation

Cathy Breslaw's Installation
Cathy Breslaw's Installation:Dreamscape

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The San Diego Art Institute Regional Awards Exhibition Sparks Some Memorable Works

The San Diego Art Institute’s current Southern California Regional Awards Exhibition is a large display of ninety works, selected from 360 entries by judge, Deborah Klochko, Executive Director of the Museum of Photographic Arts. The exhibition is a combination of painting, sculpture, drawings, photography, monotype and assemblage. As it is with many open call competitions, quality and technical skill of the artists included varies greatly, but several works emerge as standouts.

Artist Diane Brunner’s sculptural work “Be Fabulous - Don’t Let One Thing Ruin Your Life”, is a charming mixed media piece portraying a ton of small paper maiche human figures, signs and messages, animals, boats, buildings and the ocean- all crowded into a small space. The work creates the sense of the bustling,lively activity of the San Diego harbor during tourist season - all seemingly sliding off of a somewhat vertical plane. The piece is protected by a clear acrylic frame. Warren Bakley’s “Relic”, a quietly compelling clay stoneware wall sculpture, portrays an abstract-like figure of a man in neutral gray-black tones. The face, which curiously has no features, almost seems to be melting or burning however the gesture of the figure appears stoic. The figure’s abstract forms create the feeling of a traveler dressed from an earlier era in time. “The Dream I Had Today”, an assemblage by artist Michael McAlister, is a wall piece - a small black chest housing a white skull-like object, stone, cork, photograph, and medicine bottle. A serpent-like head sits atop the chest leaving the viewer to wonder what personal story that snake might tell if he could talk. Cheryl Griffith’s “Hope”, a monotype with dry point which received a merit award, is a personal and charming tribute to the idea of “hope”. It portrays a young boy’s head looking out sideways with a bluebird perched on his head. A quote about “hope” by Emily Dickinson is printed prominently across the figure, seemingly indicating Griffith’s heartfelt thoughts about “hope”. The quietly present and smaller work “Floating City”, by Brandon Holmes, is a well crafted detailed realistic graphite drawing portraying Romanesque buildings, eighteenth century sailing vessels and three figures holding up some of the buildings. This fantastical drawing appears to be structured around the front end of a ship suggesting a mythological story that only the artist knows. Across a vertically painted gray wall, artist Judith Parenio exhibits “Pollen”, a well designed sculptural work made of several hexagonal wooden/encaustic elements referring to shapes in a honeycomb. Bats, birds, bees, and plants are the subject matter suggesting Parenio’s obvious love of nature. “Modern Woman Story” by Bhavna Mehta, is a black paper-cut work attached to a framed white background. As a traditional Indian art form spanning hundreds of years, this piece follows well In this traditions’ footsteps. Mehta depicts a personal journey of childhood symbols- kites, daisies, a girl playing basketball and reading a biology book. In the category of painting, there were three pieces of note by Eva D’Amico, John Brodie and Lauren Carrerera. D’Amico’s “Protecting Innocence”, refers to impressionistic painting whose subject of a young girl sleeping, intermingles with branches of a tree. This acrylic painting with a beautifully limited color palette expresses the artist’s love of movement and form. John Brodie’s “Fabulous Beast of Uncertain Returns”, is a boldly colored acrylic painting on clear polyester that seems to reference African masks and female symbols. Wildly expressed forms, brushwork and colors are curiously set against the backdrop of a formal abstract composition. Last, but not least, “The Audition” by Lauren Carrera, is a large abstract oil painting which is reminiscent of color field painting. It is a subtle mixture of turquoises, warm tones and burnt oranges in an overall tiny quilt-like pattern, like a blanket covering us in the fall season.

This exhibition runs through May 13th
                                                                                  Judith Parenio,   "Pollen"   mixed media/encaustic

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gallery Director, Steven Hoover discusses everything from how he became a gallery director to what gallery directors look for in selecting artists for exhibition exhibition

Conversation With Steven Hoover, Gallery Director, Main Art Gallery, Kishwaukee College
1)      Can you briefly talk about your time at Kishwaukee College and how the gallery directing part works? (were you hired as instructor, then gallery dir? ) I was first hired as the Gallery Director at Kishwaukee College and teach classes when instructors are in need. The main focus of my position is to find qualified artists to fill the calendar school year with a diverse group of artists.  The exhibition schedule typically consists of displaying artwork in Kish student exhibitions, faculty shows, and solo and/or group exhibitions of emerging as well as established artists.  The day-to-day activities are always somewhat different.  I oversee the permanent art collection, establish insurance coverage on all visiting artists artwork, install and uninstall exhibitions, supervise student employees, manage the inventory, balance the budget, participate in committee(s) work, and regularly communicate with the art gallery committee, catering, printing, marketing, students, faculty, administration, and the artists.

2)      Can you talk about your background and how you developed your passion for art? Will you include your educational background and experience That is an interesting question due to the fact that I am a late bloomer in the art world.  Out of high school I first went to school for Marketing.  After earning my degree in 1996, I started my career in finance as a mortgage broker.  Completely unhappy with my career choices, I walked out of my office one Friday afternoon, drove to the nearest university, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and enrolled in classes.  The following week I started my first class with no plan other than to follow my heart.  Long story short, I earned my BFA in Painting and Drawing and decided to continue my education at Northern Illinois University where I earned my MFA in Painting in 2011.  (My CV is on my website is one semester behind, but mostly current.)

3)      What is your vision and intent for the gallery? How does that connect w/ your teaching?
To achieve my vision I need to get as many people in the gallery as possible.  I have reached out to all students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community.  There seems to be this misconception that art galleries are like museums or libraries.  I believe an art gallery should have a sense of energy, or life when an individual walks through the door.  It is a place for people to meet and speak freely.  I have promoted the gallery as a place to hold meetings, read a book, have lunch, hang out, etc.  The art gallery is a public space for the Kishwaukee College community to use for a variety of reasons.  It is important to me that visitors think of the gallery as an easygoing, fun place to be that can also be a thought-provoking environment that stimulates conversation. 
My commitment to displaying a diverse amount of work will teach people that art comes in many different forms, aesthetically and conceptually.  My vision is to include everyone and encourage people to have an opinion.  It’s all about promoting conversation, critical thinking, and changing the perception of what an art gallery is. Ultimately, I want to educate people on the significance of art.

4)      What have been your biggest challenges as gallery director? My biggest challenges as gallery director change from day to day.  At the moment, things are running smoothly.  Kishwaukee College has been wonderful in dedicating funding to the art gallery.  In fact, new construction for an art gallery will begin in fall of 2012.  My biggest challenge is to make the right decisions now to make sure there are not any regrets five years from now.

5)      What are you looking for in terms of the artists you select for exhibition at your gallery?
When reviewing potential artists for exhibitions, I look for the potential impact an artist will have on the diverse student population.  The art should, to a certain degree, be professional, educational, and interesting.  It has to persuade gallery visitation and induce curiosity.  As I previously mentioned, I want to welcome all people to enter the gallery and talk about the art.    

6) What support or assistance does the college give you in the practical running of the Gallery and also in getting the word out to community and students?
 The school has an in-house print shop where I can print promotional material inexpensively.  The Marketing Department does a great job at sending out announcements to Kishwaukee College employees, local newspapers, and radio stations.  Kishwaukee College is committed to offering a well-rounded educational experience for all students.  Assistance is only a phone call away whenever I am in need of something.    

7) What experience do you think visitors walk away with after visiting the gallery?The visitors will hopefully have a completely different experience every time they visit the gallery.  Ideally, visitors will leave with an assorted amount of thoughts and questions about what they have just witnessed.  I want them to tell others and think about coming back to visit the gallery again.  For opening receptions I have broken away from the traditional veggie tray and stale crackers and cater in hot pretzels, pizza, and other “fun” foods and beverages for the visitors to enjoy.  I also try to get people to bring their children to add more life to the crowd.      

8) What do you look for when viewing an artist’s portfolio? The first thing I do is ask myself if I have seen this before.  I am not interested in bringing work that is too comfortable or too readily available.  That does not mean it needs to have vulgar shock value, but the work does need to have some level of pop.  The artwork should create curiosity and interest.  It must stimulate feeling, thought, and conversation.   

9) If you could give any advice to artists seeking a gallery exhibition, what would it be? There are three main approaches to seeking a gallery exhibition.  One- Go to artist resource websites that post calls for artists.  A simple google search with keep you busy for hours.  Two- Randomly send out professional packets, however, that can get expensive.  Three- Networking, networking, and more networking.  For the 2012-13 school year Kishwaukee College will have eight exhibitions.  There will be two student exhibitions and one faculty.  Of the five remaining exhibitions, two are from website submissions, two are from word of mouth, and the last one (still in the works) is borrowed from a neighboring university’s permanent collection.
When sending out submissions have a professional packet (CV, artist statement, written proposal of exhibition) with professional quality images.  Most will ask for digital files, which is great for expense and ease of submission.  If the artist is responding to call for artists, they need to follow the guidelines for submission or it may not even get looked at.  Keep in mind, presenting the work professionally lets the gallery know the artist takes their work seriously. 
One last comment, people ask me what is meant by the written proposal. This is different from the artist statement, but may have much of the same material in it.  Explain what pieces will be shown and why they work together.  What will the show “say?”  Let the gallery know you have put together a cohesive body of work that is worthy of a solo exhibition.  It’s all about having confidence, or at least faking it!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Behind the Scenes Conversations...

As an artist, I am always curious about what gallery directors, curators and other exhibition decision-makers are thinking when they are looking for artists and their work and what makes their art venues tick. It is the topic of many a conversation between artists when they congregate together. Personally, I am also interested in the backgrounds of these folks – how they developed their passion for art and how they ended up in the art world. I thought it would be helpful to get some answers to these questions and to share them with my fellow artists, collectors and other art afficianados. The following article is the result of an interview I recently had with Joy Reed Belt, Ph.D., owner and operator of JRB Art at the Elms Gallery in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. My recent exhibition at JRB Gallery gave me the opportunity to get to know Joy and have my questions answered. Joy’s gallery is a wonderful example of a successful gallery that is well respected by artists, curators and patrons of Oklahoma. JRB is the largest and most known contemporary art gallery in that state. I hope you will enjoy the ‘ interview’ article and look for more to come….

Interview with Joy Reed Belt Ph.D., gallery owner, JRB Art at the Elms, Oklahoma City, OK
“Joy, I need 30 minutes in your gallery before I have to go back to work.” This is how one man, an Oklahoma City surgeon and frequent visitor to JRB Gallery at the Elms, expressed it. Having personally attended my recent opening at Joy Reed Belt’s gallery, I can confirm that this gentleman is not alone in his enthusiasm and support of the art, artists and gallery that Joy has developed since its opening in 2002. Most conversations at gallery openings revolve around an artists’ work as visitors sip wine and munch on h’or doerves. Not so, at JRB at the Elms. Comments like “This is the best gallery in Oklahoma” or “We visit every month to visit with Joy and see what new work she has found” are only a few that I recall. As an exhibiting artist, it was wonderful to hear that the gallery to which I had entrusted my work, had such a profound impact on its visitors. The sheer numbers of people I observed that evening in the El Paseo Art District’s First Friday was also remarkable.

This week I had the opportunity to interview Joy Reed Belt when she graciously offered her time to talk to me via phone, about her gallery, background and points of view on art, artists and a bit of her philosophy of life. In learning of her background, I found that Reed Belt holds a masters degree in Humanities, and a Business and Psychology, and that prior to ownership of the art gallery, she had an internadtional Human Resources Consulting business for many years. Also of note, is the fact that Joy holds a BA in Theater Arts and had also worked for the National Endowment for the Arts writing grants for artists.

Reed Belt’s life changed when her husband John Belt, an avid art lover himself, prodded her to spend more time in Oklahoma City taking painting classes. She didn’t quite know where that would lead, but she followed his advice. As a result, Joy met several artists, rented a studio and eventually started representing artists and selling their work. The gallery which is part of the El Paseo Arts District, was remodeled and JRB Art at the Elms Gallery was born.

Reed Belt said “I grew up loving the arts” so it is no surprise that together with her educational background and business experience, owning an art gallery could be a logical next step in her career life. Joy says she “loves selling art” and she followed up by saying “(Art) It deserves to live even if nobody buys it…”Art” is a continuation of civilization.” The gallery which she calls the “third act” in her career, and as she reflects, this third act “often comes more from your interests than your skills”.

Joy told me that her 8,000 sq. ft. gallery space, makes it the largest commercial gallery in Oklahoma, showing work primarily from her state as well as some regional and national artists. Her goal is to bring more recognition to Oklahoma artists and to become more well known as a regional gallery. Reed Belt added: “I want to continue to push the envelope and expose people to more contemporary art as an option for them”.

Joy takes her visitors seriously, commenting “I want people to come and enjoy the gallery and I take pleasure in explaining artists work and I want them to value the art.” When asked about what advice she might have for artists seeking gallery exhibitions she had a lot to say. Most importantly, she noted that it is critical for artists to have good images of their work and that artists should make no apologies that “the work looks better in person”. Artists should do some “detective” work prior to contacting the gallery to be sure their work fits with the aesthetic of the gallery. Reed Belt stated that she not only has to “connect” with the artist’s work, but that she has to know that she can work with that artist - “If I sense that they are scattered or can’t meet deadlines, I can’t work with them”. She says she strives for the “right mix” - to show an eclectic group rather than showing artists work that might compete with others. Joy also says she looks for artists whose work is “distinctive”, and that “it is unusual in its own category”. Finally, she rather be approached professionally with a mailing of images rather than an artist “pulling up in a truck with samples of their work”. Yes, she says this does happen!