ArtPrize 2014: You're Disturbing, You're Delicate

As I mentioned in last week's ArtPrize post, during this year's competition, I've been careful to pay attention to themes in the art.

Today, let's look at the themes I see in four more entries: "Family Room; Lineage," by Chris LaPorte; "Gun powder and the fall of the Samurai," by Kevin O'Rourke; "Snow," by Gloria McRoberts; and "The Artist," by Cassandra Swierenga.

Hey, that's disturbing, but I can't look away

Exhibit A: "Family Room; Lineage"

"Family Room; Lineage," by Chris LaPorte

If you visit the Women's City Club, and you make it through the maze, you'll see a large pencil drawing by ArtPrize 2010 winner Chris LaPorte. It's on the back wall on the right side of the partition, and it takes up almost the whole wall.

I wasn't that interested in this drawing at first; it's called "Family Room; Lineage" and, on the surface, it just looks like a turn-of-the-20th-century family posing for a portrait in their drawing room. 

If you look at it from a certain angle, though, you'll notice a ghost lurking off to the side in the shadows. And if you look at each family member's face, one at a time, you'll notice they have pretty eerie expressions. The mom looks anguished. The dad looks smug. The kids look haunted.

I had to go back and look at it one more than once after the first viewing to catch all of its nuances. It's part Gothic horror, part historical commentary, part family drama.

Another thing I noticed is that the drawing is different in its Women's City Club iteration than it is on the ArtPrize website, which is the image I included above. If you see it in person, the two side panels and the thread connecting all the children aren't on display.

I think that's a shame, because the thread binding the generations was one of the most interesting aspects of the piece as described in LaPorte's artist's statement. I'm guessing the original image was a sketch of how he planned for it to look once finished, but he either didn't have enough time to finish it, there wasn't room for the side panels at WCC, or he decided to take the artwork in a different direction after he'd submitted the sketch for his ArtPrize page. I'm leaning toward the latter, because his original artist's statement is not included next to the drawing when you see it in person.

Either way, go see this piece and let me know what you think.

Exhibit B: "Gun powder and the fall of the Samurai."

"Gun powder and the fall of the Samurai," by Kevin O'Rourke

This is a 2-D, black-and-white linoleum block print on display next to Chris LaPorte's drawing. I hope ArtPrize visitors, who often get excited to see past winners' entries, take the time to look at this smaller neighboring entry, because there's a lot to see here.

O'Rourke's bread and butter as a graphic designer has been in creating rock concert posters, so I think it's cool he's able to successfully transfer that skill to fine art forms and tackle darker topics.

His style reminds me of an illustrated version of George MacDonald's "At the Back of the North Wind," a children's novella I read in my early teen years. Combined with the fact O'Rourke's subject matter is about the death of a warrior class after the advent of explosives, and you've got a piece that draws me in and keeps me looking for more clues about motivations and cause and effect.

I like to know as much as possible about artists' sources. If any of you were able to talk with O'Rourke about his block print, I'd love to hear what you gleaned from him.

Delicate and intricate art work

Exhibit A: "Snow" 

"Snow," by Gloria McRoberts

Besides the "disturbing" theme mentioned above, I also saw a lot of pieces at Women's City Club that I'd classify as delicate. This fiber arts 3-D weaving by artist Gloria McRoberts was one.

McRoberts' work made the memory of snow — on what was an almost 80-degree late September day, a rarity in Michigan — seem soothing, romantic, calming and appealing. Her leafless trees seem to leap off the background, and I could imagine myself as a hiker, wandering in that wood, among those trees, lost in the beauty of nature.

Exhibit B: "The Artist," by Cassandra Swierenga

"The Artist," by Cassandra Swierenga

I love the color, detail and texture of this oil on canvas painting by Cassandra Swierenga. It's a portrait of the artist's mother sitting outside the Art Institute in Chicago on a sunny June day. 

Swierenga said in her artist's statement that she was able to create the textures in the folds of her mother's dress by "sculpting the paint onto the canvas using a palette knife and adding layers of color with a brush." I like to imagine that painstaking process in my mind's eye, so I'm thankful she saw fit to include her technique on the statement. I always wonder about things like that when I'm viewing a painting.

I also wonder if she captured the moment she portrays by taking a photograph to use as a reference point later, or, if, as I heard from another artist one time, she has a near-photographic memory and simply took a mental snapshot. How could she recall the colors, lighting, body language and clothing details on demand later? I greatly revere that ability, since it is not something I possess myself.

Share your favorites

Have you seen anything disturbing or delicate at ArtPrize this year? I'd love to hear your perspective on it. Leave me a comment below or over at my Facebook Community page.

You may also like

No comments: