Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Artists' Studio Tour Sponsored by Lee County Alliance for the Arts

The thought of picking up a paint brush with the intention of creating a work of art strikes fear in my heart.   My friend Michelle teaches art classes, and she literally starts her first class with a tutorial on how to hold a brush.  (From talking with her, the analogy that I make is to holding a golf club.  Golf instructors always say, "Pretend it's a little bird."   In my case, the bird is often throttled, so I can only imagine what would happen to a bird the size of a paint brush!)  This is a long-winded way of saying that I have the utmost respect for artists, whether or not what they create is something that I would want to live with on a daily basis.  So when I read about the artist studio tour sponsored by the Alliance for the Arts, I persuaded Dorrit to join me for a glimpse into the creative process.

Work by HS Artist Rachel Engelbrecht
We collected our maps for the tour at the Arts Alliance, where we had the chance to view their "Future of Art" exhibit featuring the works of Lee County high school students.  There were submissions in a variety of categories, including computer graphics, sculpture, and photography.  Our favorite work was the painting of zebra skin pumps by Rachel Engelbrecht.  (The work was untitled but I have a suggestion that I won't mention here because my blog is "G" rated!)    We then headed across the Alliance parking lot to the beautiful Edwards Building where we saw, among other things, handbags created by a high school art teacher using recycled coffee filters.  (The bags were inspired by a smart aleck student who brought used coffee filters to class in response to her suggestion that you can find inspiration in the every day world.)  

Hammel's Nobody
The day featured works by a wide variety of artists.  Sculptor David Hammel showed visitors the art of throwing a pot on a wheel while talking about his craft.   His raku candy jars with painted labels from  Butterfingers, Almond Joy, Reese's, and the now famous Skittles were lots of fun.  I liked the jar he made for himself the best, though, with wrappers from "Butt Bigger," "Almost Joy," and "Recess".   As you can see from his other work, David has a sense of humor.

Pat Dunn 
When we walked through artist Pat Dunn's front door, all I could say was "Wow!"  Her home is chock filled with her impressionist work, and I wasn't surprised to hear that Pat has been to Giverny (Monet's home) five times.  Pat recently had a show entitled "Journey to an Exhibition" which included a number of paintings of museum-goers taking in the work of the masters.  It's all part of the process!   If you picked up the April copy of "Happenings" magazine (with its amazing calendar of--yes--what's happening in Southwest Florida's Arts and Entertainment scene), you will have seen one of Pat's paintings on the cover.  

Roberts' Mermaid with Junonia
My absolute favorite artist of the day was Myra Roberts.  Her work "conveys the mood and style of the 1920s to 1950s," and I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite though I particularly loved her take-offs on vintage road maps.  When we were reading Roberts' bio, we learned that she is going to have an exhibit at the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida this Fall.  I couldn't quite reconcile the whimsy of her work with the seriousness of a Holocaust museum, but it turns out that Roberts has created a series of paintings featuring Anne Frank that are going to be on display there.    We also learned that artist Robert Rauschenberg purchased a painting that Roberts did of Audrey Hepburn, saying that he knew Hepburn and that the work truly captured her spirit.   Like Rauschenberg, I think I'm going to have to buy one of her works, but I suspect it won't be one of her original oil paintings, which go for $10,000.  

Detail from Jansens'
Creeping Obstacles in Kansas
The day ended with a "WineD Down Reception" at Unit A, the gallery featuring the work of urban expressionist Marcus Jansen.   Artists draw upon their life experience when creating their work, and Jansen's experience as a soldier in the Gulf War provides a context for his paintings, which are filled with chaos and destruction.  Jansen's work can be found in museums around the world, and he was one of 18 artists selected in 2011 by Absolut Vodka for the "Absolut Blank Next Generation of Artists" campaign.   I can't say that I like his art, but I somehow suspect that that's not really his intention.  Jansen participated in a Q&A at the reception, and I asked about his inclusion of Dorothy in a number of his paintings.  In 2006, he was commissioned by Warner Brothers to create an interpretation of the 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz."  As research for his work, he read both L. Frank Baum's book "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and reviews of the book highlighting its potential to be seen as political commentary.  People differ on their views as to Baum's intention, but there's no doubt that the book was written in a period of political change, and this seems to be what Dorothy represents in Jansen's work.  (If you're interested in reading  more about the Wizard of Oz as political commentary, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_interpretations_of_The_Wonderful_Wizard_of_Oz.)  

All in all, it was quite a fun way to spend the day.  Once again, I came away from my outing with an appreciation for how much talent there is in Southwest Florida.  The event was advertised as the "First Annual Artists' Studio Tour."   If you have any interest in the visual arts, I encourage you to attend next year's event.  I'll see you there!  

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