Sunday, March 6, 2016

Creativity Abounds in Fort Myers Artist Studio Tour

I love artist studio tours. You get to poke around in creative workspaces and put faces with names of artists. And I've figured out that, for me, the quality of a tour isn't determined by whether I find a new piece of art for my home, but by the ability of the artists to speak thoughtfully and articulately about their creative processes. By all standards, the recent tour sponsored by the Lee County Alliance for the Arts was a great success. 

Jeffrey Scott Lewis
Dorrit and I started our tour with the artists in the Alliance's Edwards Building. Our first discovery was the work of Jeffrey Scott Lewis.  We were filing through his studio when I heard him say something about body paint. What???  Lewis' work for a gallery show entitled "Skin" began with a photo shoot of a guy painted from head to toe in liquid latex. The original concept had been for photographs of the painted body to be the art. But when the shoot was over and the model began peeling the paint off, Lewis kept clicking. The unplanned shots struck him as visually interesting while calling to mind the analogy of shedding layers of false identity. The work above Lewis in this picture is one example of the results. (In another work--included in the link above--you can distinctly see the model's shoulder and the sheen of sweat from wearing five layers of latex paint on a hot July day.) The photographs were then transferred onto metal, with the dye fusing into the material.  The final piece is an archival quality mixed media work. It's a perfect example of striking works made all the more interesting by knowing how they came into existence. 

"Mint Julep" by Mark Holman
When we walked into Mark Holman's studio space, a visitor who'd overheard me talking with Lewis said, "You're going to want to blog about this as well." Holman's shadow works were inspired by an evening walk with his dog. A convergence of yield and other street signs behind him projected an image that startled him into thinking an axe murderer was about to attack. (He said this only half jokingly.) After his pulse settled down, he started thinking about how the shadows created by light on a work can be more interesting than the piece on its own. Holman's work went through several iterations (all of which were on display) before he landed upon his current process. His sculptures are created by filling in embroidery hoops with theater gel on canvas. When unlit, the abstract white sculptures make their own statement. When lit, the works have a totally different look and feel. 

Carolyn Gora and Ava Roeder combine forces to present work under the name CAVA. The women taught together back in the 1970s and have both gravitated to art in their retirement lives, Carolyn as a fiber artist and Ava as a photographer and painter. A couple of years ago the duo went to Art Basel and were inspired by the collaborative artwork there. The women now work both individually and together, with Carolyn embellishing Ava's work with fiber that adds texture and a bit of whimsy. To make their point that the process is more important than the end product, tour-goers were invited to decorate tiles to be included in a collaborative work. Paints were available along with a box of photographs and some glue. My contribution was adding these two women from one of Ava's photographs to a tile that had the sunglasses already in place. Perhaps I have a future as a collage artist.

Reimenschneider and "The Black Keys"
Music played by a cool group of high school kids greeted us when we entered Eric Riemenschneider's exhibit space. Riemenschneider teaches design at a local high school and clearly inspires his students to express themselves in a variety of ways. (With my own appreciation for art instilled by Mrs. McKelvin, my high school humanities teacher, I know how important this influence can be.) I felt a bit stodgy when I didn't recognize the guys in his conte drawing as Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys (who have only been around since 2001). I did, however, recognize the skill with which Riemenschneider captured both their images and their personalities.

All in all, it was quite a fun outing. If your interest in checking out an artist studio tour yourself has been piqued, the 2016 Creators and Collectors Tour is taking place in Sarasota on March 11-12.  See you there! 

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