Get Visual is the grateful recipient of a grant from The Christos N. Apostle Charitable Trust

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Swan Song

Installation view of Staying Power - photos provided by Albany International Airport Gallery
It's entirely appropriate that the final exhibition organized and installed by outgoing Director Sharon Bates at the Albany International Airport Gallery expresses the value of its title, Staying Power. Bates has the same qualities as the 11 venerable artists she has assembled for this excellent, elegant show - and she will no doubt amply demonstrate that in the next chapter of her life, when she sets forth in retirement as a full-time artist.

Barbara Takenaga - Tadanori Meets Hiroshige
acrylic on linen 2013
Her swan song is a paean to perseverance, a celebration of agelessness, a fascinating collection of excellence and diversity. The artists presented here have but two things in common: They are all located in the greater Capital Region; and they all have been at it for quite some time. Oh, and they're all darn good. Naturally, I have my favorites among them, but I am reluctant to sully the unified purpose of this show by picking and choosing.

Instead, here's an overview:

Margo Mensing - J. Robert Oppenheimer
cut security envelopes on paper 2005
One feature of the show (which will hang through Jan. 2, 2017) is a series of video interviews with the artists that has been placed on monitors in several spots throughout the gallery, as well as in a larger projection room. It underscores the purpose of the show to not only display the work these artists have created, but also to plumb their minds and their motives, as they discuss matters within the lifelong pursuit of an artistic career.

Before entering the gallery proper, one can stop to watch a few minutes of several of these artists telling about their first memories of making art, a great way to prepare for the exhibition's thematic feel. Elsewhere they discuss success, failure, fame, etc. It's not necessary to hear the commentary to understand what's on view, but it adds depth to the experience.

Susan Spencer Crowe - Sweeet, cardboard, encaustic, 2015-2016
Bates founded the Art & Culture program at the airport, and led it for 18 years, typically organizing shows with themes both quirky and grand, so this last one from her is cut from the same cloth - perhaps leaning toward a final statement, but really more open-ended - just as the included artists are working in a flow of continuity from their pasts to their futures. Many of the exhibitors include prior as well as current work, while some have only current work in the show. It's a testament to the vigor of ongoing artistic exploration and expression, and to the simple fact that art knows no age.

Paul Katz, 10 sculptures from the Prelude series and a painting
gesso, oil, sand on found objects and canvas, 2010-2016
The installation is scattered throughout the gallery's far-reaching spaces, held together by the glassed-in central apse that allows visitors to gape down upon the TSA's security screening zone and to see through and across to most of the rest of the third-floor exhibition area. As in a shopping mall, one walks around the perimeter with the big gap in the middle - unlike shopping, however, here one has the opportunity to be absorbed into experiences far more original than mass consumption.

Examples: Jeanne Flanagan shows a series of drawings that delve into identity as represented by her own enlarged fingerprint; Bruno LaVerdiere, also working in series, reiterates a decades-long obsession with spiritual dwellings as expressed in clay sculptures and painted panels; and painter Harry Orlyk immerses himself daily in the Upstate rural landscape - 10 of his Impressionist-style, unframed works reveal the results.

Benigna Chilla, installation view
(note, the piece in the center is currently not on view
as it was stolen, recovered, and is held in evidence by the police)
My one quibble with the show would be that a few of the artists have too little work in it: Barbara Takenaga is represented by just three (marvelous) paintings and so is Benigna Chilla (though her works on fabric are very large). Just six of Walter Hatke's subjectively realist visual puzzles are included (four of which are modest variations on his pun-worthy surname). This left me wanting more.

One of my favorite things about the show is the decision to illustrate each wall-mounted artist bio with a black-and-white photo of the artist from a much earlier time (shy one, which had no photo). Though a sweetly charming approach, it also hammers home that this show is very much about the passage of time. In contrast, I had the pleasure of attending the show's opening reception in mid-June and of seeing nearly all 11 artists in their current appearance - older, yes, but still very vibrantly alive.

Edward Mayer - Walking A-Round, mixed media site-specific installation, 1994-2016
Note: The Albany International Airport Gallery is accessible to all without passing through security, and is open from 7 am to 11 pm daily. Parking in the short-term lot is free for the first half-hour - for more time, you can get your ticket validated at the Departure gift shop on the first floor of the terminal, no purchase necessary.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Studio Visit: Terrance DePietro and Nicole Lemelin

A view of the studio shared by Terrance DePietro and Nicole Lemelin
photo by TDP
A unique pleasure comes from visiting artists in their studios, as it is a privilege to step inside the process of a creative mind and get below the surface of the work itself. So, a few weeks ago, I took advantage of an opportunity to hang out with Terrance DePietro and Nicole Lemelin (and a few other guests) at their shared work/live space in rural Palenville, N.Y., and it proved to be time very well spent.

DePietro: Intuitions Rising from the Crevice of The Clove
oil on canvas
DePietro and Lemelin joined forces a few years ago, while he was long established in Palenville and she was still living in her native Montreal, and they now have integrated their lives and art practice in a surprisingly seamless way. I had seen very little of either artist’s work before this foray to the Catskills, so I spent hours just taking it all in, punctuated by interludes of conversation and Niki and Terry’s kind hospitality.

Lemelin: In Luna's Womb - oil on canvas
These two mid-life painters share sensibilities so close that at first I had a little trouble telling their work apart (and that includes the vast majority of the work that was created before they even knew each other). But there are discernible differences (of course), even though the two are consistently driving at the same ideas. And, by “driving,” I mean working in a very directed and persistent manner.

DePietro: A Leap of Faith - linocut
I’m sorry to say it’s often easy to take art for granted – we are blessed with so many talented artists in our midst today that there isn’t enough space to show them all or time to see them all. Yet a studio visit will typically reveal a level of commitment that would rival that of any Fortune 500 CEO – with none of the rewards, by the way. It’s always impressive to me.

Lemelin: Presage of Transformation - watercolor and ink
DePietro and Lemelin exemplify this single-minded pursuit as well as anyone I have seen. The fact that, in their case, the pursuit has now become double-minded just adds to the potency of the message. And that message is – what? I see a bright thread of humanism and spirituality in everything the two of them produce, whether it is representational, purely abstract, surrealistic or expressionistic.

DePietro: Pristine Happiness of the Static Action of Art
digital monoprint
Some would quibble about a lack of consistency among these various modes – and here it is compounded by past and current involvement in many media by both artists, especially DePietro, who seems to do it all: Painting, photography, drawing, printmaking, digital. Lemelin also paints, draws, makes prints – and adds sculpture to the mix.

Lemelin: Bluemajic - oil on canvas
But there remains a clear vision within this vast, diverse output. And all the more clear because it is remarkably shared by two individuals. DePietro and Lemelin are visionaries who revel in their experience of humanity and nature. They delve, they experiment, they cull and refine. They work. The results are complex, not easily digested in a quick scan, and not easily explained. I see historical references, geology, dreams and nightmares here. I see joy and despair. I see struggle and triumph and the imperceptible march of time. I see nature reflected and refracted.

It’s powerful stuff – I’ll be going back.

DePietro: Above On and Below - photograph