66th Annual Membership Show

66th PC-HR-2

I must admit, when I was asked to review the 66th Annual Spiva Membership Show having never really familiarized myself with the work that is happening in the area, I was a bit hesitant to agree to it. The first image that came to me when I thought of a show displaying the work of mostly Joplin-area artists was a gallery full of Thomas Hart Benton knock-offs and a collection of less-than-inspired ceramic pieces that all generally played by the rules of modern convention and followed the idea that art should just be pretty landscapes and paintings of pretty people. But, now having visited the exhibit, I must say that I feel rather guilty for ever having a sense of such doubt and elitist cynicism of the show.

The show was anything but uninspired. There happened to be a vast expanse of styles, media, and content to be enjoyed and I ended up spending more time with my nose almost touching the works before, admittedly, tripping over my own feet a few times as I backed up to view the creations as a whole. I was truly amazed by the incredible amount of minutia that had been injected into these pieces by artists who obviously poured themselves into every pencil and brush stroke as much as they invested themselves into the content and meanings of their work.

But, as much as I marveled at the individual pieces, I don’t think they would have been nearly as impactful had they not been arranged in the way they were. What made the show so great was the aforementioned variance in styles all rubbing shoulders. It was amazing to be afforded the opportunity to view these pieces that one would normally see all separated and sorted by their differences and arranged into gallery battalions to forever war against each other for the attention of viewers as one giant celebration of art, not a competition of style.

Beautiful ceramics were holding hands with marvelous paintings that were hugging wondrous pencil drawings that were necking with gorgeous installation and sculpture pieces. It was so fun to just spin around and turn corners and take one step this way and lean my head that way to be in a totally different world of art. And that’s what the show is really about, community. It’s not about trying to say that my charcoal piece is better than your acrylic still-life that is better than his non-representation conceptual work. It’s about celebrating the joy of creating and sharing art in this area.

I think more important than anything else in the show is the word “membership”. I don’t think it was ever intended to say that it is an exclusivist show. I think it was intended to encompass the membership that we all share as artists in the worlds of creativity and expression as well as the membership we all claim in being part of this region and the art that comes out of it. And that’s exactly what comes through in this show. The pure expression, emotion, and freedom that art allows us to make for ourselves, but also to share it with others, free of the worry of category and genre and movement. The category, genre, and movement is art, and shows like this are truly the spearhead of such an important collectivist love of all things expressive.

-Submitted by Aaron Balentine

Show sponsored by Empire District Electric Company and runs November 16, 2013-January 5, 2014.

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Fiber Inspiration

In December, I spent some quiet time in the Regional Gallery of Spiva Center for the Arts. The show was Four Women / Four Visions – Contemporary Fiber. Each artist is from Oklahoma, has a distinctive sensibility, but as a whole, the works talk to each other in this intimate but strangely vast gallery space. I went seeking respite, to connect with some art, to look hard, and try to wake my drawing hand from a too-long slumber.

I was immediately grabbed by this series of small works by Julie Marks Blackstone of Shawnee, Oklahoma. The color screamed, of course, but my recognition of art historical references cleverly juxtaposed is what kept me there, only reading the signage after I tried to make my own connections. I giggled and even guffawed with delight at her cleverness. This series made me wish that I had Artist Card packs as a kid, complete with a flat sheet of tasteless bubblegum. I avidly collected the Topps baseball cards, why not Artist Cards? I have no idea how time-consuming and/or difficult French knots may be, but as an artist who enjoys making highly crafted pieces that take hours, I was in love with her obsessiveness. I wanted to turn the pieces over and read the stats of the art history, the listing of colors and lines and values.

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If Courbet had Kandinsky’s Palette…
Julie Marks Blackstone
embroidery: French knots
4×4″

photo 3-1

Knotty Girl: Mme Gautreau meets Messrs. Seurat and Klimt
Julie Marks Blackstone
embroidery: French knots
4×4″

photo 1

The Smile? Because I’m a Knotty Girl!
Julie Marks Blackstone
embroidery: French knots
4×4″

photo 3-2

Knotty Girl: Theda Bara as Cleotpatra
Julie Marks Blackstone
embroidery: French knots
4×4″

photo 1-1

If Durer had Delaunay’s Palette…
Julie Marks Blackstone
embroidery: French knots, cotton floss
4×5″

photo 2

To really spend time with the show, to get back to drawing, a much slower medium than my smartphone, I sat and observed. So many pieces in the show were luscious and curvy and begged to be studied carefully, but I settled on these two for quick contour ink drawings: Sue Moss Sullivan’s Drenched, and Stephanie Grubbs’s Good Morning, Good Evening. The unrelenting repetition, the variation in thread texture, and the often subtle coloring on these pieces sparked my interest. It felt divine to drag the pen across the paper. It’s been much too long.

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I tried my hand at a blind contour drawing of Heather Clark Hilliard’s Interrupted. I should have drawn at least three more blind contours. This is a drawing technique where you stare at the piece being drawn, but never look at your drawing as you make it, even in peripheral vision. It makes the direct connection between eye and hand, and takes away the Judge that often kills my work before it even starts. It’s loose, but takes concentration or you’ll lose your place, in which case you don’t look at your drawing, you just pick a spot and continue drawing. Hilliard’s piece was six-foot cut felt pieces tacked to the wall, hung heavily.

I want to return before it comes down. A dark, dreary winter is the perfect time to make drawings and revel in these fragile threads. Just like those individual threads create insanely strong pieces, these four fiber artists – Julie Marks Blackstone, Stephanie Grubbs, Heather Clark Hilliard, and Sue Moss Sullivan – come together to create a vast tapestry of talent, elegance and wonder.

This show is sponsored by Nancy G. Holland and Jim Stratton with additional financial assistance from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

-submitted by Josie Mai, Associate Professor of Art