Monday, February 23, 2009

An Artistic Weekend

I had such an inspiring, artistic weekend. On Saturday, Michael, Alexandra, and I attended the gallery show at STUDIO2315. The building houses many artist studios, but we were there particularly to support friends Carol Watson and Luisa Duarte-Green.

Carol works in the fiber arts, primarily constructing wearable art clothing. More recently, she has added beautiful paintings and drawings, fiber collages, and other visual arts to her creative oeuvre. Carol's studio itself is a work of art, thoughtfully and exquisitely adorned with her art, where beautifully clothed mannequins interact visually with watercolor and ink drawings. Her studio has both a small gallery space and a workshop space, but the inviting workshop is artful, too.

Walking into the building's main gallery, Carol's 10-foot high, fabric collage banner immediately commands your eye and makes a stunning impact. The complexity of the banner is not apparent until you come close and see the variety of stitches, fabrics, and assemblage it contains. The surprise is that behind this huge piece of art is more of Carol's work. She has two enrobed mannequins in the big gallery along with the collage banner.

Luisa primarily paints in watercolor, but is by no means limited to that medium. An architect by training and an ex-pat of Maracaibo, Venezuela, Luisa's work is imbued with hot, tropical colors and well-defined structural elements, often stacked on each other into tall building-like constructs. Luisa's watercolors are mostly vivid and deep-hued with rich colors, although she has also painted a somber and moving series in shades of gray that reflect her mourning after the untimely death of her husband Peter last year. The power of this muted series does not surprise me because I have also seen Luisa's Stations of the Cross collage series which is equally dramatic and powerfully engaging.

Aside: When I commented on her dazzling palette, Luisa told me, "These are the colors of my city." Then she showed me photographs of houses in Maracaibo and I immediately recognized her inspiration.

In addition to the mourning series, the STUDIO2315 gallery features three new works Luisa completed in 2009. They are large and exuberant versions of the smaller works in her studio in which mere towers become skyscrapers filled with iconic elements to surprise and intrigue the viewer. Luisa's work embodies a lightness that makes the objects seem to float while her structural elements anchor them firmly to the ground.

As if Carol and Luisa's art works were not prize enough for our long trek from the burbs, we found wonderful work in studio after studio of the STUDIO2315 artists. Anne Delpine's delicately colored collage/paintings intrigued and seduced me into looking closer and closer to discover the building blocks she had used to create them, including dictionary pages with words and illustrations. My favorite piece was inspired by a tiny dictionary drawing of a sea urchin, and I felt so pleased with myself that I actually recognized the sea urchin as a "real thing" even through Anne's complex and intricate stylizing. See if you can identify this piece on Anne's website.

Next door to Anne's studio, I discovered Charles Jones, a master print maker and bookbinder who teaches at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Charles had a table full of his exquisitely bound books which he generously shared with us. Each book had compelling content, including reflections on the war in Vietnam by two artists who fought on opposite sides in the same area at the same time (Charles and a Vietnamese artist friend). Another book paid homage to great artists of the 19th and 20th centuries with poetry and prints. Yet another memorialized the life and works of a young German woman whose death would otherwise have silenced. I could go on, because I love hand bound books, but I must restrain myself. Charles also had wonderful, nearly life-sized prints of literary figures displayed around the studio he shares with his wife, Corinne Jones.

At the last stop of our pilgrimage around STUDIO2315, we met Kia Gardner, who makes lovely crystal and gemstone jewelry. Her space is tucked in the back, down a hallway, and might easily be missed. Be sure to look for her behind the red door at the end of a beautifully painted red and white faux carpet.

To cap our weekend of artistic adventure, Michael and I attended a performance at the Alley Theatre of Eurydice by Susan Ruhl, who also wrote The Clean House, which we saw (and loved) last year. In Eurydice, Ruhl created, from the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, a stirring and poignant tale of love, loss, and regret. Although the story seems to be about the young lovers, Orpheus and Eurydice, I found myself most affected by the bonds of father and daughter in this retelling. The staging wowed me - shower heads streaming water, extensive walkways, an old-fashioned water pump (with running water, of course), and an elevator (probably not a working model, but the illusion held up well) - Eurydice was a visual cornucopia. Michael and I have season tickets to the Alley and our seats for the Neuhaus Stage (their smaller, more flexible venue) are in the front row south. We are quite often practically members of the cast because of this. With a walkway just inches from our seats, this performance felt very intimate.

Aside: This worked to our disadvantage last year in the famously gory, gross, and gruesome play The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh that featured a man hanging upside down being tortured. His "rig" - with him hanging from it - rolled by me about 6 inches from my right elbow. It did not delight me in the least.

We topped our weekend of artistic pursuits off with the Academy Awards. It may not be art, but at least now we have some idea which of the movies we missed last year are worth the effort to see this year, even if we have to view them on the small screen.


No comments: