Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Quick notes from CWOS 2009, part 1

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St, New Haven, (203) 772-2709
City-Wide Open Studios
Oct. 24, 2009

With City-Wide Open Studios taking place within the compressed time frame of one weekend, I decide to start my sojourn over at West Cove Studios in West Haven (rather than have my entire Saturday given over to Erector Square). This site is notable both for the printmaking co-op founded by Roy Smith and for its vast expanses of walls well suited to function as gallery space.

My first stop is with sculptor Jonathan Waters. Waters' expansive studio has a view of the water. Through Oct. 18, he is sharing the wall space of his studio/gallery with painter Emilia Dubicki, showing his "Samurai" series of wall sculptures—both large and small works. Several of his large sculptures occupy floor space.

The smaller of these are made of wood veneer and black paper. They have the looping, geometric presence of Russian Constructivism. Waters tells me he calls them the "Samurai" series because of the motion they suggest.

"They're of the moment. Fragile, like our fragile existence," he says, bemused. In a sense, they are gestural sculptures, unlikely to hold together once removed from the wall on which they were created. That fact doesn't concerns Waters. "The mechanics of it is probably the least interesting art of it for me." It is the use of the materials and their receptivity to the forms he wants to create that interest Waters.

"And there is a kind of physicality involved in doing it. It's almost like a drawing that is three-dimensional," says Waters. "And I'm working out ideas. They're sort of sketches. For what, I don't know."

The larger sculptures share the sense of active energy even though they are constructed from harder, heavier, more substantial materials. Using primarily cut wood boards and plywood, selectively painted black, Waters clustered them in kinetic diagonals. They reveal themselves as the viewer walk around them.

Where Waters is working with blacks and natural wood grain tones, Emilia Dubicki's oil paintings pop with throbbing color. Like Waters' sculptures, they convey a sense of motion and their compositions owe a debt to geometric abstraction (although Dubicki considers them all "nature paintings").

"I paint fast. If I can't get the painting out in one shot, I want to walk away," she tells me. Referring to the painting "Miami Vice," Dubicki says, "I did walk away from this painting and came back another day." She notes that she used a palette knife and a plastic knife "to get a lot of blue on there." The use of the plastic knife is suggested by the lines in the paint left by its serrated edge. I ask about a pleasing accumulation of abstract detail in the lower left corner of the work.

"I try not to think about it too much. If it splatters and the splatter works, it stays," Dubicki says.


I didn't get to meet the artist Barkev Gulessarian but a couple of his works riveted my attention. One was a large hollow sculpture, a Buddha with a dog head seated crosslegged in a robe and painted gold. It projected an odd, goofy serenity.

Gulessarian's other work that captivated me was a large "hippie painting," for lack of a better way of describing it. Painted on three large panels of plywood, it depicts a naked couple lounging toward the back of their pad with a large fetal figure in the foreground. A stereo system sits on the floor to the left. The pictorial details are rendered in simple black painted linework over large areas of poster style colors. The unpainted, exposed surfaces of the plywood are perfectly at home in the factory environment. The painting works because of the believabilty of the scene—Gulessarian's effective use of perspective and depth and the naturalistic flow of the figurative shapes. It should be scented with patchouli and outfitted with a psychedelic exploitation soundtrack.


Anita Soos is showing a few large charcoal drawings in her "Water Walking" series, which she started in 2004. She tells me that she has been photographing water for 20 years.

"What I was interested in was capturing what water felt like," says Soos. "I wanted to get the feeling of what water was doing rather than seeing what water was doing. Water holds mysteries. It holds light, shadow, movements and events and layers."

She notes that one of the drawings, "Water Walking: Primary Disturbance," turns the imagery up on end. The drawing seems to pulsate. The idea of "water walking" turns water "into the event of what it does, walking across whatever surface you're looking at. I wanted it to have a more active role, a more poetic role than just saying what it was."


While at West Cove I also have the opportunity to speak with artists Evie Lindemann and Barbara Marks about their works.

Lindemann, who is a professor of art therapy, is showing etchings, collage and a kind of prayer installation in the gallery space of the printmaking co-op. One series of her etchings is of different color prints of a New Age-y plate called "Mythic World," a piece she worked on while studying with the Mexican artist Gilberto Guerrero in the state of Guanajuata, located in the highlands 5 1/2 hours northwest of Mexico City. It features swirling imagery of an open hand (a reference to a serious hand injury Lindemann suffered a couple of years ago), a male figure, a large dove-like bird, fish forms and small figures that look like they are dancing or swimming. (Lindemann tells me they are actually pilgrims in a sacred Mexican church.) Explicating some of the symbolism, Lindemann tells me, "the bird is a transformational agent for me."

Barbara Marks says, "I love the idea of objective abstraction, not non-objective abstraction." What she is referring to in this case is using an iconic shape—a birthday cake—in a large series to evoke a range of emotions. It is a series on "temporality," in general. But specifically, the 75 monotypes of different birthday cakes is an homage to her husband who died at the age of 75 a couple of years ago. Marks notes that the imagery has a real effect on viewers.

"People will see the cakes and automatically start sharing stories about birthdays and the passage of time," she says.


From West Cove I travel over to Erector Square, which easily absorbs the rest of the day. With a wealth of artists to visit and limited time, I don't bother with taking notes. High points include viewing Willard Lustenader's (Web) virtuoso oil paintings based on still lifes of paper cutouts; meeting and talking with Geoffrey Detrani (Web) about his layered drawings that juxtapose natural and architectural imagery; and Mary Lesser's (Web) gouache postcard paintings of scenes from her travels on the road.

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