Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

2010 City-Wide Open Studios, weekend 2, Sunday

I just had a couple of hours on Sunday to visit with artists so—as is usually the case—I had to miss more than I could see (but even more so). I stopped first at St. Paul & St. James Episcopal Church on Olive Street where four artists were showing their work. Three photographers had pictures on display: Diane Cushing-Mathews, Gwenith Heuss-Severance and Phoebe Barron. Barron's images were particularly striking. Deftly composed crystalline photos of architectural and natural subjects, they exuded a celebration of pattern, color and form.

Robin Hochstrasser, the only non-photographer in the group, was displaying monotype prints. Hochstrasser said she had gotten interested in monotypes after seeing the work of Sarah Gustafson at the Guilford Art Fair a few years ago. She decided to take a printmaking class taught by Gustafson at Creative Arts Workshop and another taught by Maura Galante.

Monotypes, as the name implies, are non-repeatable prints. (Monoprints, on the other hand, may feature repeated imagery but with slight or exaggerated differences from individual print to print.) Hochstrasser paints onto the plexiglas plate and runs the plate and paper through the press. She repeats the process, she told me, "layering until I get the desired effect."

Hochstrasser's monotypes include elements of collage and show a fine appreciation for the way the ink interacts with the paper. She uses netting, shells, paper cutouts and leaves and branches as printing surfaces in conjunction with her abstract mark making. Hochstrasser creates negative space by flicking mineral spirits at the painted plate.

"I use a lot of found objects, natural objects to print or I create my own shapes," Hochstrasser said, pointing out silhouettes of birds in her imagery. "I put it through the press if I can but sometimes they are too fragile so I press them by hand."

Hochstrasser is a teacher and currently tutors students at Bear Path School in Hamden. She said she has always incorporated art into her curriculum. Printmaking, in particular, offers creative possibilities for young people, she said.

"There so many things you can do with printmaking," Hochstrasser said. Students can use offbeat surfaces such as cut potatoes or rocks to hold the ink. "They always turn out unique and nice and they get some kind of image."

"Most artists, no matter what medium they are doing now, have done printmaking in their lives and love it and want to get back to it," said Hochstrasser.


At a studio on Willow Street, photographer Linda Lindroth is reconsidering the range of work she has done since the 1970's. Examples of her work over the past four decades were on display on the studio walls: street photography in the style of her former teacher Garry Winogrand; photograms of urban detritus a la a digital-era Man Ray; landscapes; a series of images of a Doberman Pinscher dressed in a suit that reminded me of Diane Arbus' or Weegee's pictures; a large mixed media wall sculpture. Lindroth is contemplating her works in terms of the "remix" concept cribbed from the music world: recombining original elements of previous works to create new pieces.

The idea isn't new to Lindroth. For most of the 1990's, she told me, she had worked on mixed media pieces with a photographic base. One of this series, "Trail Trial of Wilma Mankiller," was hanging on one wall of Lindroth's space. The work was inspired by Mankiller: A Chief and Her People, the memoir of Wilma Mankiller, first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. In the book, Mankiller recalled being uprooted and sent by train from her native Oklahoma to San Francisco.

"Trail Trial of Wilma Mankiller" is composed of a background of multiple wood panels large enough to fit 16"x20" photos. Two other panels are attached to the front of the piece, mounted on wheels that ride along a series of rails on the top and bottom. Additional found objects are attached to the work: a rusted, crushed automoblie tailpipe; metal corner brackets from an old trunk on the corners of some of the panels; a metal handle one might hold onto for balance when standing on a train.

Pointing to the effaced imagery on the panels, Lindroth noted that it all came from her own photographic landscapes—a branch with seed pods, a marsh, irises. "Going back to my stock images and selecting them, they become art supplies," Lindroth told me.

"I liked the way that if I smudged the images they looked like smudged windows," Lindroth said. The effect is akin to how the landscape might have blurred by for Mankiller on her train journey from Oklahoma.

I asked Lindroth how she integrated the photographic imagery into the piece.

"I wet the [photo] paper and put gesso on the panel. I placed the photo on the gesso and then squeegeed and rolled it until it was flat. Some of the gesso comes up and dries. Then I sand it with a hand sander so it becomes smooth. If there are bubbles in the paper, they break. You get a surface that is very fresco-like," explained Lindroth. In order to make it appear "more photo-like," Lindroth touched up the images with silver and black oil stick and then went back and sanded them some more.

"I've found with working with found objects, that people volunteer things," Lindroth said, meaning their own memories and associations with objects they have encountered. "It's a talisman of a kind."

The various found objects in the work are evocative of travel—the wheels and rails, trunk brackets, road detritus such as the tail pipe. But the mounted handle also looks like a cross with two crossbars. This is a wonderful double-edged symbol, evoking both physical balance on the journey but also the need to grasp onto something for spiritual balance and grounding.

As she noted, if she hadn't told me it was "about" Wilma Mankiller, I might have made my own associations and interpretation. The viewer, Lindroth said, "has to bring something to a piece like this."

"So it's about the process of life and moving from one thing to another both as an artist and a viewer," said Lindroth.


Constance LaPalombara has her studio on the same floor as Lindroth. LaPalombara had just gotten back the day before from three months in Maine, including a September artist residency on Cranberry Island.

LaPalombara always paints on site or directly from life, whether working on still life’s, seascapes or urban landscapes. This can present some real challenges. I asked about one work, an untitled painting of a moonrise over the water. LaPalombara noted that it was difficult to paint "because I was practically in the dark while painting it. I had done studies [of moonrises on paper] so that helped me." (LaPalombara had a pile of studies on paper for various paintings on a table in the studio.)

The quality of light is LaPalombara's true subject. The moonrise painting is characterized by a feathering of soft pastel colors. The sky graduates from the orange horizon up through a layer of clouds and further through transitions of translucent green, blue and violet. The heavens reflect on the water in purples and pinks.

Her Maine landscape paintings capture the placid feel of the shore. There are clusters of small homes, outcroppings of rock, soft waves, high skies with delicate clouds.

I was struck by the way her paintings capture a powerful sense of mood. LaPalombara is not a fussy painter, preferring to work with an economy of detail. Her urban landscapes—many of which were part of a 2007-2008 show The City at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale—are notable for their blocks of color and architectural shadow. They have a Hopper-esque quality to them, conveying both beauty and solitude albeit without alienation.

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Blogger Eric D. Lehman said...

I have one of LaPalombara's paintings on my wall (got it at an auction). It's beautiful. She's got something special.

9:42 PM


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