January 07 – February 12, 2022
Virtual Artist Talk: January 21, 6:00PM
Becca Barolli • Adam Bernard • Ann Finholt • Mary Janacek
Stephen Maine • John Ralston V • Debra Weisberg • Margaret Wilson
Sponsored by: Torrington Downtown Partners, T&M Building Co. Inc.
I make abstract sculptures out of steel wire by using textile processes to examine obsession and control. Traditional craft techniques like weaving, braiding and knotless netting can be seen with varying degrees of tension and density to consider the differences in being open or closed off, relaxed or uptight without passing judgement on either condition. This work is very labor-intensive, fueled by a compulsive need for repetition and reverence. Structures are often comprised of obsessively repeated gestures that are dysfunctional given the intended purpose of the materials yet ambitious given the context.
These sculptures are made of steel wire instead of conventional fibers, subverting textiles as a medium and pushing the range of expectations associated with hard and soft. This is done to assert the overlooked potential for strength in what is conventionally considered women’s work and vulnerability in what is often associated with masculinity and industrialization. I explore vulnerability and dysfunctional behavior by constructing objects that reference penetrable boundaries or are in some way arbitrarily constrained. A desire for control is highlighted by the tight, inflexible forms made with the restriction of a single material. Simultaneously, there is an inherent acceptance of disorder in the lack of precision or adherence to traditional materials in craft. This dichotomy between total control and chaos is negotiated throughout the work.
Why would anyone extrude two hundred thousand acrylic dots from a cake decorator to make a painting? I choose these impractical means in order to conflate a mechanical process with one of painterly intuition. I am interested in giving the viewer a false sense of familiarity by combining digital imagery that is at times recognizable with a painting process, which is not.
My paintings begin with observation, frequently of my neighborhood, but also of other nearby locales. They start with something that draws my attention, often strong light and color, sharp value contrasts, pattern, a sense of motion and tension. The inspiration might be a crisp-edged white house set against a black cavity; flickering yellow, red, blue in the tangle of trees, plants, grasses; the jumble and jangle of nearly abutted forms in tight spaces. Sometimes I don't know exactly what it is that compels me to look at a subject with scrutiny, but an indefinable buzz, a jolt, pulls me in, and each piece becomes an exploration and search. My beginnings in physical reality may surprise viewers. I am not concerned with accurate representation. My work is primarily abstract. In the end, however, I hope that the spark and spirit of my original stimulus remains in the work.
Observation is the start of my process, but the abstract issues of painting are my preoccupation: composition, color, value, light, rhythm. How does the eye travel around the picture? Where is the focus? What engages? Is the color intense enough to trigger a reaction? Does it have enough weight to convey gravity? Added to these formal concerns are the properties of my media—oil pastels—which resemble oil paint in their flexibility and surface. They can be scraped, wiped, and blended. They can be translucent and brilliant, but are also capable of mud, murkiness, mystery. They produce both obscurity and luster.
Oil pastels also lend themselves to gestural work, another central aspect of my painting. Physical engagement with the subject is important to me. The movement of hand, arm, body are reflected in the structure of my work and are part of the energy they project: short quick chops, dots, dashes, sweeping masses, squiggly lines. They are crucial to bringing life and energy into each piece. With these fluid marks, I often contrast geometric forms, sometimes crisply drawn, to add the tension of dissimilarity and edginess to the pieces.
Vincent Van Gogh, Willem de Kooning, Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard inspired me for years. They remain influences along with current enthusiasms Ying Li, Joan Mitchell, Philip Guston, Hans Hofmann. I draw courage and encouragement from two favorite descriptions of the process of painting by contemporary artist Ying Li. She quotes Philip Guston:
"When you're in the studio painting, there are a lot of people in there with you—your teachers, friends, painters from history, critics…and one by one if you're really painting, they walk out. And if you're really painting YOU walk out" and Frank Auerbach: "The whole business of painting is very much to do with forgetting oneself and being able to act instinctively." These statements add armor to my quest to convey the particular charge I feel from looking, seeing, and making, and to continue to push to find the visual answers that seem the most satisfying to me.
Mary Janacek is an artist based in Fairfield, CT, whose practice is at the intersection of painting, printmaking, bookmaking, and sculpture. Her work explores the ever-changing environment of the American landscape and has been in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally for over fifteen years. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute in San Francisco, CA, and her Master of Fine Arts from California Institute for the Arts in Los Angeles, CA.
I begin my work with a repetitive process to form a substrate, a surface for the paint to collect and pool, layers of clay or paper to interweave, spaces for materials to dissolve and build back up again. These surfaces form a painting with physical and illusionary space.
I've been examining clouds, the most ephemeral parts of landscapes. My recent work originates from the same source, images of clouds taken from news headlines in 2020-2021. As converging natural and unnatural disasters of the pandemic, the fight for social justice, and the climate change crisis gave way to a landscape of smoke-filled skies, similar colors and gradations of artificial clouds rose from across America.
My work aims to create an inmate visual space for reflection and contemplation on grief, unrest, and transformation.
I convey paint to canvas primarily by means of an intentionally imprecise system modeled after relief printmaking. I make and use (and reuse) a “plate” that is roughly the dimensions of the painting I want to make. This indirect method of production yields the great pleasure of surprise while providing a concrete way to think about color, surface, scale, seriality, figure/ground, original/copy, and the psychology of visual perception.
Stephen Maine is a New York painter and writer who lives in West Cornwall, Connecticut. From 1982 until 2017, he lived and worked in New York City (and, for a few years, in Jersey City) and his approach to process-oriented, color-centric abstraction is molded by that experience. Recently, his work has been seen in New York City at Hionas Gallery, Project: ARTspace, the National Arts Club, Silas von Morisse Gallery, Gallery Petite, and Odetta; and in northwestern Connecticut at Kenise Barnes Fine Art, Five Points Gallery, Icehouse Project Space, and Furnace/Art on Paper Archive. Maine’s solo exhibitions have been reviewed in ARTnews, Artcritical.com, the Brooklyn Rail, Two Coats of Paint, and The New Criterion. He has received support from NYFA (2000) and Yaddo (2012) and is a longstanding member of American Abstract Artists and the International Association of Art Critics. Maine’s writing has appeared regularly in Art in America, ARTnews, Artnet magazine, the New York Sun, Art on Paper, and Artillery; currently he writes primarily for Hyperallergic.com. He has taught at the School of Visual Arts; Parsons School of Design; Hartford Art School, University of Hartford; and Purchase College, SUNY, where he is Chair of the Bachelor of Science in Visual Arts program.
Nature produces monuments and landscapes humanity can only ever dream to replicate. In essence this work accelerates and embellishes natural forms of accumulation and erosion. While it could be said that they are emulating nature, specific methods and materials are used to disrupt the relationship between our earth-bound perception and evoke the true synthetic characteristics within each piece. Jarring color changes and manic tooling are employed to convey alien topography and disrupt the immediate association to scenery that we collectively understand. Many of the pieces denote a trace of kinetic energy. Whether it be from the tracks of a hyper aggressive machine or the arrangement of randomized pieces placed in wet substrate, they are meant to epitomize the chaotic order found in our reality.
My work conjures up mass in a real and implied way. The works are all very heavy and the arrangements within are tightly stacked and economic in composition. Their texture produces an overwhelming craving to be touched. When the density and surface are combined they draw the viewer into a desire to handle the works in a way not typical to the inspection of art. The most consistent element is the craquelure that marks the evacuation of water from deep within their structure. This transformation takes place in all of them and marks an end to malleability and an evolution into a raw product waiting to be shifted to another form.
Our visions of the future are inextricable to our concentration on the present. We can’t help but look to a plausible next step for the technology and cultural development we already understand as a glimpse into a future that is difficult to foresee. These small incremental aspirations bring with them the pettiness and redundancy that exists today. Imagining a departure from our time and ourselves is impossible. We can only imagine the edges of what we already perceive. These works are visualizations of that edge.
Debra Weisberg is active nationally and internationally. She has exhibited at the Paper Biennial in the Netherlands; Art in General and East Hampton Center for Contemporary Art, New York; and in the Boston area: The Piano Craft Gallery, the Art Complex Museum, Duxbury; Danforth Art Museum; DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum; Gallery Kayafas; Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University; Dedee Shattuck Gallery; McIninch Gallery @ SNHU; VanDernoot Gallery @ Lesley University; Trident Gallery; Catamount Arts.
Weisberg was a recipient of the Denbo Fellowship at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Hyattsvile, Maryland in 2020 where she pursued her exploration of paper and embossed monoprints. Facebook Boston commissioned Weisberg to create a 22-foot long tape installation for its corporate office in Cambridge (2017). Weisberg has twice attended the MacDowell Colony and was awarded an art residency in Can Serrat, outside of Barcelona, in June 2009. In 2008 she was a Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowship winner in drawing. Weisberg was a Somerville Arts Lottery winner in 2001, 2004, 2008, and 2015. Her forty-foot high installation at the DeCordova entitled (Sub) Surface won an award for best museum installation (2003) from the Boston Art Critics Association. Her individual works have entered numerous collections including the Sonesta Hotel and General Hardware Manufacturing Company in New York.
As part of her studio practice, the artist collaborates regularly with students on large-scale, site-specific dimensional drawing installations using predominantly tape. These include Somatic (e) SCAPES at Milton Academy, 2015 (144 x 244 x 24 inches) and Swoop 2013 (144 x 480 x 36 inches) at Wheaton College.
In addition to her teaching at Boston College and mentoring at Massachusetts College of Art and Design Graduate program, Weisberg is an energetic invited lecturer. Her talk, “Material Drawing: Exploration and Connectivity,” was presented at MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning (2014) and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (2018). This paper which examined the material of making, preservation of the senses and its educational implications in the digital age was also presented at University College, London (2014). An iteration of this talk was given at the Broad Institute (2018), a biomedical and genomic research center located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She also holds creativity making workshops in corporate settings and was a creativity consultant at the Meditech Corporation for seven years.
Out of the blue (idiom: without warning, unexpectedly)
These recent works are from a series of 92 paintings, Out of the Blue. The starting point for this blue obsession was a small piece for a themed exhibition (“Out of the Blue” in January 2021 at the Gallery on the Green in Canton). The creation of an image that was not anticipated, and that appeared “out of the blue”, really grabbed me. What grabbed me? The play of figuration at the edge of abstraction; how the faces and/or figures surprisingly emerge out of the blue color field, and are not quite at the edge of beauty; the power of the color Blue, in all its primary-ness; which conveys a more versatile color-emotion pairing than its cousins, Red and Yellow. What kept me going was my intention to pull something out of that Blue color field, working for that moment of the unexpected: delight, amusement, disturbance, or amazement.
‘’How long did the series take you?‘’ 6 months during the time period of December 2020 through May 2021.
‘’What was the inspiration for the images?‘’ The source material for the initial drawings/images changed over the time of the series. It started with that internal place called the pre-conscious; then to art history; then to the mirror (self portraits); then to images from catalogues (Lands End was a favorite). The ending/resulting images are all inner-speak.
‘’Would you say your psychological background influences your work?‘’ It definitely informs my work and provides a context for viewing the work.
‘’Why don’t you make them bigger?‘’ The smallness of the works suits the way I work: Working on several pieces at one time—Drawing and painting fast—putting thinking on hold -- working in a 4 step process: Starting with a line drawing; then an underpainting of color, which is then obscured and obliterated with Blue. Then, the digging out and excavating. The intimacy and the tension inherent in that small space is key to this process.
‘’What’s next?‘’ Maybe “In the Pink” ?