Tag Archives: Fine Art Edition’s Gallery

Arts

REVIEW: LND&SEA

In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard contends that “the secret of seeing . . . comes to those who wait for it, it is always, even to the most practiced and adept, a gift and a total surprise.”  No one knows this better than Louisville photo artist Chip Dumstorf, whose debut solo exhibit, LND&SEA, at the Fine Art Editions Gallery in Georgetown, KY presents a unique challenge to the mind’s eye of anyone who encounters this work.

The challenge commences with the missing “A” in the show’s title.  Although it’s not there, your mind still sees it simply because of visual expectation. And so it is with the 16 images presented in this show.  The pieces are numbered rather than titled, not an uncommon practice for many artists.  Dumstorf stated that he did this for “practical” reasons because of the incredible number of images he generates in a single shoot, sometimes as many as three per minute.  He then further explained that by not using titles, viewers are likelier to respond more spontaneously and personally to the work because they are forced to be with it in the moment, just as he was when he captured it and then later when he meticulously processed it.

LND&SEA #1 is a good case in point.  When I first saw it, I immediately thought of Lina Wertmuller’s film, Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August.  But that was an initial response.  On gazing at it from a distance and up close, I think I went where Dumstorf intended, which was, in part, definitely an unusual destiny. 

LND&SEA #1 (Canvas 92¼” x 39½”) Courtesy of Fine Art Editions Gallery

LND&SEA #1 (Canvas 92¼” x 39½”) Courtesy of Fine Art Editions Gallery

I became the particles of everything I saw, as real of an illusion as I have ever experienced.  I say this because of Dumstorf’s process.   Out of deconstruction emerges a reconstruction of some of the most pristine scenes you will ever witness: nature as it was intended to be rather than what the human race has made of it.  Here, the motion of the wind, which we cannot consciously see, is as much a factor as the dispersion of light from the setting (or rising) sun, the rhythmic undulation of the waves, the gentle wafting of the clouds over the water, and the fascinating spectrum of color these interdependent elements reflect.  Shades of gray, hues of green, blue, pink, white, yellow and black.  Through these trails of light, nothing is as it seems.  Digital manipulation?  Yes indeed.  To the point of high art.

In the age of electronic and digital media, everybody has a camera and everybody takes pictures, but not everybody can create art.  And not everybody is willing to travel up and down the east and west coasts of the U.S. and Central America, as Dumstorf has, to be in the moment, to capture that moment and convey its spirit through digital processing, as is adroitly and spectacularly demonstrated in LND&SEA #3.

LND&SEA #3 (Canvas 92¼” x 39½”) Courtesy of Fine Art Editions Gallery

LND&SEA #3 (Canvas 92¼” x 39½”) Courtesy of Fine Art Editions Gallery

Mellifluous best describes this image because the scene is so soothing, rich and harmonious.  Dumstorf is very much in step and in tune with his approach and like any good photographer, he must first be in the right place at the right time, realizing that he has an incredibly short time frame to make the catch. Then using the tools of his trade, he sculpts what nature has given him.  The sea seems to have dropped out of the sky and as it reaches the shore, the gentle curves of the water’s edge are striated into the sand. The land has been rendered with a similar fluidity that could itself ebb and flow with the tide, or settle into its own windswept gradations of light.

Dumstorf’s technique of digitally adding by subtracting is probably best exemplified by the central piece of the exhibit, LND&SEA #12.  In the style of a minimalist, he clearly shows that less is more.  And using the backdrop that nature provides, sometimes with varying degrees of clutter and visual white noise, Dumstorf painstakingly removes what he considers distractions, which may be anything from a person, to sail boat, to a bird, to a sea shell, or even an oil rig.  Criticize as you may, it’s almost like a baptism when his fastidious cleansing and enhancement of nature’s palette creates such breathtaking, mesmerizing vista of absolute serenity—a place we would all love to be.

LND&SEA #12 (Canvas 92¼” x 39½”) Courtesy of Fine Art Editions Gallery

LND&SEA #12 (Canvas 92¼” x 39½”) Courtesy of Fine Art Editions Gallery

Not all of his work, however, exudes this same aesthetic quality.  Yet it is just as interesting and valid as anything that can be pulled out of thin air.  In fact, it’s stunning.  Undoubtedly the most intense and abstract piece in the show is LND&SEA #5, shot in early afternoon light, one of the least popular times of day for most photographers.

LND&SEA #5 (Canvas 92¼” x 39½”) Courtesy of Fine Art Editions Gallery

LND&SEA #5 (Canvas 92¼” x 39½”) Courtesy of Fine Art Editions Gallery

Light is energy and energy generates heat.  Dumstorf said he was curious as to whether or not he could reduce the harshness of this particular landscape to its most basic components and still impart its true nature.  Well, he did.  And if you look at it long enough, you may begin to perspire.  The heat rises from the bottom of the canvas, starting with fiery red, as strips of alternating color waver outward and upward in luminous tones of yellows, whites, and oranges into the blinding white that dominates the middle of the composition in the way that the sun dominates the middle of the day.  The only respite is the cool blue that bathes the lingering wisps of clouds.

LND&SEA #5 represents the epitome of Dumstorf’s ability to see, and his willingness to be totally present when he photographs.  It also underscores his technical ability to visually communicate an abstraction that is difficult to put into words except for, “Man, it’s hot outside.”  Annie Dillard speaks directly to his presence and his gift when she says, “I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind.  Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail. . .”  This is Dumstorf’s destiny.

LND&SEA runs through November 6th at Fine Art Editions Gallery in Georgetown, Kentucky. The exhibit includes matted and framed prints, as well as images on canvas. 

LND&SEA #16 (40 ¾” x 23 ½”) Courtesy of Fine Art Editions Gallery

LND&SEA #16 (40 ¾” x 23 ½”) Courtesy of Fine Art Editions Gallery

Arts

Review: American Horse and Hound

In William Shakespeare’s play, King Richard III cries out, “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”  His horse has been killed in battle and without it, he faces utter defeat and the loss of his throne.   Demonstrating the human race’s essential dependence on another quadruped, Emily Dickinson declares that “Dogs are better than human beings because they know and do not tell.” 

Pair the two, and what do you get?  A brilliant and intelligent solo exhibit, American Horse and Hound, currently on display at John Hockensmith’s Fine Art Edition’s Gallery at 146 East Main Street in Georgetown, Kentucky.  Although Monica Pipia, the artist, is considered a contemporary primitive painter, her work defies a singular classification because she has so fervently internalized and extemporized the two loves of her life, dogs and horses.

It is clear that her subject matter and her medium, acrylic on canvas (with some mixed media), determine how each piece evolves into a final work of art.  Pipia says that “If I try to manipulate the brush, it’s always disastrous.  I have to listen to my inner voice.  Yes, as with most artists, I cogitate and calculate but I can’t make a painting be what it doesn’t want to be.”  This may sound trite, but what results is a technique and style uniquely and unmistakably Pipia.

The anchor piece of the exhibit, by the same title, depicts a static, statuesque checkerboard horse wearing a checkerboard blanket against a checkerboard background.  Despite the stasis of the scene, this quilting technique makes the piece pulsate with color. Small, black irregular squares dominate the canvas contrasted with interwoven hues and values of red, brown, and gold.  From all of this emerges a horse of a different color, suggesting overtones typical of American folk art.

American Horse and Hound (72” x 48”) Courtesy of Hockensmith’s Fine Art Editions

American Horse and Hound (72” x 48”)
Courtesy of Hockensmith’s Fine Art Editions

Pipia demonstrates in this work her ability to subtly infuse a strong sense of perspective and movement with the curved lines of the spotted yet motionless hound that dominates the foreground beneath the horse.  But the real energy comes from what is actually not on the canvas: the rider.  It is easy to become so entangled in the horse and hound’s mutually intense anticipation that our mind’s eye can’t help but see the person these animals see in the distance, headed toward them.

But never fear.  Out of the 23 works in this exhibit, there are horses with riders present as in “The Turn-around.”  Here, the artist broadens the space and creates a wave-like movement from left to right, curling back again and cresting with the horse’s head.  Through this imposed motion and fluidity, the focus then becomes the hound and the rider in the background. 

The Turn-around (24” x24”) Courtesy of Hockensmith’s Fine Art Editions

The Turn-around (24” x24”)
Courtesy of Hockensmith’s Fine Art Editions

And in a more contemporary vein, Pipia employs a type of painterly synecdoche, where a part represents the whole.  We do not see all of the horse nor do we need to. This, in turn, allows us to not only focus on the curvature of the animal itself, but to also enjoy the splashes of color and contemplate the positive and negative spaces created by the overall composition.  It exudes a warm and exquisite beauty and the use of white in the saddle blanket, the rider’s pants and collar, the hound, and the sun lends a solid unifying element.

The real American spirit in this exhibit is at its best with some of the mixed media pieces where the artist has cleverly incorporated the American flag either literally or figuratively into work itself.  For instance, in “American Horse Portrait” and “Pony Express” the flag symbolizes American progress that has been achieved through the power and strength of the horse.  However, this utilitarian representation does not diminish Pipia’s presentation of the beauty, grace, and necessity of an animal that we still romanticize through our sports, leisure, and entertainment activities.

America Moving Forward (72” x 48”) Courtesy of Hockensmith’s Fine Art Editions

American Horse Portrait (72” x 48”)
Courtesy of Hockensmith’s Fine Art Editions

“American Horse Portrait” serves as an excellent example of the artist’s contemporary primitive inclinations.  One unique thread that runs throughout her work is in the way she places the bridle and reins on the horse.  They are always angular and geometric and presented as an integral part of the horse without restraint.  Another consistency is how she builds texture and layers the paint, using more colors than appear obvious at a glance, such as the brown, white and black seen here. This portrait, painted over a flag that has been attached to the canvas, is both beautiful and moving in its seeming simplicity.  Yet the connotations of its conceptual complexity are vast, depending on what we, as viewers, bring to it based on our own knowledge and experience.

Pipia’s paintings also display a lot of joy and playfulness as “Balancing Act” confirms, where a canine is balancing a doggie treat on its nose.  Hunter, companion, friend, and confidant. The message is clear in this profile that the slightest movement may result in the subject’s disappointment and displeasure with its failure to sit and stay still as it performs this feat.  All the while we, too, are waiting for the command for it to toss its head in the air and make the bone disappear down the hatch.  Such is the power of Pipa’s art to stimulate the imagination.  Note the dog’s collar simulating a red stripe of the American flag with stars.

Balancing Act (20” x20”) Courtesy of Hockensmith’s Fine Art Editions

Balancing Act (20” x20”)
Courtesy of Hockensmith’s Fine Art Editions

The American Horse and Hound exhibit is joyfully positive and thought-provoking.  Pipia’s work could easily fit into a number of categories but it is, first and foremost, original and representational as it strives to convey the essence of what it portrays. And it will allow you to easily tap into your own inner Shakespeare or Dickinson.  After all, where would we be without horses and dogs, and who would want to live in a world without them? 

The artist’s reception is on Thursday, June 30th, 6-8 pm. The exhibit runs through Saturday, July 30th.