Bones and Beauty
By S.A. Hawkins
When thinking of artists, sensibility is not necessarily at the forefront of our minds. For those of us in the general populous, outside of the art world, the mention of a career in the arts may bring a very specific picture to mind—possibly an eccentric recluse throwing paint at a canvas, locked away in some crazy live/work studio in an urban and filthy environment. Artists are a special breed, often allowed to carve out a nook adjacent to society—living within the same world that the rest of us exist in, but making their own rules.
While this may be the case for some, the entirety of the art community can’t be defined with a broad-stroke classification like that. Careers in the arts range widely from teaching, creating, writing, curating, selling, and in many cases even working with art in a largely bureaucratic environment. The art world is a big business and the diversity of careers available is both extensive and somewhat mysterious to many on the outside.
If one were to wonder where those with varying careers in the art community got their start, walking into the Mt. San Antonio College Art Gallery “Sense & Sensibility II” exhibition would begin to give insight. Many careers in the arts actually start with a studio practice, and in many cases an MFA degree. The premise of this series of exhibitions, curated by Fatemeh Burnes, is to highlight artworks made by people with careers in the Arts, those that are not usually in the spotlight, but are the backbone of the industry.
When thinking of this premise for an exhibit, one may wonder exactly what the quality of the work will be . . . Will the art critic, or the museum director, or the curator actually be a good artist in their own right? Does their aesthetic eye carry from the boardroom to the studio? Going by what is on view in “Sense & Sensibility II,” the answer is unequivocally yes. The level of work in this exhibition is truly staggering and nothing but top notch.
While the themes and materials used were diverse, with heavy contemporary influences, some of the standouts were done in a timeless manner. Portraiture seems to be a common theme amongst many of the most notable pieces, including works by George Gallery Director Jared Linge, Salt Fine Art Gallery Director Suzanne Walsh, Artillery Magazine Editor-In-Chief Tulsa Kinney and Laguna College of Art and Design Chair of Drawing and Painting MFA program, Perin Mahler.
While some of these artists use portraiture in their works in radically different ways, the magic is undeniable. Jared Linge steals the show with his high finish large-scale portraits.
Jared’s portraits have an historic feel, both in technique—high renaissance finish—but also in subject matter. One of Linge’s three paintings depicts an aristocratic woman dressed from an era long since passed, staring directly out at the viewer. She is shown in a dramatic gown, covered in bows and draped with pearls, massive feathers in her hair and on Edwardian lace collar around her neck. The feel of antiquity is beautifully offset by contemporary color choices—a bold under lighting of bright red adds to an eerie Tim Burton-esque feel to the character that both draws the viewer in and makes the viewer feel utterly uneasy at the same time.
Suzanne Walsh approaches the classical subject matter of portraiture, both animal and human, in an amazingly illustrative and somewhat non-traditional high art practice of pyrography. Pyrography is the method of mark making on wood using a burning tool.
With the constant in Walsh’s works being the exposed wood panel, the imagery expands from there. Walsh has four pieces in “Sense and Sensibility II,” two of which depict portraits of men in historic military garb. In Telepathy General, Walsh has depicts a young man staring out passed the viewer, in full dress uniform with medals pinned to his chest. To oppose this classic imagery the artists has wild geometric/natural growth depicted almost as white branches extended from a red glow behind the general’s head. An absolute feeling of calm and of knowing radiates from the General.
Expanding on the artists mentioned above, there is a abundance of great works in Sense & Sensibility II. This exhibition exemplifies the wealth of talent that exists within the fabric that makes up the Los Angeles art world. It also lends to a comparison with many of the comic book super heroes, mild mannered curator by day, super painter by night.
Mt. San Antonio College Art Gallery, 1100 N. Grand Ave., Walnut, artgallery.mtsac.edu. On view thru Dec. 12. Admission is free.