Hoop: The American Dream
By Henry Abbott
Award-winning photographer Robin Layton on the road trip that led to a stunning book of basketball photography.
Award-winning photographer Robin Layton on the road trip that led to a stunning book of basketball photography.
by Suzanne Beal
Oil on Polyester over Panel
42″ x 42″
Photo: courtesy Winston Wachter Fine Art
Although she begins with a precise geographic location, painter Tracy Rocca uses her subject matter as an invitation to travel inwards. Raised in the Northwest, Rocca creates canvases that evoke the region’s foggy, rain-soaked haze, albeit punctuated with the vivid colors of the changing seasons. The images glimpsed therein might be a wildflower blown up beyond all recognition, or the world perceived through a single drop of rain. “By blurring the details I create a window into an unspecified yet familiar environment,” she notes. These highly saturated color field paintings lead to what Rocca hopes is “a place where the mind can rest.” Inspired in part by the landscape of New Mexico where she currently resides, Rocca is equally driven by a desire to create a distance between her painterly production and the speed of most modern devices, which we use to almost instantaneously capture, post, and re-tweet the details of our busy lives. “Ultimately a single point of focus or light emerges from within the paintings,” writes Rocca, “creating the enveloping sense of meditative focus that characterizes my paintings.” In Rocca’s hands, this beam of light is often the portal through which visitors might travel far and wide, only to discover themselves being safely led back home. Tracy Rocca at Winston Wachter can be seen through December 25, 2013.
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By Jenn Harris
October 26, 2013
Artist Christopher Boffoli likes to play with food. We’re not talking making airplane noises while guiding a spoonful of peas through the air on a short flight. He makes full-on dioramas with miniature people and a whole world of food.
In Boffoli’s book “Big Appetites: Tiny People in a World of Big Food,” he creates scenes of little characters hard at work on everything from bagels, lox and cream cheese to sushi. He was inspired by a lot of scale juxtaposition he saw as a child in cinema, television and advertising.
“Though there could be great comedy in situations in which people found themselves shrunken down to a tiny size in a normal-sized world, what made a greater impression was the drama: how a harmless ant could suddenly become a monster hunting you down, or how a few drops of water from a garden hose could catalyze a deadly flash flood,” said Boffoli. ”In the context of my work I thought the concept was a great foil for the way our American penchant for massive portion sizes has the potential to transform something that nurtures us into something that does us harm.”
In the various scenes, the characters are never eating the food they’re surrounded by, only working around or on it. In one photo, workers try to pry the seeds from giant strawberries, in another, three men ride bicycles up the curve of a banana and, just in time for Halloween, there’s a depiction of a candy corn expedition.
“Just as we don’t eat the ground we walk on, the characters in my ‘Big Appetites’ photographs bike over, swim in and work among a world of food but don’t necessarily consume it,” said Boffoli. “Specifically, migrant laborers and hourly-wage earners that pick, process and transport our food to market but who treat it like a commodity that they move along but do not consume as food for themselves.”
Boffoli makes his points with the photos, but the captions are just as important to the story. In one photo called “Linguine Car Wash,” the caption reads: “The deluxe carbonara option was canceled after too many customers lost mirrors and antennas.” In another called “Sundae Skiers,” the caption reads: “The runs were short. But the bragging rights of exotic slopes were worth it.”
There is no average set-up time for Boffoli’s diorama photos, but he says he generally can shoot three to five set-ups in a few hours. During the editing process he may find he needs to re-shoot or completely cut an idea he previously thought would resonate. And some ideas just come to him while he’s doing everyday tasks such as peeling an orange. The act of creating a long orange peel made it onto the cover of his book.
“I’d love to say that I’m clever enough to know exactly what will make a successful image, but sometimes the truth defies a simple explanation,” said Boffoli. “I’m just an artist who makes work that pleases me, and when I’m lucky, it occasionally strikes a chord with someone else in the world.”
And if you’re wondering whether or not he munches during these food-filled sessions, he says, “not really.” The food is 100% real, but after he scrutinizes the food for a time through a lens, it’s not as appetizing.
Boffoli’s work is currently on display at Art Toronto and will open in Seattle on Oct. 29.
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Every two years, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Mass., stages an ambitious exhibition known as the Biennial. The group show shines a spotlight on emerging and mid-career contemporary artists working throughout New England.
The exhibit begins before you even enter the museum. Wandering around the grassy sculpture park you spot deadpan, hand-drawn placards by Boston text artist Pat Falco. They’re white with black lettering and look like picket signs. One designates a tree-lined alcove as a “Premier Make-Out Opportunity.” Another, stuck in a hill, reads “High Art,” behind it, “Higher Art.” There are eight in all.
Outside the museum’s entrance, curator Lexi Lee Sullivan met me at a little cabin.
“He built this house with materials that were donated and some that were purchased from Home Depot,” she explained.
The “he” she referred to is Providence artist John C. Gonzalez. He made his “Home Depot House” while working in the store’s paint department.
“And it was built with Home Depot associates. So the aesthetics of the piece as well as how it is joined — everything about it — is very specific to who was helping him to build the piece,” Sullivan added.
Gonzalez’s cabin will double as a work space for artists-in-residence during the biennial. “So the artists will be here every Saturday and Sunday and as many days as they can take off during the week,” she said with a laugh.
It’s been a daunting task for Sullivan to scour New England for emerging artists such as Gonzalez. She road-tripped to more than 150 studios where she met with makers using all kinds of mediums — from video to film to audio to Plexiglas and beyond. To pare down the possibilities, Sullivan turned to regional art critics and curators for their opinions and insight.
“I think there’s still really a place for locale in art,” deCordova museum director Dennis Kois explained. “Just like there’s a local food movement and there’s a local music scene, there’s a local art movement — and it’s the culture that’s made here.”
There was a time when the deCordova’s mission was regional, but Kois shifted to a more global approach after he was hired five years ago (along with changing the name to reflect a greater emphasis on the museum’s unique sculpture park). Plenty of New Englander artists and art lovers have been critical, and the biennial is the director’s response.
“Like all institutions, you have to grow and change,” he explained. “And I think, you know, to show only regional art in a way sort of ghettoizes it, and the goal for deCordova now is to the show the best regional art and contextualize it. So I think it helps our audiences understand what’s happening here and that it matters in a global sense, that’s it’s not in a vacuum.”
That said, some very regional themes have emerged. Apparently plaid is popular this year. In one piece, the pattern is paired with paintings of lobsters. And labor intensive works including one called, “Flotilla.”
It’s a sprawling series of more than 100 tiny, painstakingly detailed ballpoint pen drawings by Boston artist Ethan Murrow. It covers a three-story wall in a sun-lit stairwell and takes on the history of the U.S. through something that’s very New England: maritime culture.
On the sunny afternoon of my visit, Sullivan ran into the artist’s mother, Liza Ketchum of Watertown. Ketchum says her 37-year-old son started drawing when he was 5 years old.
“I remember the art teacher saying, ‘Well, you have to wait until your 6.’ And he just wore him down, so he’s been at it since kindergarten,” she recalled.
Ketchum is thrilled to see her son’s work in a local museum the size of the deCordova.
“I haven’t shown in Boston,” Ethan Murrow told me as we rode a crotchety elevator up to his fourth floor studio in Boston’s South End. It’s where he researched his epic wall piece for the deCordova.
“I wanted it to be a glut, a mass, almost too much,” he mused.
Murrow grew up in Vermont and is the grandson of journalist Edward R. Murrow. Being in the biennial is a big deal for a mid-career working artist, and he’s grateful for the exposure. But Murrow says he doesn’t envy the curator’s position.
Standing in the main gallery at the deCordova, Sullivan surveyed the exhibition she’s been pulling together for about two years.
“It’s exciting, it’s exhilarating, it’s terrifying,” the curator admitted. “But more than anything I hope that it becomes a platform for these artists, for other people to see them, and get excited about the work and work with them in the future.”
And that, the curator said, should be the goal of any biennial.
The 2013 deCordova Biennial run through April 13, 2014.
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Artist Betsy Eby Is Painting With Fire
You can tell by looking at her work that Oregon-born artist Betsy Eby has spent lots of time near forests, buttercup fields and the silvery bark of birch thickets. Nature’s rhythms have indelibly informed her artistic sensibilities. Eby is an encaustic painter; encaustic is a medium that dates back to the 4th century B.C. She heats and layers beeswax onto canvas wrapped around birch panels (custom made by her father in his woodshop!) then paints with a blowtorch. The visual effects are striking: visions of whirling leaves, buzzing insects, sheets of ice, and birds in flight appear above the laminations.
Trained as a classical pianist, Eby’s current work has her visual documents talking back to classical music compositions. Her latest exhibition “Painting With Fire: Works by Betsy Eby” will be on view at The Columbus Museum (Columbus, GA), October 27, 2013-February 23, 2014.
Plenty of photographers have flocked to northern waters to document the rapidly changing environment that lies beyond the Arctic Circle. However, we doubt as many painters or visual artists have ventured to the freezing regions to capture the shifting beauty of landscapes affected by climate change.
That’s what makes Zaria Forman‘s work so unique. The artist recently traveled up the northwest coast of Greenland, basing her journey on the century-old travels of American painter William Bradford. Like her predecessor, who completed his journey in 1869, Forman recorded the vast and haunting sights she experienced along the way into epic landscape artworks.
The project, titled “Chasing the Light,” was partly inspired by Forman’s childhood adventures with her family, traveling to remote landscapes for her mother’s fine art photography career. Turning her attention to Greenland in particular, Forman follows in Bradford and her mother’s footsteps, translating rarely seen terrains into striking pastel drawings.
The works, featuring gorgeous towering icebergs and crystal-clear waters, bring a different, albeit positive perspective to Greenland’s fluctuating reality. The drawings shine a light on the complex evolution that takes place across our planet.
“Greenland’s ice and permafrost will continue to melt in the coming decades as the planet adjusts to our carbon emissions,” Forman explained in an email to The Huffington Post. “It is unfortunate, but inevitable, which is why I find it crucial to render and honor these icescapes in flux, and to help bring awareness to many whose lives will be affected.”
After drawing her way through Greenland, Forman has decided to continue her endeavors — part artistic journey, part environmental education. She has plans of journeying to Maldives next, accompanied by painter Lisa Lebofsky and writer/filmmaker/artist Drew Denny, to document a country that could be swept away by the ocean in the next 1,000 years.
“My hope is that my drawings will raise awareness and invite viewers to share the urgency of the Maldivians’ predicament in a productive and hopeful way,” Forman stated. “I believe art can facilitate a deeper understanding of crises, helping us find meaning and optimism amidst shifting landscapes.”
Scroll through a selection of “Chasing the Light” below and let us know your thoughts on Forman’s art-meets-science expedition in the comments.
Winston Wächter Seattle would like to congratulate our very own, Trimpin, on winning the Portland Art Museum’s $10,000 Arlene Schnitzer Prize for his sculptural music installation featuring a red painted piano vertically suspended beneath a tripod.
Please view images below for Trimpin’s WWFA artwork and view our website for more information.