Shara Hughes painting, Hot Hot Sun 2015 oil on canvas

Shara Hughes “Hot Hot Sun”, 2015, oil on canvas, 36″ x 30″

Spirit of the Dead Watching is the title of an exhibit at Dan Devening Projects + Editions in Chicago.  Opening August 30, 2015, the exhibit will be on view until October 17.  It’s a show of younger artists, whose work appears to be in conversation with Modernist movements and sub-genres like Cubism, Fauvism, der Blaue Reiter.  According to the press release: “Annie Hémond Hotte, Austin Eddy, Bradley Biancardi, Shara Hughes and Tracy Thomason are all builders; organizing shape and material where characters, people, and humanness emerge. Each artist works within an invented symbology, and uses it to imply a sensation, illustrate an event, and/or create a world.”

Enough to make me curious about the work and these artist’s ideas.  How is it that a group of younger artists from different backgrounds come to a way of making that harkens back to forms invented by European and American artists over a century ago?  MWC decided to ask each of the five artists to respond to some questions about their work, their background and the thesis of the exhibit.  In the discussion that follows, it is quickly apparent that all five artists find purpose through process.  This allows for a practice based on sincerity, genuine search for forms that might express basic universal concepts, and freedom to pick and choose the ideas and theories that are relevant to the work.  I want to say thank you to each of the artists involved in “Spirit of the Dead Watching” for participating.  Here’s the discussion: Continue Reading »

As a follow up to our roundtable discussion on the survey of Sharon Patten’s work at the Daum Museum in Sedalia, here is a post of installation shots and details of the paintings.

Sharon Patten Signal

“Signal”, oil on canvas, 1988-1989

Following our previous entry about the work of the late Kansas City based painter Sharon Patten, we present a selection of details from her paintings.  All images taken at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art during the course of the exhibit, Sharon Patten: An Independent Visionsummer 2015. Continue Reading »

Sharon Patten ReceptionSharon Patten, “Reception” (installation view at the Daum Museum), 96″ x 84″, oil on canvas, 1994

Sharon Patten’s paintings are currently the subject of a survey at the Daum Museum of Art in Missouri.  Most of these paintings date from the last decade of Patten’s life. At the time of her death Patten was starting to receive national attention for her large-scale, thickly painted work.  Sharon Patten died in 1995 at the age of 52.  She was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, was showing  in New York City and Kansas City, and garnered positive reviews from Art in America.  A native of the small town of Sedalia, Missouri, it’s fitting that the Daum Museum there is currently the foremost resource about her life and work.  Sharon Patten: An Independent Vision is on view until August 30th, 2015.

Patten’s paint is heavy, applied with a knife and so thick that the paintings frequently look different up close than from a distance.  Figure and ground relationships that seem insistent from 10 feet away dissolve when the viewer moves in for a closer look.  An outline can be literally obscured by a passage of impasto.  And for all the physicality of the paintings, the role of design seems critical to the experience of these paintings.  As does the role of metaphor.  Patten herself was clear about the importance of metaphor in her work.  It’s discussed in a quote from the artist posted on the gallery wall, and in titles of many of the paintings: “Concurrence”, “Experience”, “Aplomb”, “Success”, etc.  For Patten abstraction was a form and a behavior.

Given the physicality and surface complexity of these paintings, I felt the only way to write about them was to open up a conversation with other painters also able to see the work in person.  It was the excitement of Boonville, Missouri-based artist, Chris Fletcher, that prompted me to make the drive out to see the exhibit.  Fletcher then suggested an artist from Columbia, Missouri, Jennifer Wiggs, to be the third voice in our conversation.  The three of us exchanged a few emails discussing our experience of Sharon Patten’s work.

Christopher Lowrance:  To start, I’ve been thinking about my drive to work, an hour through the countryside, and the way that, after 8 years of it, I know the land. It’s not the particulars, which are always changing. Trees fall down, buildings Continue Reading »

fate in your hands

Yasuo Kuniyoshi, “My Fate Is In Your Hand” from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.  Hyperallergic writes about a Kuniyoshi retrospective currently on view at the Smithsonian. We featured a terrific Kuniyoshi from the Des Moines Art Center here on MWC a couple of years ago.


John Berry, “Beserker”, 2015, oil and spray paint on panel, 8″ x 10″

Here is a second, long overdue (Sorry, John!) response to our new prompt, asking an artist to think of three questions she or he might ask of her or his future self.  This time the artist is John Berry, a young painter living in Greencastle, IN.  The artist chose to approach the response by coming up with a list of questions and providing a short explanation as to why he wants to know.  Berry’s most recent show is Image Loading on view at DePauw University in Greencastle last spring.  You can see more of his work at his website.

Are you still using paint?

It is less and less obvious to me why I should use paint, Continue Reading »

Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me is my favorite read of the year so far.  I borrowed it from the library, so I’ve been typing quotes and thoughts into a word document for reflection.  This blog has a particular focus, and there are a few pages that talk about art writing in a way that I think syncs with the approach toward discussing art on the internet we’ve tried to maintain here.  Not to try to divert any attention from what Solnit’s book is saying about a larger social realm, more trying to incorporate some of the wisdom and questioning into a clearer  standard for myself here.  These are some choice quotes from the chapter titled “Woolf’s Darkness”.

” I used to joke that museums love artists the way that taxidermists love deer, and something of that desire to secure, to stabilize, to render certain and definite the open-ended, nebulous, and adventurous work of artists is present in many who work in that confinement sometimes called the art world…”

“There is a kind of counter-criticism that seeks to expand the work of art, by connecting, opening up its meanings, inviting in the possibilities.  A great work of criticism can liberate a work of art, to be seen fully, to remain alive, to engage in a conversation that will not ever end but will instead keep feeding the imagination.  Not against interpretation, but against confinement, against killing the spirit.”

“My own task these past twenty years or so of living by words has been to try to find or make a language to describe the subtleties, the incalculables, the pleasures and meanings–impossible to categorize–at the heart of things.  My friend Chip Ward speaks of ‘the tyranny of the quantifiable,’ of the way what can be measured almost always takes precedence over what cannot: private profit over public good; speed and efficiency over enjoyment and quality; the utilitarian over the mysteries and meanings that are of greater use to our survival and to more than our survival, to lives that have some purpose and value that survive beyond us to make a civilization worth having.”




Claire Sherman, Rock Wall, 2015, oil on canvas, 84″ x 66″


One of MWC’s  longtime favorite painters, Claire Sherman, opens a new exhibit,  Funeral Mountain, today at Kavi Gupta in Chicago.  The show runs until August 1st, so hopefully your summer travels will allow you a chance to get into the city and see it.  Hopefully mine too!  Here’s a link to our 2010 interview with Sherman.



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