This is an article I wrote about a show that opened on March 30, 2014 at the collaborative gallery I belong to.
Gallery Route One (GRO) in Point Reyes Station presents an exhibition of the works of three artists: “The Vickisa Experience,” Lauri Sturdivant, “Applied Junk Art,” and Jessica Eastburn, “Mutatis Mutandis.” The opening reception will be on Sunday, March 30, 2014, from 3:00 – 5:00, and a closing salon will be held on Sunday, May 4, 2014, from 4:00 – 5:00. Each of the artists presents an intense, but very different, personal response to the world, food enough for many exciting conversations
Center Gallery: Vickisa
Diaries. Journals. Sketchbooks. Paintings. Self-portraits. The artist Vickisa throws herself into her life and art. “These are my personal things,” the artist says, speaking about her center-gallery show at GRO. This series began, the artist says, when she received a gift in that signature blue box from Tiffany’s. “I started thinking about what I really wished could be in that box.” One answer might be the work called “Precious Things,” with that pure Tiffany-turquoise blue as sky and frame, imagining and enclosing her own personal world: three Cézannian bathers wading in deep blue reflecting pools, a welcoming red cottage, whales offshore, a dog in the foreground (who seems to hear the birds in the rosebushes), all of this painted into the West Marin coastal hills. The moment is quiet, quiet enough to hear those birds and the waves. Vickisa says it became a challenge, to show that art does not have to come from angst, but from joy and quiet contentment.
Vickisa’s work often re-presents her visits to Maui, New Orleans or to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. “I have a secret,” Vickisa says, “so that I can stand right where I need to be. I give people last year’s books to look at, and that keeps them busy long enough for me to complete my sketches.” She paints on site, chooses her own words or those of musicians and poets, and then cuts and places the final images into fold-out books. Each musician is named and the experience of being at a formal – or a sidewalk – concert is described. Some images work their way into hand-made books, and others into full paintings. “Endure, Survive and Thrive” portrays members of The Wild Tchoupitoulas, a group formed from a Mardi Gras Indian tribe”(celebrants dress in Native American ceremonial robes and wear elaborate beaded and feathered head-dress). Three figures pictured in brilliant reds and pinks and oranges -- “I love color, and use it with abandon,” the artist says -- seem to float majestically over a field of deep blue ribbons. The group reappears in an accordion book, mid-performance, with their nephew, Aaron Neville at the microphone. Vickisa practices a different kind of plein-air painting; she does not picture a landscape, but rather people and the landscapes they create together. The artist sometimes includes her rescued cattle dog mix, Rosebud, as muse: Rosebud appears in one book to say “I just don’t know why where I sit is so important to me.” Other books and paintings offer up self-portraits that center on Vickisa’s hard-won contentment; she is “really pretty happy now” and has found the time to appreciate her life and her re-vamped studio. “I love looking [out the window] at my birds, I love my brushes, and making my art.” Together, these works form a generous invitation to catch sight of one woman’s very “precious things."
Project Space: Lauri Sturdivant
“Applied Junk Art,” the Project Space show by Lauri Sturdivant, began, she says, as her work tends to begin, “with the material first, so the material determines what happens.” Sturdivant picks up objects, pieces, parts, papers, anything that appeals to her that other people have discarded. “What we throw on the ground stays there,” she says, “it isn’t going anywhere.” And she wants her audience to think about what is discarded and what might be kept. So, Sturdivant picks up whatever comes her way, often re-working it or re-attaching it to something new, and begins to find a place for it in her art. One piece, “Scraps,” is nine feet tall and three feet wide, a series of hangings, made up of pendular shapes about an inch wide, in whites and ivories and neutral colors. Despite the fact that each artwork is made of litter, Sturdivant says, “the work is clean ... [and yet] I am not interested in people thinking my work is beautiful. I am interested in people finding time to stand in front of it. The word ‘quiet’ suits what I am trying to do.” Her studio, she says, is filled with rolled and completed artworks, with stacks of fabrics, boxes of buttons, boxes of litter that has happened to come her way. Sturdivant began as a two-dimensional collage artist and says that “the truth is that, even then, people kept wondering what I was doing, and that gave me the freedom” to try something out of the ordinary. The objects and constructions that motivate her, Studivant hopes, will similarly motivate her audience to think about what we label as “junk.” The heaviest piece in this exhibition, “litter from 4 states,” includes “everything under the sun ... a Spanish-language CD, stickers for piano keys, but perhaps the most unusual piece is a slab of tire that had been lying in the road for awhile. “I kept thinking, ‘I should pick that up,’” she says, “and then the road crew painted a yellow line over the top of the tire scrap, “and then I picked it up.” The work is encased in plastic, “to honor the things that are littered.” Maybe we throw things away when we are moving too fast. This work asks that we slow down and look.
Annex: Jessica Eastburn
Jessica Eastburn is Gallery Route One’s first recipient of the Fellowship for Young Artists Award; she was first among a very strong applicant pool. Eastburn will be a Fellow at GRO for 18 months, and will present a center gallery show in 2015. Her exhibition is titled “Mutatis Mutandis.” That title is her reaction to growing up in the 1980’s and 1990’s with both consumer and digital overload. Advertising promised everything, and yet...even when we replace one object in our lives with a newer, shinier object, the big picture remains the same. Eastburn began to ask a series of questions: “Is everything replaceable, even artists and their work? Do I really need to have more?” She says she underwent a change: “All these things I took as fact, I’m going back and questioning basic beliefs: what’s actually important? what should culture be?” Eastburn began to pull all the familiar images, the “useless ... arbitrary and incongruous information ... snippets of patterns and motifs, and layers of pop culture” together, creating her own labor-intensive (and nearly stream-of consciousness) process. She began to draw with ruler and compass and then added gouache, cel-vinyl inking, airbrush and spray paint. There isn’t a pixel in sight. Her work brings to mind fleeting images of Roy Lichtenstein, bits of Japanese kimonos, colorful cartoon explosions and graffiti, for starters. Recently, Eastburn went back to early MTV, to videos like Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing,” and examined the straightforward geometry and simple color gradations that represented the best in computer visuals of that era. She combined the results, along with other icons and images into a central piece for this show, called “Trouble with the Sweet Stuff.” This painting became a catalyst for Eastburn’s newest, most personal work; the disparate elements arose from memories of her childhood. These works reward close examination, as they are perfectly executed and, by turns, funny, absorbing, quixotic, and strangely familiar.