December 2016 Judge: Charlie Hunter
Read more about professional artist and art educator, Charlie Hunter.
BEST IN SHOW, above: Spaghetti Junction by Alan Wylie. Judge's comment: Lights, darks, abstract shapes. Edges, values, composition. Have you ever tried to do one of these virtually flat-plane paintings? Of course you have. You know how hard this is. Join me in genuflecting before this wonder.
Downtown Blues by Kathie Odom. Judge's comment: Look, I paint a lot of railroad tracks. I pride myself on my railroad-track painting, and Kathy Odom sort of slops her way through the railroad tracks here. "Well, nuts to THAT," I thought to myself. Then I remembered what Richard Schmidt says about why paintings matter - it let's us see the world through someone else's eyes. And this painting keeps drawing me in --- it is an almost perfect 21st century revisitation of a George Bellows Ashcan School urban landscape. So she isn't as OCD about railroad tracks or window mullions as I am, and bravo for that! What she's in love with is the light and the colors of light, and boy does she deliver. I love the way she sees the world. Thank you Kathy. Thank you, Richard.
Old Timer by Suzie Baker. Judge's comment: Well I couldn't very well give Suzie Greer Baker three paintings of twelve allotted winners, so I had to choose between an evocative portrait, masterful high-key landscape or a blasted-light 1958 Chevy measuring a mere six inches by six inches. I went with the Chevy. Who says a masterwork has to be big? To take a representational depiction of a resolutely hard-edged object, and stand it on its head! Look what she does with the edges! Look at the juicy handling of the paint! And the color choices! Look at the rigor of the drawing. It's like a shiv to the heart... So lethal, and you never feel a thing.
Meson El Tajo, Estepona, Spain by Sam Hall. Judge's comment: One of the things I emphasize in my workshops is the fact we are story tellers. When we do a painting, we are basically saying to the viewer, "You! Come here! You have to see this!" Sam Hall wants to tell us about the informality of these guys, about the tile work, the odd cast-iron frou-fraw on the walls, and he _certainly_ wants to tell us about the hams on the ceiling. I'm enthralled. This feels like Alice Neel does Tapas, and I'm happy to join in.
Heart of Our Life Together by Beverly Todd. Judge's comment: Sometime you just need to give representationalism the ol' heave-ho. This is like if DeKooning was in a good mood and just let go of all that baggage he was dragging around. Deft, airy and a joy to look at.
Scolding Goose by Gabrielle McDermit. Judge's comment: Ok, I'm just going to put it out there at the get-go that I'm not a huge fan of that sheep's leg that is lying on the ground. It looks like a bit of discarded trachea or something. Aside from that, though, wow, do I love this! You can enjoy it as a bravura bit of painting; you can get lost in that juicy brushwork and confident paint-slinging of a bunch of near-abstract shapes. You can settle back and enjoy the light/dark interplay (take a gander at the goose's butt, and her feet)! Or you can just take it all in as a bit of masterful storytelling and ponder why in the world the goose was so annoyed by an innocuous action on the part of a sheep. I'd surmise this was painted from a photo (itchy sheep and pissed-off geese tend to move around a lot), so kudos to Ms. McDermit for not getting all tight and belabored the way most paintings from photos end up looking. If it was painted from life, well, then, additional kudos. I've never had a lick of success trying to get animals to pose for me.
November--Paris by George Bodine. Judge's comment: Dude can draw. Dude is paying attention to the fact that things look more real the less you put in there. Dude knows how to lock shapes together, and how to use warms and darks to break our hearts. Dude wins a lot of prizes. That's because he is very, very good and has doubtless put in hours and hours to get there*. Work hard. Get really good. Be like Dude.
*If I'm wrong, and George Bodine just woke up one day and started painting like that, it's ok for you and me and everyone else to hate him. A lot. Just saying.
Finished for the Day by Deborah Tilby. Judge's comment: I'm not normally a big boat-painting guy. And I generally caution folks against horizontal barriers that run smack-dab across the picture plane. But when you see a painting as strong as this, one fairly shouts, "Toss the rulebook in the scupper and luff the mainsails!" (or whatever an old salt would say). This is just a confident and well-seen painting. The scumble allowing the tinted substrate to show through ties the whole thing together, as do the red highlights that dance like small joyous dots across the boat and it's surroundings. And those are some mighty fine buildings. Mighty fine indeed.
Up From The Earth by Nancy Tankersley. Judge's comment: This is a ballsy bit of painting, here. 30x30 is a really good size for big statements about industry, but look what Tankersley is doing here - how she is playing with geometry... The volumetric railroad tank car (a cylinder) sits darkly and squatly bam center as the resolutely rectangular buildings (except for the one cylindrical one that subtly echoes the rail car) mass behind it. But the key to the painting is the gorgeously arcing tracery of the railroad tracks tying the two together and pulling the eye inexorably to the mysterious blue area and the horizontal rectangle. Then you start noticing the massive triangular slab that the structures and that conveyor make. Then you grab your stuff and go out to paint some yourself, because paintings this good make us glad to be alive and make us want to get in on the action.
Quitting Time by Bruce Bingham. Judge's comment: Bingham settles the question art historians have been asking for decades: "What would El Greco have made of 1940s-era Ford Trucks?" He would have liked them a lot, obviously.
Dang! This has some beautiful passages! Look at how the rail of the bed leads us in; to the cracked-open door; where we get to sit, in excited dread, looking at the possibly-impending thunderstorm until the fear of a hidden nest of wasps somewhere in that scratchy upholstery gets a little too unsettling, and we burst out -either direction- into that excellent field behind.
THAT, boys and girls, is what "leading the eye through the painting" is all about.
Falling Into Mercy by Laurie Barmore. Judge's comment: Painting abstractly frightens me. It seems much more like falling onto a pile of steak knives than falling into mercy. So I am always in admiration of abstracts that seem to really knowingly carve out the space of the picture plane. This has a sumptuous use of color, as well as great dimensionality. The red shapes conjure -to me, anyway- both wings and the human heart, which is no small feat. And the bits of blue against the red are jewel-like.
Ghost Town by Steve McKnight. Judge's comment: I like the -consistently- extremely careful observational quality of this one. Which is odd, as I am no big fan of wildlife art where you can see each pin feather on a blue winged teal. However, in this case, the meticulous detail imparts a vaguely creepy obsessiveness. And the fact that everything seems queasily distorted very slightly to the right only adds to the disquietude. It's like a reliquary for capatilistic ideas that just didn't work out. Even the patchy snow beyond the buildings looks defeated.
My favorite passage, hands-down, though, is the attenuated tire-track in the foreground. It's like progress, in the form of a modern-day automobile, started down the gravel road, slammed on the brakes and went, "uh..... No. Not today," backed up, and headed elsewhere.