Saturday, January 18, 2014

Looking for Layered Pastels and Lauren Boilini's "Rabid Habits"

If you read this blog regularly, you may think that I feel like Maryland is this magical place where I can run away from all of my problems. Come to think of it, I DO run away to Maryland periodically, as if Virginia has run out of options for me or something. But the reality is this: Sometimes Maryland just has what I want, and sometimes Virginia doesn't.

This time I blame the Washington Post. They and their cleverly written articles about local things that make you want to go and see them. Who do they think I am? A stay at home mom with all her kids in school or something, with my days pretty much open to do what I want at least some of the time? Oh wait...that's exactly what I am. Yay for me!

So DK hands me the Post Arts section the other day and says,"Weren't you thinking about mixing pastel over top of some other kind of paints this year?" Why yes I am. "Well you might want to go look at this show. Some lady is doing pastels over oils. It looks brightly colored. You'd like it." How he even remembers that I am into these things is a mystery. I can never really tell what DK thinks about me being an artist, but moments like this make me think he might just be OK with it. Or at least have come to be somewhat resigned to his fate.

So when I found myself wanting to blow off my chores unengaged the Friday morning before the show closed, I looked up the address, and headed off to Maryland to see what there was to see. I had to laugh when I realized that the VisArts Center, where the exhibit is located, is off the same exact road as the thrift shop I bought my dining room table at. (You can read about that expansive misadventure here). 

VisArts is a part of the Rockville Town Center complex. (For directions and exhibit info check their website here.) I found off street metered parking, but I wish I hadn't because the docent told me that the VisArt gallery validates parking in the attached garage. So park in the garage and save yourself a $1.00 and spend more time than the hour I was given by the meter.

When you walk into the building, you see this:

  for 20 feet up the wall! 

It's Ground Cover: Roots of Liriope by Israeli-American artist Dalya Luttwak. She got interested in larger than life root sculptures when a tree fell on her car and she had to shoot pictures of it for her insurance company. Talk about making lemons into lemonaide. Your car gets smashed and you get the idea that becomes the center of your career. So cool.

Once I could stop staring at the giant root sculpture, I turned around and 
realized I had found what I was her for.

Lauren Boilini's exhibit "Rabid Habits" was right in the front gallery on the main floor.

The first thing you see is a wall of smaller paintings, with figures coming and going, some like waves of bodies, others harder to describe. There are 48 of these in the exhibit in they had my attention for a while. But I was looking for the bigger stuff.

 Bleed to Love Him was a quarter turn to the right. 
Pow! That's what I came for.

It was huge. The people felt life sized. And it was so full of commotion. I felt squished by it. There is everything in this painting. Pleasure, pain, peace, chaos. It's all there if you look. But despite all the horses and colors I love, this painting made me feel restless, like I was watching something I shouldn't be.

Which is just what the artist wanted. The whole exhibit is a study of when things press to the point of become too much, when excess pushes things into meaninglessness.

I have actually been thinking about this phenomenon as I clean up the holidays and look for new places to stash Christmas presents. But the animals in my version are stuffed, not careening across canvases, tromping on people.

In spite of my discomfort, I couldn't stop staring at the paintings. The technique was so varied and interesting. 

In this detail shot you can see blended oil paint, paint scratched off the canvas, charcoal drawing, and pastel layered over the other mediums. She has rough sketched places, and painted large, smooth sections in other places. Some colors are saturated, some are muted. Even the technique is an exercise in "How much can I squish in here?"

 This is the second huge piece, Rough It Up

I didn't crop it so you can see the scale of these humungous canvases. I took this picture from across the room and you still feel small. This one is about 9 ft x 11.25 ft. There is no wall in my house big enough to hang it.

The third large piece, Modern Love, was my favorite in the show.

I don't really know why I preferred this one over the others. Maybe it's because I could actually see what was going on in it. Maybe it was the colors. I love the blue and the orange and the pink together. Maybe it's the horses. It certainly is not the people being trampled. Boilini and I have had vastly different experiences with love.

It may simply be because the technique in this one was so brilliant. Check this out.

I still haven't quite figured out the order of things here. There is a layer or two of oil color under everything, then it all just goes kind of crazy. Ridges of paint smattered here and dusted there with soft pastel. The sharp charcoal line thrown in on occasion for good measure. It was so fun to look at and try to deconstruct. There is just so much going on. 

 Here you can see really well how she used some kind of water or solvent to make rivulets in the powdery pastel and charcoal. How does she do it? And yes, I want to try it!!

And I just totally geek out when artist can use their freaking technique 
to help make their statement. That is just the coolest! 

OK, deep breathing. There are people watching. 

We better go upstairs. I am getting a little out of control in here.

Upstairs there were people setting up for the next show, With These Hands: The Robert and Sharon Buchanan Collection. I got tot see that one too. You never realize how much work goes into an art show until you watch someone hand lettering the sign on their hands and knees. Above is Susan Main, the Curatorial Consultant for VisArts and another assistant. Sorry I didn't get you name, assistant.

 Anita Dey, the volunteer coordinator was a pleasant face greeting me on the second floor. This was convenient, as I had no idea where the other show I had come to see was. Fortunately, Anita pointed me in the right direction, and off I went to find out what Michael Sellmeyer meant by titling his show "Paintings, Drawings, and Prints That Mostly Go Together." I was completely intrigued.

But you're gonna have to come back tomorrow to find out why.

In an effort to not ramble on forever, I have decided to break this adventure into 4 posts. 
So come back tomorrow to see whether I was disappointed or not. 

I probably wasn't. 

Or maybe I was. 

You'll just to have to click back and see, won't you?

By The Way:

For more info on the VisArts Center, check their web site here.
(mission, classes, shows,etc)
For more info on Dalya Luttwak, the Roots lady, check her website here
(You should look. This one's really cool)

For more info on Lauren Boilini, check her website here.

See you soon,
CM Shaw

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