Peer Perspectives: Perspectives in Visual Joy
Walking into Shifting Perspectives, the newest exhibition at the Stanek Gallery, one is greeted by exuberance of light and color, ever more striking following what seems like many months of bleak landscapes painted by the ongoing pandemic, ensuing isolation and world-wide closures, flanked by markedly lackluster national news. In these unusual times, troubling in so many ways, when perspectives are indeed rapidly shifting and we are desperate like never before to connect with one another and to be understood, Michael Bartmann, Carson Fox and Nicole Michaud probe for their own intimate stories as they seek not only personal transformation by way of their art but an equally powerful emotional response from the viewer. Their bold, vibrant colors and brightly hued forms employ elements of both abstraction and realism to capture the waxing and the waning of that elusive and all-encompassing thing that is the passage of time and the beauty it offers unequivocally and sometimes against all odds to those willing to peer into the in-betweens.
Michael Bartmann studied landscape architecture back when drawings were made by hand and required rigorous understanding of perspective. This discipline is plainly evident in his works that are as structured as they are alive with paint and color, applied right over painstakingly executed preparatory graphite drawing underneath. The artist is particularly captivated by buildings that are in what he calls the in-between states: structures in the process of creation or destruction, where unwritten stories occupy the apparent emptiness that, in the marked absence of figures, becomes the main character driving his pictorial narrative. Having visited a structure, Bartmann lets it sit in his head for a while and evolve, before inviting his viewer to inhabit the abandoned buildings depicted in his work, to move about the space, to internalize it, to own it and even to exit. In this way, the real and solid structure of the external world around us becomes, for both the artist and his viewer, a vehicle for getting at one’s own internal landscape.
Carson Fox works with brightly hued resin to create abstract sculptures in a dynamic back-and-forth process of manipulating, correcting, destroying, fixing and starting over. She employs silicone molds to cast multiples, to revisit or to experiment with form or to add missing ingredients, like pigment or glitter. Fox finds beauty in everyday abstraction that exists in things as simple as stains on sidewalks or crumbling walls, while history and personal memories help shape the story-telling, thought-provoking nature of her work. The artist’s present collection speaks to universal human tension that is the delicate, all-too-familiar, daily balancing act between emotional stability and outright tumult. She explores its literal and metaphorical components by stacking larger, more voluptuous, forms on top of leaner, seemingly precarious, supports, even as she leaves her colorful towers teetering in their apparent fragility. Fox’s work is defined by the sense of exuberant whimsy, one that artist sees as both preposterous and ridiculous, yet somehow seeking the sublime.
Nicole Michaud’s vibrant paintings belie her affinity for structure and color as she experiments with patterns, textures and layers until desired shapes begin to emerge out of the color fields with which the artist begins. Her rendering of fruit and seeds, sliced open and pared, as translucent as they are mysterious, give the viewer a glimpse into Michaud’s intimate reflection on the nature of vulnerability and strength, transformation and sacrifice, violence and beauty of creation contained within the female body even as it offers the bursting forth of life in what the artist reveals to be an equal parts magnificent and messy process. Michaud’s present collection of work explores the pressures of history and the confines of tradition, as well as offers hope of personal liberation by way of returning to one’s essence, examining one’s roots and understanding one’s past.
Visual joy, compelling balance of reality and abstraction, merging of the time present and past, hidden stories quietly filling vacant spaces in-between even as history shifts and moves forward while we disappear, are among defining narratives in Shifting Perspectives. This exhibition, a three-part conversation joining distinctly unique voices, is a testament to human resilience in its ability to reshape reality and to continue creating even in the face of loss and uncertainty, even during those times that give us pause and we suspect that the dream might very well end up being the best part of the adventure.
Shifting Perspectives is on view September 4th to October 31st, 2020 at Stanek Gallery, 242 N. 3rd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106.