Friday, March 29, 2013

Unicorns and Our Future Artists

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2013 at 2:00 PM

One of the many unforeseen and fortunate conversations that have occurred as a result of the “Present Tense” exhibition at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens is the value of art. The educational and aesthetic value it has within our community and the actual monetary value and market trends of visual art (mostly traditional and conservative) in Memphis. This is a much-needed conversation. It is important, not only for artists, to understand this value of art, but it is just as important, or more, that patrons and visitors of museums and galleries understand it.

This is not the responsibility of the artist; at least, it should not have to be. There should be more of an educational component to the programming of museums and galleries. I do not mean only educating the public on their current exhibitions with informative didactics, but to educate them on the importance of exhibiting non-traditional, non-commercial work.

And what better way to start with the educating of a public than with a “Super Epic Memphis Unicorn Magical Exhibition Show.” The exhibition will open Monday, April 1, 2013 5:30pm to 8:00pm at Marshall Arts Gallery 639 Marshall Ave. (Yes, this is a real exhibition and not an April’s Fool joke — though that would be absolutely awesome!) According to the press release this exhibition “is a gathering of Memphis’ top artistic talent, doing work inspired by one of the greatest things America and Jesus ever created: Unicorns.” This opening of an epic Unicorn exhibition is really a celebration of the opening for the third season of the Wrong Again Gallery located at 648 Marshall Ave. The door of the gallery will be wed to a Unicorn in honor of The Art Guys, The Menil Collection, and everyone and every institution that may have made a mistake. The private ceremony will take place at 5:30pm and be Skyped to Marshall Arts during the magical Unicorn exhibition. If you ever wanted to see a Unicorn marry a door of an alternative exhibition space, now is your chance.

Emily Cifaldi
  • Emily Cifaldi

Alex Paulus
  • Alex Paulus


Not only is the education of the viewing public important, but, as previously mentioned, so is the educating of our future artists. I do not mean the education they are supposedly getting in the classrooms of area colleges and universities, but the education they receive out in the “real world.” The best way to understand the inner workings of this world is to enter contests and face the fear of possible rejection. Rejection happens in the art world. All day everyday. This is the first thing new visual art graduates must understand and they must not be bothered by it. One such exhibition opens tonight at The PLA(I)N(E) Gallery.

The PLA(I)N(E) Gallery at the University of Memphis is a student-run exhibition space in the basement of the Art and Communication Building located at 3715 Central Ave (the old Law School Building). Opening tonight 5:00pm to 7:30pm is selected works from graduate and undergraduate students from The University of Memphis, Memphis College of Art, and Christian Brothers University. The independent juror for this exhibition is David Lusk from the David Lusk Gallery. There are special awards for the artists that will be given out at 6:00pm. The show runs through April 12, 2013.

So, grab a friend, go out see some art and learn something.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Go Look at All the Visual Art in Memphis

Posted By on Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 2:13 PM

Someone says to me, on an almost daily basis, that they hate Memphis and that nothing ever happens here. How wrong they are! Just last week, I wrote about how it is possible to see over fifty years of visual art in Memphis at various locations around the city during the course of one weekend. It is a hell of a thing to be able to see where we came from, where we are, and where we are going as a Visual Arts community. It is encouraging to see all the work that the artists have created and are doing to help promote this community. They are doing this not only by working hard and being aggressive in the studio, not only by exhibiting their work out in the world, but also organizing thought-provoking events throughout the city.

One such event is Memphis’ first performance art festival beginning March 22, 2013 at Beige Organized by Joel Parsons, “’Otherwise,’ opens with an exhibition of performance scripts written by more than twenty artists, choreographers, writers, and film makers from across the country. During the course of the exhibition, Memphis locals will perform the scripts in public and private locations throughout the city. The project will culminate in an e-publication documenting the scripts and their performances.” The first performances begin Friday at 6-9pm at Beige. According to their Facebook event page, things that you may see happen this Friday are artists talking to plants, eating cake, dancing with strangers, saying yes, playing games, throwing things, making faces, being in love, eating a rose...Memphis has long needed an art festival that wasn’t focused on selling cheap art in 10’ x 10’ tents lining the streets of downtown and midtown. Hopefully, this is the first of many. Beige is located at 173 St. Agnes Dr. Memphis, TN 38112.

Justin Bowles
  • Justin Bowles

Another such event is “xxxy” featuring the work of Krislee Kyle and Justin Bowles. The exhibition will be held Nu Gallery with a one-night only opening Friday, March 22, 2013 5:30 — 8:30pm. The exhibition is a visual conversation concerning the binary of gender. Kyle and Bowles are each students at the Memphis College of Art. Bowles was was recently part of the “Contemporaries” exhibition at Marshall Arts and this will be a continuation of her examining normal conventions of gender. This next generation of artists in Memphis are not at all focused or concerned with the traditional and conservative work and ideas that have dominated the art scene and commercial market for decades in Memphis. Instead, they are focused on projects and ideas that concern the community as a whole. This is absolutely a good thing. Nu Gallery is located at 2577 Broad Ave.


Michael Velliquette
  • Michael Velliquette

Also it is the last week to be able to see the psychedelic work of Michael Velliquette at the Clough-Hanson Gallery at Rhodes College. “Cosmic Bodies” is a survey of work by Velliquette that consists of drawings, paintings, and paper sculptures. He engages in a process of ornamental abstraction as a framework to explore themes of transformation, ritual, and order. He lives and works in Madison, Wisconsin, but these pieces look like were created by and for the legendary Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans celebrating St. Joseph’s Day. According to the exhibition statement, “the works explore and aesthetic concern with visual opulence and ceremony.” That they certainly do. Please do go see this exhibition at the Clough-Hanson before it closes March 27, 2013.

Images courtesy of the artist.
Michael Velliqutte image courtesy of DCKT Contemporary, New York

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Never Stop the Celebration

Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 12:22 PM

The “Present Tense” exhibition at the Dixon is in the last couple weeks of its run. It is a successful exhibition, in the sense, that so many artists are talking about it. One of the hopes John Weeden, organizer of the “Present Tense” exhibition, and the Dixon had was that it would spark such a conversation about the visual arts in Memphis, and it has.

Alex Paulus
  • Alex Paulus

Lindsay Overbey
  • Lindsay Overbey

One of those conversations was about the artists who were not included in the Dixon exhibition. As soon as I saw the list of participating artists, of which I am included, I could not believe those artists that were left out of the exhibition. I thought to myself, “I should put together an exhibition of the artists not in the Dixon show.” So I did. “Hanging Participles” opens Friday, March 15, 2013 6-9 p.m. at Marshall Arts.

The “Hanging Participles” exhibition should not be considered anything other than a continuation of the conversation started with the Dixon show.

The list of participating artists is always changing, even the day before the exhibition. But there is roughly 35 pieces from more than 40 artists including: Alex Paulus, Lindsay Overbey, Ronald Herd, Kiersten Williams, Tim Crowder, Emily Walls Cifaldi, Beka Laurenzi, Ed Rainey, Kat Gore, Allison Smith, Leadra Urrita, Jill Wissmiller, Chloe York, John Ryan, Mary Jo Karminia, Bryan Blakenship, Patrick Graves, Melanie Spillman, Brantley Ellzey, Cedar Nordbye, John Hood Taylor, Carrol Harding Mctyre and Mary Long. Even with all these great artists and more, there are still many that could not realistically fit in Marshall Arts. There definitely needs to be a part 3, 4, and 5 of this exhibition.

1961 Memphis
  • "1961 Memphis"
Many of the artists that David Lusk represents are included in both the “Present Tense” and “Hanging Participles” exhibitions. Which is understandable, being the leading contemporary arts gallery in Memphis for over 15 years. But their inventory and interests are much broader than that. Opening Friday, March 15th, 6-8 p.m. is “1961 Memphis: Art, Furniture, and Furnishing.” The exhibition comprises of several interior vignettes that showcase work created in 1961 by artists Dorothy Strum, Ted Faiers, Carroll Cloar, Veda Reed, Mary Sims, and Walter Anderson. DLG has partnered with Grace Megel Interior Design and Sarkis Kish Oriental Rugs for this exhibition. It is almost like walking on to the set of Mad Men. I hope they serve Old Fashioneds at the opening!

So, this weekend you can celebrate over 50 years of visual arts in Memphis. That is a hell of a thing.

Images — courtesy of David Lusk (installation shots)
Courtesy of Alex Paulus and Lindsay Overbey ("Hanging Participles")

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Living the Artist Life? People want to do this?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 10:54 AM

1._LTAL__Front_Cover_high_res.jpg
Really, you want to live the life of an artist?

Recently, I posted about the trials and tribulations of dating an artist and the “Artist Speed Dating” event held at the Dixon. I contend that it is not that glamorous of a thing, dating an artist. They are usually in some various level of poor and/or underemployed, unemployed or too good/busy to work so they can hone their skills as visual artists. Or really, after going to art school, they realize they have no real tangible skills and a mountain of student loan debt. So, in the end you have to pay for most things because of this. Oh well. If it is any consolation most of the single artists I know are quite cute.

What about actually being an artist? It is a lot of work, a lot of work. I am not just referring to the work that takes place in the studio, which is important, of course. But I am talking about all the other activities that are, perhaps, even more important than the work itself ... the promotion materials, website, approaching galleries, keeping/maintaining a relationship with the media, trying to find funding sources (hardly any exist) and exhibitions for your work, and maintaining proper storage and shipping. All that's the hardest part about being an artist. And that's not to mention the worries about having affordable health insurance or being able to do your taxes. I cannot tell you how many artists I know that overpay or do not get back enough in taxes at the end of the year because of lack of access to information.

This is a problem that needs to be better addressed in these art schools and art departments of the colleges and universities where the students are accumulating so much debt. Sure, most offer their students ONE professional practices class for the entirety of the college career, a class that spends too much time on how to write an artist statement.

Let me tell you this, the artist statements are not important, at all. How many artist statements have you read at commercial galleries or museums? How many have you even seen? Not very many at all, if any. Sure, you need to be able to contextualize your work within a contemporary arts dialogue, but the statements are really not that important. Students need to take these professional practices classes each year, or better yet, each semester to better be able to have a chance out there in the real world. Or at least, be able to know what to expect. Too often these young artists leave school without the slightest clue on how to do the most basic of things that artists need to know. Is it because the professors themselves do not have any idea themselves? There is the notion that they, the professors, are hiding behind the veil of academia.

Regardless ... living the artist’s life. What is that all about? Well, you can find out Paul Dorrell’s version Monday, March 11th at 6 p.m. at his booksigning event for Living the Artist's Life at Booksellers at Laurelwood. Dorrell founded the Leopold Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri, (a visual arts Mecca) in 1991. And according to the press release, “has been helping emerging artists score major successes ever since.” I am no longer an emeging artist, but I still need to score some major successes. The release continues by stating that Dorrell’s “unsually candid in his discussions of depression, success, corporate greed, corporate kindness, and how to really build an art career. His talks, which are both amusing and informative, are very popular with artists, parents of artists, and art instructors.”

I am very curious to know why parents of artists would find these talks amusing and informative. Is it hope that their child is not wasting their time and money by attending art school in the first place? Sounds like the admissions departments at the Memphis College of Art and U of M Art Departments especially need to be there.

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