"I just enjoy all of my paintings. When I started assembling the wall grouping, friends said 'you're not going to group all of these in one large grouping?' I did because I just like to be able to sit and look at all the works at one time." — Mrs. Joe Pless, from a 1970s Commerical Appeal article
I recently ran across this headline while looking through old clippings in the Memphis room of the Central Library. It got me thinking: who collects art in Memphis these days? We have big-time collectors, like retired NBA player Elliot Perry, or businessman John Jerit, whose folk art collection I covered for the Flyer earlier this year. We have out-of-town art enthusiasts who lend parts of their collection to the art museums around the city. But whenever I ask, "What does the Memphis art world need?" I hear a chorus of "more buyers, more buyers, more buyers."
Memphis does need more buyers, and not just big time collectors, but micro-collectors: those of us who choose to spend any extra cash on a painting rather than a new margarita machine. I am curious about Memphis' every day art collectors. How do we come by our mini-collections? Galleries? Kickstarters? Friends? How do we display the works? Does anybody still display art in "groupings", a la 1970s home design?
My guess would be that people buy art because they know the artist, or because they fall in love with a particular work, or because they need some decoration for above their couch. But maybe, with Etsy and Kickstarter and the strange art-purchasing animal that is Saatchi Online, the landscape for art buyers has changed.
Valerie Pirainowill be giving a talk at Crosstown Arts tonight (Wednesday, Nov. 20), 6 p.m.. The emerging artist, who lives and works in New York, was previously a resident artist at The Studio Museum in Harlem, and has shown work at Queen's Sculpture Center and Chicago's Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. Her Crosstown show, "Reconstruction" combines recent works with earlier installations.
Piraino works largely with transfer process, a method that she says is "very much embedded with photography." Most recently she has been working with fabric transfers, though her Crosstown show contains earlier iterations of this interest: slide projection, printmaking, even embossed wax seals.
The show consists of five correlated installations: an array of small, handmade prints depicting old furniture; a row of vignette-shaped, framed mirrors; 11 wooden frames that contain projected slide images from several decades ago; and another slide image, projected into a corner at slightly below waist-height. The gallery space is bisected by a makeshift wall, giving the room a sense of front and back.
The idea of a transfer operates in "Reconstruction" in a couple different senses. There is the obvious transfer of one material to another, but there is also the thematic transfer of memory, both personal and historical. Piraino's work attempts to reconstruct personal and family history but pays material reference to Victorian-era (read: American Reconstruction-era) furniture.
Piraino began this work when she inherited a large collection of family slides. She says, "Much of the context [of the photographs] has been lost as family members passed away. All of that has since been folded into the work and has really become a central question for me... how to you reconcile having personal objects with very little context?"
History, in Piraino's work, is repressed, evidenced only by its inexplicable leftover objects. Her row of vignette-shaped mirrors are marked with a centered, creme-colored wax seal. They cast ovals of light onto the gallery floor. There's a domestic simplicity and beauty to the mirrors, but the work is frustrating. It doesn't tell a viewer what she or he wants to know. It does so purposefully, with reference to one of the most egregious "forgetting" of civil rights for African Americans, post-Reconstruction era.
Piraino's work elegantly conveys a sense of muted history, the artifacts of which have an undeniable coldness. Her installations are less about what were, than what could have been, were history better remembered.
Memphis-based illustrator and comic artist Derrick Dent has drawn for Wired, The New York Times, and The Oxford American, among other publications. His brush and ink illustrations have the technical edge of a careful paintings and the caricatural verve of comics. His distinctive comics style takes its cues from the American graphic underground but deals with text and pacing in a way reminiscent of classic Japanese Manga. Dent’s most recent work, a graphic novella entitled MAJOR SLUG 2, follows the ups and downs of a “guy who compulsively punches people.”
I sat down with Dent recently over a cup of Otherlands' coffee. We talked about dive bars, social media, MFAs, and brush quality. Dent, who is in his late 20s, likes “internet diets” (diets from the internet, not diets found on the internet), teaching, and character studies. He doesn’t like weird pick-up lines or artistic comfort zones.
Memphis Flyer: You brought your sketchbook. Can I take a look?
Derrick Dent: Sure, sure. At one point I fancied myself the kind of sketchbook artist and illustrator who would go to dive bars and draw people. The activities always ended up being mutually exclusive— I never ended up drawing and talking at the same time. Sometimes people would tell me weird stories. Sometimes [the stories] were complete non sequiturs.
... And you would end up illustrating those?
I would end up with the story in the back of my mind, but I always wished that I’d recorded it, if only for posterity, so that I could have held on to the narrative for some illustration project. It was a fun thing, for awhile. It was always a way for me to get out and talk to people.
Somebody is always going to talk to you if you are drawing in a bar.
Yeah, yeah. At the very least it is a “What are you doing?” or “I don’t see that happening very often.”
Anyway, this sketchbook is for this really informal community thing online called InkTober. This concept artist named Jake Parker started it and basically you’re making an ink drawing for every day of October, until the month is over. … That’s what this sketchbook mostly has been. There are times when a note or a small anecdotal detail slips in there.
The final tally for the online vote for the 2013 Flyer Box Art contest was very close, with Lindsey Penn pulling out in front for her Burning Man-inspired box she describes as "chaos."
Congratulations to Penn, who received $500. You can see her box at 665 S. Highland in front of Oasis Hookah Lounge.
Thanks again to the Art Center for their generous support of the contest.