My paintings are architectonic in presentation and manner. In concept they deal with landscape in an inertial existence dealing with volume, color and form. All the components of the painting are conceived to elicit an emotional response along with a spatial relativity. The sketch to the right is a big part of my process. ‘‘I want the public to be surprised when they visit the Phoenix Gallery with the final results." www.laurawestby.com
I make paintings that are derived from historical art. My work is about reclaiming, re-visioning and re-presenting paintings that were created at a time when women were seen as objects rather than equal participants in the creative dialog. The paintings I work after are distant mirrors which I interpret through the lens of contemporary practice. I use painterly notation and shorthand to translate Old Master imagery into a contemporary pictorial language. My paintings begin with a specific pictorial point of departure but then move towards abstraction as the representational content is transformed and ultimately eclipsed by focus upon color, composition and the materiality of the paint. Linear, rational readings are interrupted. The historical paintings I work from become structures on which to hang paint; the soundness of these structures capacitates great improvisational freedom. The real subject becomes the substance and surface of oil paint, the variety of its applications, and the ways in which it can be used to celebrate life.
In the large scale digital prints, I add another link to the chain of transcription by using a flatbed scanner and a digital printer to enlarge my small paintings into an almost cinematic scale. The works in this series are, in effect, large prints of small paintings of digital reproductions of large paintings. Here, the complex play of scale and spatial depth broadens forms that could once be decoded as representational into something more expansively atmospheric, like abstract memories of a half forgotten dream.
In the Selective Focus series, I push this idea one step further by using photography's tools, in this case cropping and enlargement, in the service of ever greater degrees of abstraction. The dialogue between painting and photography has often centered on painters’ use of the tools of photography in the service of ever greater degrees of "realism.” This is evident in the work photorealist painters and also in the paintings of artists such as Vermeer and Caravaggio who used lenses to help them make their extraordinarily lucid and presciently cinematic paintings of moments frozen in time. Whereas historical painters used lens-based technologies in the service of a deeply human depiction of beauty and “realism,” lens-based technologies in our time, certainly as they are used in advertising, fashion and various print media, have often been used to damaging effect by presenting a distorted and photo shopped image as uniquely objective and real. By holding up an “idealized” standard of beauty that is impossible to meet, this type of photography has been used in a destructive way. The digital prints in this exhibition represent the search for a constructive way to reclaim the tools of photography by using them in an opposite direction and in the service of a different vision and an “other” conceptualization of beauty or quality. My work has involved the use of photographic and digital reproductions all along but this current series now more explicitly acknowledges the extent to which the photographic apparatus mediates the way I see and think and make my work. www.eliseansel.com
Joseph G. Brown
As a result of being initially trained as a potter both in Minnesota and in England, “function” has always played a major role in my work. As I have matured, I have begun to develop an expanded definition of the meaning of “function”. I now seek “function” in all forms of art be it sculpture, painting, writing, music or pottery. “Function” is more than being useful to hold objects, rather, it encompasses the spiritual, the emotional, the symbolic message that must be conveyed for it to “work” as a piece of art. For a piece of art to “function,” it must serve more than merely a utilitarian purpose, more importantly, it must also serve the spirit, the soul, the mind. This is what I seek in my own work. The last few years, I have been painting on wood with acrylic and pastels. The paintings are figurative with a strong visual reference to social injustices.
Joseph G. Brown lives and works in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His work has been in clay, bronze, latex and painting. Brown studied at the University of Minnesota and in England. His work is represented at the Weisman Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York, among other venues along with a presence in many private collections.
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