Artist Profile: Hunstville
Extracting the Subject
The life and art of Josh Winegar
We’ve been talking for about an hour and are about to leave Josh Winegar’s office to head downstairs when he says, sort of offhand, “So, actually, my office is a camera, too.”
There is a lens I notice, then, in the window of his office, and the rest of the window is blocked off with black panels.
I’ve been chatting with Winegar in the Kimball Visual Arts Center at Weber State University where he makes work and teaches art and photography. We’ve been discussing a new series of work he has on exhibit at the Granary Art Center in Ephraim, how he got to this point in art and life, several cameras he’s built from scratch, and his tiny house in the forest. By this point in the conversation I’ve come to understand Josh Winegar to be an artist of insatiable technical curiosity as well as conceptual rigor. He is interested in context, and much of the power of his work comes from what is missing, what has been removed.
Winegar grabs a plastic chair from the hall so he can reach panels covering the windows into the hallway, and adjusts them to block out the light. Done, he closes the door, and switches off the overhead florescent.
An upside-down ghost of the parking lot wraps the door to the hallway, the bookshelves, the walls above the book shelf . Telephone poles—or maybe they are parking-lot lights—jut down darkly into the sky. It’s both disorienting and fantastic.
“I moved offices,” he says, holding a white panel up a few feet in front of the door, “and the lens was designed for the length of my old office, so it’s a little bit out of focus in here.”
“Oh!” he says, “there’s a car moving. That’s always… where’d it go?” A hamster-size car slips off the panel he’s using to focus his office/camera, ripples across his sweatshirt, and slides upside down along the wall toward the door.
“There’s something about the world being projected and silent that’s really satisfying,” he says.
In Memoriam: Artist Profile
Anna Campbell Bliss (1925-2015)
Anna Campbell Bliss: Avoiding the Obvious
In a career spanning more than six decades, Anna Campbell Bliss has created a large body of work, from which “intersection” has consistently emerged as a theme. In concept and in style, Bliss’s artwork draws upon mathematics, science, architecture, calligraphy, choreography, computer technology, color theory, pattern, and form. In sum, it is smart work, thinking work, work that emerges at the plane where disciplines intersect and that requires both a visual and intellectual engagement from the viewer.
Of this intersection, Bliss says, “I approach art as exploration. I seek connections between nature and constructed environments, poetry, and math. Use of the computer must be balanced with the more intuitive tradition of artistic expression. Often the most exciting ideas emerge at the intersection where more than one disciple meets.” Her life’s work, both within her studio and within the community, has been one of seeking out and building intersections, constructing sites of this particularly-balanced space where interests of more than one discipline lie, colliding in abstract angles and rich dialogue.
Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Patterns of Resistance
Doctorow prize winner Firelei Baez at UMOCA
“Patterns of Resistance,” the title piece of UMOCA’s latest foray into “forward-thinking art” is a very large, intricate painting in blue and gray. In the midst of imposing space, created by joining two of what were probably the largest sheets of paper the artist could find, it depicts a white bandana decorated with a dense pattern of floral motifs and draped so that, with its meticulous perspective and shading, it appears photographic when seen from a distance or in a photo. A couple of its parts don’t quite fit, though. Padding stealthily through the ornamental jungle, its mouth open in a snarl, comes a menacing black jaguar, while one of the flowers is seen, on closer inspection, to contain a clenched fist within a pair of bracts. These images ought to subvert the otherwise feminine character of the textile, and yet in person they don’t. Maybe it’s the sheer size, big enough to fill a gallery wall and assert its importance, or the universalizing blue-on-white color scheme, well known from Delftware depictions of a broad spectrum of life. Then again, maybe it’s the popular suspicion that the female is more deadly than the male, the lioness more to be feared than her mate. Or could Firelei Báez, this year’s winner of the Doctorow Prize for Contemporary Painting, wish to express something less conventional than those tired, confrontational clichés?
From Plato to the present, for most of the history of Aesthetics, the term “political art” has been an oxymoron. As recently as a century ago, the writings of James Joyce were full of reflection upon the theories of Thomas Aquinas, to the effect that any work of art that advocates an ideological position, or that moves a viewer to take political action, must be defective. Indeed, when political art is mentioned, most educated listeners immediately think of Socialist Realism, the poster art of the Soviet Union and China, with its bellicose postures, theatrical gestures, and comic facial expressions. Of course those were the propaganda of a briefly victorious, dominant ideology, made for an audience whose ignorance of the message could be punished severely. Perhaps a truly liberating political art can only surface among a genuinely oppressed people, such as the members of an ethnic or cultural minority, or among the one majority that has never transcended minority status: women.
Starting from that point of view, the characteristics of Firelei Báez’s art take on rational, if urgent dimensions. In answer to the first question, Why so large, the obvious answer is that Báez is responding to the common fate of women and their work: to be marginalized and undervalued. After all, it was men who put America on the world’s art map with Abstract Expressionism, in which enormous size was essential. For Báez, with a broader American perspective that includes areas most affected by the African diaspora—Louisiana, Cuba, and the Caribbean in particular—an accessory, such as a bandana, a floral centerpiece, a doily, or a hairdo can make a statement when made large enough to assert itself and too large to ignore. Where craft, skill, imagination, determination, and self-esteem invested in small articles of personal adornment can usually be overwhelmed due to their characteristic modesty, making them large makes it harder to overlook the quality instilled in the details.