Hopefully you already made it to at least one of the locations featured for this year’s Art Explosion open studios, otherwise, today is your last chance.
One thing worth clarifying is that, contrary to what the program says, there are not three locations for this event, but two. The two addresses given for Alabama and Harrison Streets are actually the same building, which reaches into both streets. Perhaps they wanted to make sure no one missed it.
After checking out three floors worth of art at Harrison Street on Friday, yesterday I had the chance to complete the tour and visit the studios on 17th and Potrero Streets.
There I met Laura Lannon, who has been painting for 20 years. Her use of large canvas gives her paintings a powerful presence.”I love the large size, I like painting with my whole arm, I don’t like just painting with my wrist,” said Lannon. She doesn’t use very many different colors on the same painting, and for most of the pieces, she will let the undercoating show through, which often adds a subtle spark of color and depth to a piece. This understated effect can be appreciated in the painting below, called Jared and Chulo. The mostly gray painting acquires some brightness thanks to the blue undercoating that Lannon allows to shine through to the surface.
The inspiration for Lannon’s work comes in part from “the fascination with the human figure, …the Greeks and the Romans … really tried to perfect the beauty for the figure, so I’m very drawn to that.” The male figure appears repeatedly in Lannon’s work, and the influence of classic Greek art is clear, lending to her paintings and drawings the same pleasant harmony possessed by the ancient sculptures.
Besides working on the typical painting canvas, Lannon also uses matte acetate, also known as frosted mylar, a type of plastic, shiny on one side and matte on the other. Because charcoal takes to this material similarly as it does to paper, when resting on a white wall it appears to be just a large piece of paper to the untrained eye (mine). However, because it is see through, one can use layers of colored paper behind it in order to give it a different appearance, as Lannon demonstrates in the photo below.
Lannon’s paintings of the male figure are breathtaking in their simplicity. While there is nothing particularly provocative about the imagery, there is something about the coolness and perfection of these figures that drew sighs of admiration from more than one female who stopped by her studio while I was visiting. (OK, I was one of the sighing females).
At the end of her studio, in slightly smaller canvasses, are portraits of dogs. While her figure studies are her personal project, Lannon hopes to get some bills paid by painting commissioned dog portraits, of which she has a charming collection, inspired by her own two pets.
At another studio on the 17th street location, Bunnie Reiss creates art installations with found materials and objects, with a special interest in fabrics and quilts. “It’s not necessarily like digging or the hunt that I’m interested in,” she explains. Reiss is more interested in objects and fabrics that have history prior to reaching her. Many people who know she collects materials bring her fabrics, especially quilts. “It becomes this strange dialogue of the environment … how did it travel there? how did it get into that person’s hands? do they know the history behind it?”
Reiss says between 90-95 percent of the materials used in her work have had previous owners.
A piece Reiss refers to as “granny hobo bag,” pictured above, is made out of many different quilts. Part of the reason she is drawn to quilts is because they usually involve women getting together to work on them, fostering community amongst them. “So I try to take them and pay homage to whoever these mystery women were and reinvent what they had already laid out for me, and I do believe that it came back to me for a reason,” she said. By using “pieces of blankets that women had put together and touched” to create a traveling bag, it’s as if the women who created the quilts “were kind of supporting her (the traveler) and her life.”
Reiss plans to repack the bag with the belongings she might take on a trip, and then take it for a walk in the financial district- a neighborhood she describes as, “the most uncomfortable for me in the city,” and see how people react to it.
Reiss has also made art from science, with these crystalized feathers, shown above. Now in her 30s, Reiss feels that during her school years, girls weren’t always encouraged to pursue the sciences. “Now as an adult I have a chance to really play with chemistry and to learn on my own.”
Though she paints and sculpts, Allyson Seal considers herself to be a social experimenter. “I’m really intersted in art that is celebratory and not always entirely intense and serious.” She is currently focusing on work which requires community collaboration. During her years in college, Seal sculpted breasts and put Christmas lights in the place of the nipples as part of an art project. An idea for a Boob Project came from this work, which is a collaboration with Bailey Smith, as well as from “a group of friends getting together to celebrate breasts for fun.” She doesn’t create the breasts herself, she will bring materials to places where people might gather, like say, a bar, and ask them to make the shape of a breast. She currently has 120, and her goal is to reach 800 and install them in a public space, “somewhere where you don’t expect to find art or breasts,” said Seal.
So why breasts? “We’re interested in the slight pervy quality to it, where you’re sitting there spending considerable amounts of time shaping a breast, something that many although not all of use have had an intimate experience with, I think that the informality it asks of you fosters community.” During the open studios kick-off party on Friday, visitors were all welcome to make breasts for the project. “We brought people together talking to one another who would not have necessarily done that and it’s kind of silly and fun.”
Seal has also tried her hand at painting, though she said she doesn’t really consider herself a painter. Two pieces in exhibit this weekend explore “feminine identity and the roles and sort of positions we hold ourselves,” she said. The mask is there to ensure that not any one woman is represented here, but all of woman kind.
If you would like to explore Art Explosion Open Studios yourself, today is your last chance. Not only is the admission Free, but there is wine and snacks around every corner.
744 Alabama Street (also known as 2345 Harrison), and 2425 17th Street near Potrero. 12-5 p.m.