New art shows explore media similarities, differences

RUBY WALLAU | Staff Photographer
Gallery assistant Alex Connor discusses pieces from “Gatherings,” a collection of contemporary drawings, with Chautauqua visitors in the Fowler-Kellogg Art Center on Tuesday.

RUBY WALLAU | Staff Photographer
ceramic sculptures from artist Brian Giniewski’s collection “Austere.” The pieces are displayed in the upstairs exhibit “From Clay to Table.”

Two media, two shows, 13 different perspectives.

Today, two new exhibitions, “Gatherings: Contemporary Drawings” and “From Clay to Table,” officially open at 3 p.m. in the Fowler-Kellogg Art Center.

“I like to curate shows that have a theme,” said galleries director Judy Barie, who curated both shows. “But within that theme, I like to choose artists whose works are very different but also work together.”

Both shows achieve this in different ways, although the difference is most noticeable in  “Gatherings.” This show uses a broad definition of drawing to bring in not only graphite-on-paper works, but also drawings on plywood, embroidery and even glass.

“I didn’t want a classical drawing show of graphite landscapes or nudes,” Barie said. “I always like to spread my wings and try something a little different that’s within that genre of drawing.”

Among the more unusual contributions is a sculpture from Jason Forck built around a drawing table. On the wall around it, blown glass geometric shapes protrude from clipboards, high school art exercises rendered in 3-D. Each has drawn-on shading created with molten glass.

“I was working with cane [glass strands] a lot, and thinking about the quality of the line,” Forck said.

He cut the cane, bundled it, drew it out and then applied it to the glass shapes with a blowtorch. The result looks like pen and ink shading — except it is melded to the glass.

Another unique variation on drawing comes from Terry Boyd, who feeds his line drawings into a computer-controlled embroidery machine.

“I really try to be spontaneous with this very analog machine,” Boyd said.

To do this, he pixelates images of his work, then makes the software of the embroidery machine try to render the pattern — pushing the software to the edge of what it can do, and sometimes beyond.

“I was trained in this big, gesture-y, dripping painting,” Boyd said. “[But] I realized it was too much about the aesthetic [not the process].”

Now, Boyd works by filling a space with hundreds of short lines, a contemplative technique that creates — in his words — “visual mantras.”

In contrast to Boyd’s abstraction, Mark Franchino — another artist in the show — uses drawings as a compliment to his large wooden sculptures.

“I could draw things that aren’t actually possible,” Franchino said.

His drawings of houses, chairs, and platforms are often rendered on plywood.

“It was a way to bring wood back into the drawing,” he said.

While “Gatherings” is an exploration of how far lines can be pushed, the exhibit upstairs, “From Clay to Table,” explores variations within a common theme. All of the work is at least semi-functional tableware in a variety of styles.

“[Functional pottery] is often the first piece of art someone buys,” said potter Jeremy Ayers, whose work appears in the show. “You get a charge out of using this beautiful thing.”

Ayers does mostly production work, but he spent about a month doing all new pieces for this show, making teapots, mugs and more with his distinctive broad stripes over white clay.

“I’m really into bold patterns,” Ayers said. “I’ve rejected all color — I’m into white being almost a negative surface.”

In contrast to Ayers, for whom functional ceramic is his everyday work, Ani Kasten does mostly sculptural ceramics, although they still have what she refers to as a functional archetype.

“My work is a nice counter note to the way other people work with functional porcelain,” Kasten said.

She also tries to highlight, not obscure, the more natural characteristics of clay.

“I just let the material be itself,” she said, even if that involves cracking and warping.

Despite the wide varieties in media and focus, though, all the artists are looking forward to showing their work at Chautauqua Institution — many for the first time. Out of the 13 artists in the two shows, seven will also be coming to the gallery for the opening.

“I’m really excited, and a huge thank you to Judy Barie for putting this together,” Boyd said. “In general, [Chautauqua] is a beautiful place to show the work.”