Beauty was abounding in Jacksonville last night and I’m not just talking about the perfect weather. My sister-in-law and I attended the monthly Downtown ArtWalk and were treated to not just the usual visual stimulation but mental and emotional engagement, as well. Now, I had a list about a mile long of the spots I wanted to hit, but we arrived late and spent quite a bit of time at each one, so.. yeah, we only made it to a few.
But we began the night with a bang at The VAULT Gallery, Willliams-Cornelius’ space in a former bank vault ( yes, you read that right! ) on Forsyth Street. Greeted by the Mr. Williams & Ms. Cornelius themselves, and intern Adam, we set off to see what artist Jeff Whipple had in store for us. Whipple has been working on this “Spasm” series for more than thirty years. What began as a painterly device to fill negative pace, the three-barred icon has grown from an element in the background to become the object of an entire series of work.
The three bars that comprise a “spasm” serve to symbolize life, lifetime or a lifestyle. The artwork is open to interpretation, based on the viewer’s own experience– how you see it may not be the way I see it and that’s OK. All of our lives are different and it is in this difference that we each find meaning in the spasms. This is work that truly that makes you stop and think– what does this mean? To the artist? To me?
In conjunction with the showing of Jeff Whipple’s work, Williams-Cornelius also presented a performance piece by self-proclaimed “deformance artist”, Liz Gibson. Gibson was born with a birth defect causing her to have only seven fingers– five on one hand and only two on the other. The performance last night was a character of Gibson’s own creation “Ben Wa Betty”. Betty appears as part archetypal Asian lady, but in a hip and provocative way. Gibson tells stories of how at times she felt lucky or unlucky to have been born with a deformity, all while pouring wax over her deformed hand, proving how you can take something that seems unlucky and make something beautiful out of it.
The overaching theme is one of contentment– be happy with who you are and how you were made. At times you may feel unlucky, but there will always be a reminder of just how lucky we all are.
Our next stop was Southlight Gallery, where there is always a display of exceptional art by some of the most well-known artists in Jacksonville, right along side with talented emerging artists. The featured artist last night was wood sculptor, Grant Ward.
I’m a sucker for any burl or wood sculpture and have been a fan of Ward’s pieces for a long time. There is something about an artist that looks at a log or a tree stump, sees the potential for creating something unique AND possesses the craftsmanship to create something polished and beautiful out of such rough raw materials.
I have always especially loved Ward’s pieces that combine burl wood with spun metal. These pieces take on, for me an other worldly space-like quality. It is as if the wood is a planetary surface and the metal pieces are alien pods making their home there.
After leaving Southlight, we made our way toward the river to the Suntrust Tower, new home of Town Editions, Thomas Hager’s new line of accessibly affordable limited editions– making this artist’s beautiful work available to even a young collector.
These hand-crafted, signed and numbered editions are created using vintage photographic processes, which give the simple subject matter an elegance and sophistication lacking in much of today’s photographic prints. Also on view are some of Hager’s paintings ( He paints, too! I know! ).
Filled with texture and a pastel & neutral palette, these pieces are reminiscent of sand or rock. They have an organic feeling to them that such completely non-representational work rarely possesses. I’m looking forward to seeing Tom’s paintings evolve just as his photography continues to do so.
I wish I could tell you more about all the places we visited and amazing art we saw, but alas, that was the end of our night. I can tell you that I will be back downtown soon to visit the exhibits and studios I missed. I’m not sure how anyone could see it all in ArtWalk’s four hours.. but what an awesome problem to have!
May’s Downtown ArtWalk will be May 4, 2011. More information available here. Hope to see you there!