Translating communication symbols & systems into color, sound and objects Glassboro, NJ – Rowan University Art Gallery presents Chromography: Writing in Color, a two-person exhibition examining concepts of translation and symbol-based communication, from March 23 – May 9. A reception on Thursday, April 9 from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. features an artist’s talk beginning at 6:00 p.m. to include a performance of excerpts from musical translations represented in the exhibit.
Artists Melinda Steffy and Gerard Brown explore concepts of translation and symbol-based communication in their work. Starting with different sets of symbols—Steffy with music and Brown with writing—both artists have developed systems for translating distinct methods of communication into visual artworks. Written texts, then, rely on color and pattern to be understood. Music, usually experienced as linear and time-based, can be seen all at once, in immediate spatial configurations. Gerard Brown explores the intersection of seeing and reading, often by employing codes that do not—at first glance—resemble writing. Brown employs a script of nautical signal flags arranged according to traditional “tumbling block” pattern similar to quilting patterns. The tumbling block pattern is a powerful optical illusion that creates the feeling of three-dimensional space on a flat plane. This illusion offers an analog to the ways writing can be confused with speech. Unlike most other forms of writing, signal flags rely on color to communicate their message and are easily confused with one another if color is absent. Converting the common alphabet into a patterned array of color reveals idiosyncratic instances in language, as letterforms repeat and combine into new shapes and arrangements.
Melinda Steffy explores congruent patterns by translating compositions by J.S. Bach and Béla Bartók into watercolor paintings on paper. In her translations, each of the notes of the chromatic scale corresponds with a hue on the color wheel; as the music progresses through the key signatures, the paintings’ color schemes shift. Notes and rhythms are plotted on a grid to show intrinsic tonal and rhythmic structures. The subtle irregularity of the hand-painted squares and watercolor pigments captures a sense of tone variation similar to a live performance.
A central element of this exhibition is “The Hours,” an elaborate experiment in translation that moves messages from writing to music to image. Working with “Solresol,” a language invented by composer and violinist François Sudre (1787 – 1862), the seven notes of the musical scale: DO RE ME FA SO LA TI are used to translate texts. Each word in Solresol uses one to four syllables (or notes), resulting in a lexicon of about 3,000 terms. Sudre constructed dictionaries to translate French, English, and other European tongues into his new language, and created systems of notation – including one that assigns colors to notes – by which it could be written. In this manner, colored flags or lights could transit messages. Brown translated short literary descriptions of times of day into the Solresol language and then into brief melodies that chime at the hours they describe. For example, a passage about the end of the day from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” becomes a lonely, meandering melody for brass ensemble. Each tune was then re-scored by Steffy, using the system she invented that translates musical notes into color. Several of these visualizations are installed on the gallery windows as decals, and each of them sounds at its designated time in the public space outside the gallery. In the gallery, “The Hours” are presented in the books where the passages originated.
Gerard Brown, a writer and painter, is an Assistant Professor at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. His work explores how the mind moves from seeing to reading by concealing writing in patterns and color. His paintings and drawings have been exhibited at the Woodmere Art Museum, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Painted Bride Art Center, Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, and the Icebox (all in Philadelphia), as well as Finlandia University Art Gallery (Michigan) and 5.4.7 Art Center (Kansas). He has also organized exhibits for the Center for Art in Wood (Philadelphia) and Hicks Art Center at Bucks County Community College.
Melinda Steffy, a visual artist and classically-trained musician from Philadelphia, has had artwork displayed across the Northeast and beyond, including the Icebox, the Hall at the Crane Arts Building, and Sam Quinn Gallery (Philadelphia); Delaware Center for Contemporary Art and Fringe Wilmington (Delaware); Lancaster Museum of Art and Villanova University (Pennsylvania); Finlandia University (Michigan); Micro Museum (New York); and Stamford Art Association (Connecticut). She is an artist member of InLiquid and a LEADERSHIP Philadelphia fellow. An accomplished musician, Steffy currently serves as general manager for the innovative music nonprofit LiveConnections and sings with the Chestnut Street Singers.
Admission to the gallery, talk and reception is free and open to the public. Regular gallery hours are Monday – Friday, 10 am to 5 pm (with extended hours on Wednesdays to 7 pm); and Saturday, 12 to 5
Rowan University Art Gallery is located on the lower level of Westby Hall on the university campus, Route 322 in Glassboro, NJ. Directions can be found on the gallery or university websites. For more information, call 856-256-4521 or visit www.rowan.edu/artgallery.
This program is made possible in part with funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
“What is true is that no matter how striking, unique and evolutionary Stoney Lamar’s career has been, he arrived at its beginning some decades ago by an entirely different path. He learned his geometrical theory in a pool hall; he aggravated his minister-father; he grappled with a war; he set out in a career direction that he neither liked nor decided he was much good at; he almost by accident discovered what he was good at, at long last feeling the call in his hands and soul.” – excerpt artist statement Stoney Lamar
“Stoney Lamar: Standing Forms. On view from March 6, 2015 to April 18, 2015. This exhibit is in conjunction with A Sense of Balance: The Sculpture of Stoney Lamar, a solo exhibit traveling throughout the US, which will open at the Center for Art in Wood in mid-February.
(i)The steps to this particular abstraction… are, like the ascent to any of the abstractions that interest us importantly, an ascent through illusion which gathers round us more closely and thickly, as we might expect it to do, the more we penetrate it. – Wallace Stevens
Metaphor moves in a flare of intuition that is both the recognition of an abstract likeness and the event of a poetic transformation. Arrested, I see: this is that, although it is not. A metaphor is an impossible being, an alchemy of logic and magic, a dun-white horse who – pausing, turning, breathing – returns one’s regard from the verge of a deep dark wood. As in metaphor, similitude is estranged and remade in the tropical grove we enter with Eileen Neff – sometimes in a pitch-dark night, sometimes in the lambent green light of day.
In January 2014, Eileen Neff held a three-week artist’s residency at Monte Azul, a unique amalgamation of contemporary art center, eco-resort, and nature preserve set in the rainforest of southern Costa Rica. While not documentary in any usual sense of the word, the works that comprise Traveling Into View are drawn from her experiences of the residency – experiences of transit and arrival, of the forest’s fecundity and her own limitations in face of such fecundity, of close looking amid profuse stimulus, and of repeated passages (as by foot between her casita and Monte Azul’s café, or by car over the mountain road linking the compound to parts beyond). The photographs Neff made in Costa Rica became the raw material for the digitally-crafted pictures that take on physical forms and spatial relationships in the gallery – all of which has as much to do with painting, sculpture, and literature as it does with the insular traditions of photography. Neff’s constellations of image-objects displace linear coherence with the sensibilities of collage, a mode of expression that draws close to experience while declining to represent causes and effects in a prosaic manner.
As Neff’s work often has, the current project posits a kind of dream-like photographic narrative and then fractures that narrative over the razor edges of temporality and perception. In its introductory passage the installation suggests the unfolding arrival of a beholder who is both rapt by technologically augmented vision and savvy to it. The god’s-eye vista of Window Seat receives a reflexive jab in Pre-Viewing, in which the shadow of a superimposed postcard rack reveals a picturesque view of Costa Rican landscape as a constructed surface. (ii) A knowing gesture, the postcard rack is also a reference to Neff’s oeuvre, as well as a synecdoche for the larger ecosystem of photographic imagery that preconditions the traveler’s perception and representation of the world. Fast on the heels of this canny dialogue comes Mountain Road, a (roughly) three-and-a-half by five-foot gulp of experience in which earthbound sensory overload seems to overflow cerebral maneuver. As the beholder is sped through unfamiliar, sublime terrain, roadside foliage blurs against landscape, and the relation between figure and ground scintillates.
If there is a suggestion in these works that some type of distance may be necessary for sense-
making, there are complex ripostes throughout the project. Two pendants to Mountain Road embody immediate examples. Evoking, respectively, the parted curtain of enlightenment painting and the beady gaze of the taxonomist, The Golden Leaf and Moon-Tropic broach historical modes of looking and picturing that have served to bring the phenomenal into a visual order. These two pictures seem to promise both a grand spectacle and still, close, concentrated seeing. Scrutiny, however, works both ways. In Moon-Tropic, what appears to be the fronds of a tropical plant in the compass of a botanist’s magnifying glass is in fact a reflection, caught in a mirrored disc Neff brought with her as potential working material, along with the roll of Mylar film she used to create Reflected and Reflected 2 (two chromogenic prints that appear later in the installation). At some point in the artist’s process, the photographed mirror-double of botanical fact was twined with the celestial bodies of the Costa Rican night.
Circuits of resemblance are also much at issue in The Golden Leaf, a photograph (and a title) that describes the form of a curtain tie-back, the appearance of a pictured curtain, and the effect of gold pigment on the surface of a print (as in, gold leaf) – not to mention a parallel realm of reference to tropical flora and the grasping fantasies of explorers-cum-treasure hunters. Here the curtain is drawn back on glinting indices of disappeared phenomena, artifacts of the lens made inscrutable in a conjured night. In Neff’s characteristically precise visual language, these first pictures seem simultaneously to reinforce the allure of vision and qualify its capacity to discern. In a related vein, consider the lightbox transparency, Green Honeycreeper, installed alone in an alcove between the front and rear spaces of the gallery. The work stems from a recurrent experience during Neff’s residency: she passed this tangle of trees and the eponymous bird on the walk between the café and her living quarters – (iii) “a regular, brilliant moment had several times each day.”
There is a sensual universe even within minute proximal encounter, a telescoping intensity for which the gesture of isolation here provides a kind of felt analog. A thatch of vines and branches knits the world together, while sprays of color and the very luminescence of the object seem to pull towards a wilder revelation. The experience of keen looking is both irreducible and rich. So rich, in fact, that its expression tends to undercut and overflow representation’s urge towards structure and distance. In the front space of the gallery, across from Mountain Road, gathers a coterie of pictures (though more than pictures) of leaves and birds. This portion of Neff’s project has been aptly described as “a kind of portrait gallery where each leaf is celebrated for the remarkable individual that it is.”(iv) Personified in stature and represented with a penetrating attention usually reserved for revelations of psychological depth, each leaf seems to harbor an interior life, hinted at by the play of shapes and shadows above or below its surface. Individuality, however, is a funny concept in a body of work in which similitude is a magnetic force. To individuate is to break an extensive field into a collection of singularities, but these particular individuals are pulled back to a more fluid state of identity in so many ways. In their analogousness to persons, certainly, they seem to oscillate between this and that. But they are also fluctuant as objects. Permuting the relationship between frame, print, and space of display, these pictures do not settle onto the wall in a way that allows one to forget their presentness as things. (Neff often pushes her work into this territory, as is evident from the very first here – Window Seat, for example, seems not so much hung as suspended in the act of gliding past the wall.) In the leaf gathering, frames float or land in a manner that suggests both a portrait gallery in mid-hang and the pell-mell visual incident of the rainforest. One frame gives up the ghost and allows its occupant to lap waxily onto the floor. Elsewhere in the installation, a few leaves break completely free of frames and present themselves as leaf-green, leaf-shaped leaves (of paper, yes, but isn’t paper just a plant in another form anyway?). Brazenly, these leaf-leaves also have no problem using the furniture to adopt an eye-level posture, or casually taking a seat.
There is a one-to-one ratio migrating through this body of work that tests the boundaries of representation and facsimile. Like a metaphor (or, arguably, a photograph) Neff’s leaves are abstractions that conjoin with the basic structure of the real by magical identification, by the being of resemblance, by metamorphosis. She teases out this kind of slippage with lucent, minimalist humor: amid a grove of uncannily personified plants, perch two birds and a tropical flower that is uncannily like a bird. If the point of taxonomy is to order by articulating difference, then taxonomy is both invoked and exploded here. Names refract and multiply meaning while they identify, and even the material form of an object is fluid – specific and significant, but mutable rather than fixed. In the rear space of the gallery, Neff’s testing and teasing out of analogy becomes both distilled and prismatic. Forms of resemblance cascade through this portion of the installation – doubling, reflection, replacement, and all of their unruly kin are present. One way to approach the variety and complexity at play among these works is through an idea that describes photography as well as metaphor: to reprise is to place into relation, which is to transform.
In addition to a structural relationship between a photograph and that which it pictures, one could argue that all photographs stem from a relation between subject and author. Portrait photographs force the point, however: a portrait is generated in an exchange between two beings, real or imagined. Many of the works in the installation can be understood as portraits of leaves or animals, but while there is more portraiture here than in all of Neff’s prior work, there are only two pictures in which the artist levels the camera at a human subject. First Scene and Second Nature feature a young Costa Rican man who helped Neff with the roll of Mylar film she brought to Monte Azul. At some point during their collaboration, she asked the man to hold a mirror disc in front of his face, and photographed him. While playful, these portraits are also disconcerting – because they hollow out the subject, but perhaps even more so because by de-facing the subject they picture the absence of the beholder. In place of relation between subject and author is a mirror that shifts the gaze to a third space, a move which is itself redoubled when the natural reflection in First Scene is digitally replaced with another landscape in Second Nature. It is poignant that although the beholder’s gaze is deferred in depictions of a human subject, that look is met by the like-but-unlike subject of Oh Brother. The animal (and, perhaps, the forest) is to the human that which is alike but in excess. So, an ascent to metaphor spirals back to the haunting regard of a lone white horse. In this regard is the beholder met – arrested, disclosed, metamorphosed, and returned. Perhaps, although never pictured, it is this being – the beholder – who is traveling into view, estranged and remade in the pitch-dark of an animal eye, on the verge of a deep dark wood.
i Wallace Stevens, “Three Academic Pieces,” The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1951), 81.
ii The postcard rack has been important for the artist both as motif and as an element of installation, for example in Here and There (2012), Postcloud (2012), and International Forest (1990). There are other returning elements here as well: actual pieces of furniture appear for the first time since The Mountain a Bed and a Chair (1992).
iii Eileen Neff, email communication to the author, February 18, 2015.
Art of the Flower 2015, The Philadelphia Sketch Club, Donald C. Meyer Medal
Art of the Flower 2015 at The Philadelphia Sketch Club is a juried group art exhibition dedicated to florals in honor of Donald C. Meyer. Dianne Meyer presented the First Prize winner, Kimberle Nentwig for her watercolor painting titled Dahlia Darling, a golden medal in remembrance of her late husband.
The exhibition is an exuberant display of floral artwork, the jurors were Al Gury, chair of the painting department at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Lauren Sweeney, fine artist and Marylyn Waltzer, member of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators. The entry process is completed on-line at The Philadelphia Sketch Club website and hundreds of artists submitted images for consideration by the jury who then select artworks for the awards. The jurors selected an eclectic mix of media for the awards but being in the show is a goal itself for many regional artists.
Spring is all everyone is thinking about, The Art of the Flower show excites the desire to preserve some of that delightful satisfaction of better days. Alice Chung captures a moment of quiet and warmth in her composition, the balance of color, tone and brushwork feels satisfying and serene. Flowers have always been used for decoration, welcoming guests, gifts of love and adornment for sacred ceremonies. Alice Chung‘s Spring is naturally atmospheric, defining a magical moment in time with loose, liquid strokes, empathetic marks and gestural cues to an energetic concept of a space and time of renewal.
“I am a direct painter, painting from life to capture the moment.The excitement of the moment and the immediacy are what drive me.It is that total impression that creates the completed painting.I focus on color, harmony, light, mood, texture, composition and the calligraphy of my brush strokes. I love to experiment with a variety of palettes and surfaces. It is the visual stimulation that drives and moves me forward.” – Doris Peltzman artist statement, Artists’ House Gallery
A Cup Full of Peonies by Doris Peltzmanpossesses a subdued yet elegant presence, the painting has an ethereal quality. Even though the palette is restrained, the alla prima mark-making expresses the subject though tone, light and action in powerful impressionism. Peonies are my favorite flower but they really only last a day, Doris narrates that brevity with experience and skill.
Suzanne Comer was so sweet to me at the reception for Art of the Flower 2015 at The Philadelphia Sketch Club, offering to take a photo of me with my accepted entry. She said people rarely take pictures of me with my work and we each took photos of each other with our artwork. It was a nice surprise to see that both of us had used digital photo montage to make floral artwork. While my composition has an informal composition, Suzanne Comer‘s Panoply is a formal composition with a coherent balance of shape, color and negative space with the charm of individual flowers emphasized.
“Suzanne Comer regards photography as an art form, often expanding the boundaries by using portions of her photographs to digitally create a new and different whole or montage. With the perspective of a painter, Suzanne’s style stimulates the viewer’s own interpretation and feelings. Therefore, in full circle, creating new personal meanings” – Media Arts Council
Art of the Flower 2015,The Philadelphia Sketch Club, Kimberle Nentwig, Dahia Darling, watercolor, First Prize and Maria Kurtzman, White Roses and Kumquats, oil on board, Second Place
“Laura Ducceschi’s photography captures the magical way natural light accentuates beauty in nature and in people. Laura’s award-winning fine art photography portrays an intimate view of our beautiful world. Her images reveal how natural light emphasizes color and texture._ excerpt Laura Ducceschiartist statement
As a photographer and painter I was particularly satisfied to see a top award go to a deserving photograph. Photography isn’t about just shooting hundreds of photos to find a good image, the photographer has to make it happen. The tools of a photographer are not unlike painters, the goals are similar, the time and effort equivalent. To have a jury of peers, experts in their field, select a photograph signals the change in acceptance towards the art form. There are a lot of photographs in the show, Philly is as much a photography town as it is a painters town. The history of photography in Philadelphia parallels PAFA and the influence of photography on modern painting is undeniable.
The excitement of an opening, meeting the artists and their families, taking pictures, drinking and eating, is a social practice that is a reward in itself. It is so much fun to watch folks checking out the competition, eves dropping on critiques and comparing and contrasting the artworks with friends. One wonders why artists subject themselves to the process of acceptance and I think it’s the feeling of accomplishment, aside from the exclusivity, of being recognized for your hard work.
Please join us at historic The Philadelphia Sketch Club for an ongoing exhibition of works by one of our professional member. Free and open to the public. STEWART ROOM GALLERY New works by Lauren Sweeney. March 7-30, 2015See her Online Gallery under “Sweeney” in our PSC Member Gallery HERE . Reception: Saturday March 21, 2015, 2:00 – 4:00pm at The Philadelphia Sketch Club. Open to all.
A lifetime of scientific observation is the underpinning of the artist’s interest in capturing the essence of her subjects in watercolor. In her still life compositions, she focuses on close observation of the organic forms of flowering plants, vegetables, seashells and gourds for their exuberant variations in shape, color, texture and pattern.” – Lauren Sweeney