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Meet the artist!


Those three words pop up frequently here in the Upper Delaware River region and have transformed the way I view art. While it may be perfectly fine to go to a gallery and stroll the halls making personal observations, getting a glimpse into the mind of the creator often puts a whole new spin on the subject at hand. Fortunately, the opportunity to “meet and greet” occurs frequently in galleries scattered throughout the region. I usually jump at the opportunity to attend receptions preceded by artists’ talks at which they have an opportunity to explain their relationship with “the process,” providing details and insight that might otherwise escape me altogether.

Such was the case last Saturday. After perusing my calendar, I was momentarily crestfallen to see that there were two separate receptions occurring simultaneously: “Art out of the Blue,” now showing at Gallery EVA in Callicoon, NY; and a triple-header (“Small Things of Unknowable Value,” “Encaustics” and “The Thing Is/OBJET D’ART”) in Livingston Manor (www.catskillartsociety.org). I had to choose one or the other, and eventually opted for the latter, at which two of the artists were scheduled to speak (originally, all three had planned to be on hand, but Donise (“Encaustics”) English encountered a conflict and has rescheduled her “Artist Talk” for Saturday, January 21 at 2 p.m.).

Although her website (www.paulaelliott.com) indicates that she works in oils, acrylics and watercolor, Elliott’s current exhibit at CAS focuses on her use of charcoal and pastels. Her “works on paper are derived from the question of: what exactly constitutes a container?”

Having flirted with charcoal in school, I was keenly interested on how Elliott keeps the paper white and avoids the smearing, dirty, muddy looking “art” that I produced just before realizing that I had no real discernible talent.

“While charcoal allows for soft edges and fading images,” she explained, “the white space is equally important—and yes, keeping it clean can be a challenge!” Elliot expounded on her work, describing the initial sketching process and the concept of creating “suites” on a common theme. She said that she is “not a purely abstract painter, so images that suggest the sensation of natural forces or constructed objects are invariably present” in her work.

Learning in advance that Matthew Bliss creates very small works of art immediately grabbed my attention, for I have always had a love of miniatures, and I was not disappointed by either his art or the conversation as Bliss took the floor to discuss his mixed-media sculptures, composed of copper, brass and glass, welded together and layered with oil paint. His bio says that he “creates small sculptures that give the impression of the monumental and bring to mind an urban artifact.” By his own description his work is “cryptic” and he makes “small things of unknowable value.”

“The tech of it is not sophisticated,” Bliss said during his talk at the opening. “Some pieces come from broken or reworked materials. While the metalwork is relatively straightforward, a lot of the texture is accidental and the painting can literally go on for months.” Interesting, especially since none of his sculptures measure more than a few inches, and while I was not alone in thinking that the allusion to doors and windows might be intentional, the artist claimed that it wasn’t the case; he said his biggest inspiration came from the geometry, angles, straight lines and a tip of the hat to abstract impressionist Mark Rothko.

Learning that Bliss began his career in theatrical set design, where miniatures are created in great detail prior to fabricating the final product, was a perfect example of why meeting the artist works. While Bliss acknowledged (like most artists) that multiple interpretations on the part of the casual observer are “all valid,” it was intriguing to hear such tidbits as that he “prefers to work alone, rather than collaborating” and that his titles (“Along the rim of the ink blue liquid” and “She knows the storms by name”) are “more in response to the galleries’ desire to name them” than his own vision. Fascinating. IMHO.


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