Category Archives: KY

Bucking the Trend: Art Innovators on KMAC Radio

Tune in Mondays to KMAC Radio on ArtxFM from 11am to 12p where we use radio as a vehicle for exploring art, music, and social ideas. It’s simple to listen: Go to artxfm.com and click PLAY on the embedded player located in the upper left corner of the website. Monday’s show will be hosted by KMAC’s Communications Director Julie Gross and she’ll be discussing Bucking the Trend: Art Innovators.

On my recent trip to Rome and Florence Italy, I got more than the brain can handle in terms of sensory overload. Beauty lives in every corner and facet of these cities and I discovered more than just the art from the Renaissance masters.

"Portrait of the Dwarf Morgante" by Agnolo di Cosimo, called Bronzino. Uffizi Gallery, Florence
“Portrait of the Dwarf Morgante” by Agnolo di Cosimo, called Bronzino. Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Marcel Duchamp, In advance of the broken arm, 1915. Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome.
Marcel Duchamp, In advance of the broken arm, 1915. Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome.
Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917. Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome
Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917. Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome
Duchamp, Re-Made in Italy Exhibition at the Galleria nazionale d'arte moderna, Rome
Duchamp, Re-Made in Italy Exhibition at the Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna, Rome
Urs Fischer, Bed/Horse 2013. Gagosian Gallery, Rome
Urs Fischer, Bed/Horse 2013. Gagosian Gallery, Rome
Eero Saarinen, Tulip Chair blueprints, 1957
Eero Saarinen, Tulip Chair blueprints, 1957

Photo as Document on KMAC Radio

Tune in Mondays to KMAC Radio on ArtxFM from 11am to 12p where we use radio as a vehicle for exploring art, music, and social ideas. It’s simple to listen: Go to artxfm.com and click PLAY on the embedded player located in the upper left corner of the website. Monday’s show will be hosted by KMAC’s Communications Director Julie Gross and she’ll be discussing Photo as Document. Documentary photography can serve as a historical marker in time or spur social and political change. The captured images are painstakingly raw and equally beautiful in their candor, which is testament to the artful eye of the photographer. Photographer Bob Hower and Artist Todd Smith will participate in an in-studio interview to talk further about this topic. They are both part of the Louisville Photo Biennial happening this month and are exhibiting at Swanson Contemporary (Hower) and Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest (Smith). This topic was derived from KMAC’s current exhibit of Gene Spatz photographs that document the celebrity social life of 70s New York. The artwork discussed on today’s radio hour will be:

Bob Hower, Couple with White Cadillac. Jefferson County 1977
Bob Hower, Couple with White Cadillac. Jefferson County 1977
Bob Hower, Family in Perry County KY, 1977.
Bob Hower, Family in Perry County KY, 1977.

See more images from Rough Road: The Kentucky Photographic Documentary Project

Bob Hower, Coal Miners
Bob Hower, Coal Miners
Bob Hower
Bob Hower
Bob Hower, The Parklands of Floyds Fork
Bob Hower, The Parklands of Floyds Fork
Todd Smith a la Daily Climb
Todd Smith a la Daily Climb

T.Smith2

Todd Smith, Great Prairie Weeping Beech. Photo: Natalie Biesel
Todd Smith, Great Prairie Weeping Beech. Photo: Natalie Biesel
Todd Smith. Lake Nevin Sycamore. Photo Natalie Biesel
Todd Smith. Lake Nevin Sycamore. Photo Natalie Biesel

Music Playlist:
Blue Moon of Kentucky – Ben Sollee
Red-Winged Blackbird – Kathy Mattea
Golden – My Morning Jacket
Hetch Hetchy – Father President
Drew – Goldfrapp

Natural Wonder

Image: Claire Sherman, Cave and Trees, 2011, oil on canvas, 96″ x 78″

By Mary Wallace

Born in Oberlin, OH, Claire Sherman began painting in high school, studying under a local artist and then went on to attend the Art Institute of Chicago. Recently Sherman has developed a style of landscape painting which employs the use of manipulation and abstraction to create her scenes. Often drawing from composite images of various environmental elements, she distorts the scene, forcing the viewer to make sense of the work. Her paintings push past the limits of the perceivable, natural environment and delve into a world broken down into its elemental forms. Sherman’s settings are often constructed by piecing together images of many different locations, thereby creating her own environment, rooted in reality and yet stepping into another world. Her work has represented not only the different seasons, but also a variety of geological locations. From a snow-laden forest to the dark, rocky interior of caves, to the sparse vegetation of the desert, her subject matter is immensely varied and yet her expressive style unites it all. She examines the basic elements of nature and promotes a sense of the pure wilderness; untouched and untamed by the work of humankind. One piece currently on display during The  7 Borders exhibit unites both the cave environment as well as the summer forest in full bloom. Cave and Trees (pictured above) is rendered from one of the many openings to the worlds longest cave system: Mammoth Cave, located near Bowling Green, Kentucky. Currently Mammoth Cave has been mapped at 346 miles long and has been in use for nearly 4,000 years since its discovery by early Native Americans. Although this cave system offers a vast interior, Sherman has chosen to represent its opening—as if one is coming out of a long journey through the cold underground, into a bright and inviting Kentucky forest.

Take Me to the River

Image: Al Gorman, “Alien Ballet” from the blog post Top Secret Report: Proof of Extraterrestrials March 3, 2013 by artistatexit0.

The Ohio River flows for more than 600 miles across Kentucky’s northern border creating a watercourse through the bordering states of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. The confluence of commerce and community building that has taken place along the banks of the Ohio River for centuries is not unlike the development of societies around similar river networks throughout the world. These densely populated settlements depend on these rivers for nearly every basic need. For generations their identities have been shaped by the geological and environmental history of the river. Our evolving relationships to science, industry and religion have been heavily influenced by river societies since the beginning of human civilization.

These ideas intermingle in Andrew Underwood’s work The River, 2013, currently on view in the 7 Borders exhibition. Focusing on the motifs of fertility, time, and spirituality Underwood has woven, painted, photographed, collected, assembled and displayed a complete narrative of the history of the Ohio River from the prehistoric era to Native American cultures and into the Industrial age of steamboats. Set into a tailor made system of shelves Underwood incorporates the theme of fertility, most notably with an embroidered mother figure, but also through different iterations of the vessel, drawing connections between a Cherokee Bowl and photos of the century old steamboat the Belle of Louisville. With comparisons between the Ohio River, the Ganges River and The River Jordan he reminds us that cultures have long used the river for spiritual purposes, both for baptisms and burials.

Andrew Douglas Underwood
The River, 2013, Andrew Douglas Underwood

Al Gorman began his project of documenting the Ohio River in 2003 and in 2009 he was able to take this process global with the start of his blog artistatexit0.wordpress.com. A table placed within the 7 Borders exhibit contains a monitor with the blog along with a few of Gorman’s driftwood sculptures. Visitors of the website can follow his almost daily excursions to the Falls of the Ohio State Park located off of Interstate 65 in Jeffersonville, IN at Exit 0. Through storytelling and photography his documentation of found trash and driftwood has proven to be inexhaustible. The blog contains pages and pages of driftwood sculptures assembled on site by the artist and trash that Gorman has collected and classified into categories such as Balls of the Ohio, Kentucky Lucky Ducky Collection and Plastic Bottle Color Spectrum to name a few. It’s a three-part collusion with the artist, the people who have lost or thrown these objects away and with nature, which in this case happens to be a series of 390-million-year-old fossil beds. He raises concerns about our lack of knowledge or interest in where our garbage ends up, particularly with our abundant use of plastic.

Al Gorman, 7 Borders Installation.
Al Gorman, 7 Borders Installation.

Greg Stimac’s photograph Ancient Colony of Horse-Thieves, Counterfeiters and Robbers captures the mysterious and menacing history of a cave located on the banks of the Ohio River in Hardin County, Illinois. The site was known to be a hideout for notorious river pirates, highwaymen, serial killers and civil war bandits. Better known as Cave-In Rock it was used by Native Americans for thou­sands of years before the 1790s when it became a well-known stronghold for a gang of bandits led by Gregory Mason. They would prey upon the ferryboats carrying farm produce down the river from Kentucky, Ohio, and Southern Indiana. Stimac often investigates cultural sites that contain unique aspects of American History. His work in the 7 Borders exhibition is part a photo series of cave entrances located throughout the Midwest. Each one of these caves is associated with a famous American criminal or crime scene.

Greg Stimac Ancient Colony of Horse-Thieves, Counterfeiters and Robbers, 2009
Greg Stimac, Ancient Colony of Horse-Thieves, Counterfeiters and Robbers, 2009

Kentucky Through the Lens

Image: Guy Mendes, Tobacco Hanging, 1991. Silver gelatin print, 12 x 10 in.

By Stephanie Hamilton, KMAC Intern

Guy Mendes is one of the most well known and respected photographers of the region. He was born in New Orleans, but in 1966 attended the University of Kentucky to study journalism. The following year he attended a rally where Kentucky writer Wendell Berry spoke out against the Vietnam War and the two young artists became friends instantly. This friendship eventually led to Mendes  meeting photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard.

Meatyard, whose work was featured in our previous exhibit Storytelling as Craft, Chapter One, was an optician and photographer living in Lexington, KY. The eyeglass company he worked for also sold photography equipment leading Meatyard to become a member of The Lexington Camera Club. He shot photos of people wearing masks to skew their individual identities creating bizarre and haunting images. Meatyard’s photographic style sparked Mendes’ interest and he became an unofficial student of Meatyard’s during the 60’s and early 70’s. He  learned mostly by watching him, trying to truly see through Meatyard’s eyes.

Mendes shoots his photographs on black and white film, holding true to traditions of photography. He uses a darkroom to develop his photographs on silver gelatin paper. Mendes’ interest in travel and story-telling, things he often did with his mentor Meatyard, led him to a full-time career as a writer, director and producer for Kentucky Educational Television for 35 years. A career in television meant he didn’t have to rely on his photographs for income, which gave him the freedom to photograph the subject matter that he wanted and without restrictions.

Guy Mendes is famous for his portraits and landscapes, most of which focus on the people and places of Kentucky. Of the eight pieces currently in The 7 Borders exhibit at KMAC, four of them are portraits of Kentucky natives. This is just a small portion of the work Mendes has done in capturing Kentucky history. More can be found in his books 40/40: Forty Years Forty Portraits, which are a collection of portraits taken over the last four decades and Light at Hand, which is the first book collection of portraits and landscapes from 1970 though 1985. Both can be purchased online or in person at the KMAC Museum Shop.

Much of Mendes’ work has been widely published in books and magazines and his prints are in many public and private collections. Mendes has also won several Emmy Awards as a documentary writer, director and producer for Kentucky Educational Television. He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two sons.

Bradley Pickelsheimer with Princess 1984 600

Bradley Harrison Picklesimer, with Princess
Lexington, KY
Silver Gelatin Print, 1986

Bradley Harrison Picklesimer was born in Lexington. Here he is pictured with the eldest of his three pit bulls, Princess. His dogs were very important to him, and very sweet. He began decorating parties at the age of 14, and later went on to decorate parties for Kentucky Educational Television, where Guy Mendes worked. Picklesimer also started several night clubs in Lexington, including Cafe LMNOP, where he said anyone could feel at home. He felt he was doing a public service, bring people together from all walks of life. Mendes says of Picklesimer in the book 40/40: “Bradley was always a real man’s kind of drag queen: he didn’t do fake tits and he didn’t have a stage name, but he sure cut a striking figure carrying in a keg of beer wearing six-inch heels.”

Guy Mendes, JonathanWilliams

Jonathan Williams
Shakertown, Pleasant Hill, KY
Silver Gelatin Print, 1988

 Jonathan Williams and Guy Mendes were very close friends, writing letters to one another and traveling together along with Williams’ partner, Tom Meyer. Although Williams lived in North Carolina and England, he was anointed Kentucky Colonel in 1974 for service to the arts. Williams came to Kentucky in search of his contemporaries, including Gene Meatyard and Wendell Berry. Mendes says “Jonathan was the straw that stirred the drink.” Willaims was a poet, publisher, essayist, and photographer. He, along with David Ruff, founded the Jargon Society in 1951, wanting to publish obscure poets. His poetry uses “found language”. He spent much of his time listening to people and gathering their words, much in the same way avant-garde filmmakers use “found footage.” Williams died of pneumonia in 2008. He is survived by his partner of 40 years, Tom Meyer.

Guy Mendes, Martha Nelson Thomas

 Martha Nelson Thomas with her Doll Babies
Louisville, KY
Silver Gelatin Print, 1987

 Martha Nelson Thomas created her Doll Babies as a source of income so she could concentrate on her paintings. Each Doll Baby was unique, and came with adoption papers and an introductory letter. At the Guild Gallery in Lexington, the parents had family reunions. There was even a waiting list for those wanting to adopt. In 1978, a man in Georgia that had inflated the price on Martha’s Doll Babies, causing her to take back her dolls, claimed to have invented his own kind of doll.

In a letter he wrote to Nelson Thomas he said “If I can’t sell your dolls, I’ll sell some just like them.” He then created the popular Cabbage Patch Kids. She took the man to court, and after five years, she won a settlement and tightened copyright laws for artists in doing so. This photograph Mendes took of her could now serve as proof of copyright, whereas before, she was denied copyright because she hadn’t signed her dolls. Martha responded, “I wanted them to be as real as possible, and there’s no place to sign a baby.” Martha spent much of her life working with children in workshops and schools. She died in May of this year at the age of 62.

Guy Mendes, Captain Kentucky

Captain Kentucky, a.k.a. Ed McClanahan
Lexington, KY
Silver Gelatin Print, 1972

Ed McClanahan, also known as Captain Kentucky, is a novelist, essayist, and professor at University of Kentucky in Lexington. He is best known for his novel The Natural Man, but is also famous for the people he surrounded himself with in the ’60s and ’70s. He was part of Ken Kesey’s “merry pranksters.” The group took trips around the country in the 1960s in a painted bus, while Tom Wolfe documented their experiences with psychedelic drugs.

Mendes has taken many photos of Ed McClanahan throughout the years. This photograph in particular is now the cover of McClanahan’s latest book, I Just Hitched in From The Coast.

The 7 Borders is Front Page News

KMAC’s The 7 Borders exhibit made front page news of the Courier-Journal’s Arts section this past Sunday. Arts writer Elizabeth Kramer came and interviewed Associate Curator Joey Yates and published a video to the C-J site to further explain the why to this exhibit at KMAC. Kentucky is the ONLY state in the nation that borders seven other states- Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and even West Virginia. (Feel free to use this little known trivia fact to impress your friends.) The 7 Borders delves into the various ways that artists from the Midwest region are currently communicating the landscape with Kentucky being the epicenter of these artistic connections.

 

#whoiscccoyle

The life story of Carlos Cortez Coyle is so similar to the many Americans that lived during the Great Depression that it’s hardly newsworthy. His stories of financial and emotional trauma during this time are not what make him unique. But what does separate Coyle and arouses public attention are his 24 paintings that are on exhibit at KMAC.  This is just a small sampling of his 82 piece collection stored at Berea College in eastern Kentucky. Compositions consisting of Kentucky and California landscapes, humorous morality tales, mystical visions and most importantly a visual diary of a man concerned with leaving a lasting heritage. This special research exhibition is presented in order to lay the groundwork of including him among the names of Modern self-taught artists and to begin answering the question of Who Is C.C. Coyle?

Coyle spent the early part of his life in Dreyfus, Kentucky and in 1889 he briefly attended Berea Foundation School (now Berea College) where he was introduced to Appalachian arts and crafts. Some of his early drawings of birds, plumes, feathers and goddesses can be found in an old school diary that Berea College now possesses. Coyle left Berea before graduating for reasons unknown and moved to Florida, then Canada and eventually to San Francisco where in 1929, at the age of 60, Coyle took up oil painting and completed over a hundred works in just thirteen years.

In 1942, prompted by his failing health, Coyle paid to ship four crates from San Francisco to Berea College in Kentucky containing 47 paintings, 35 drawings and an illustrative diary of his work. He wrote a letter to the college explaining his shipment of works and the intention “to give my art to the land of my birth where I played and spent most of my youth.” Berea staff were unsure as to what to do with this unexpected collection and the works were left crated and put into storage where they remained with the occasional piece being pulled from time to time until 1960 when art professor Thomas Fern discovered the collection and held Coyle’s first solo exhibition. The exhibit received some local public recognition from the Louisville Courier Journal’s art editor William Mootz who wrote that Coyle “may some day rank as an important American primitive.” Berea Art Department staff found Coyle who at 88 was suffering from blindness and residing in Leesburg, FL. He wrote a letter of thanks to the school for showing his work in the gallery. Carlos Cortez Coyle died two years later in 1962. He was 90.

The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft presents the work of C.C. Coyle to be viewed in the larger context of exceptional naïve artists and to recognize his place in Kentucky’s art history.

Image: Carlos Cortez Coyle, Age 65 and 22. 1936, oil on canvas, 44 x 36 in. Photo: Geoffrey Carr