Category Archives: Midwest

My Neighbor the Artist

Written by KMAC Donors’ Circle Member  Merrily Orsini

Denise Mucci Furnish used to be my neighbor across the street. Before she was a known artist, she was an innate artist. Apparently born as such, she was encouraged by life’s experiences to make art whenever possible. I have a vague memory of meeting Denise, or at least seeing her work, as far back as 1970, when, in Lexington, I saw some cloth dolls she had made. Occasionally, these dolls still haunt my mind. They were ethereal dolls with little bound cloth bodies and round sock faces— beautiful dolls, and dolls that seemed to scream, “Let me out!”

It was a few years later, in 1979, that I ended up on Everett Avenue, across the street from the Furnishes. In 1980, Denise started attending the Louisville School of Art. Her quilts morphed from folded,piles on the top floor of her one time elegant and gabled three-story house, to hanging on the wall, as art. It was a bit later, in 1984 that I purchased my very first original piece of art, Salute to the Sun (Eclipse), from a real gallery. It was the first official piece of art that Denise ever sold. This quilt, made lovingly by Denise Mucci Furnish, still hangs proudly and emphatically, at the entrance to our home. I still enjoy it daily, if not hourly, and it is still as poignant as it was that first time when I was drawn to purchase it, even though it was well beyond my means at the time. However, that quilt is priceless when it comes to the enjoyment and the memories it evokes.

The years between 1980 and 1985 were some of the most interesting years as I watched an artist come into her own. The Mount St. Helens’s eruption in 1980 somehow consumed the artist across the street. There were many variations in her artistic obsession with Mount St. Helens. One of the most interesting, and, a variation of which I have now framed in my office for daily viewing, is making little volcanoes out of dryer lint. The dryer lint is screen filtered into a circular doughnut shape with a small hole in the middle. When dissected into fourths, it makes perfect little volcanoes. A housewife might see dryer lint as something to be cleaned from the filer and tossed, but not the artist. The artist sees opportunity. The artist sees possibility. The artist sees.

Note the color of the lint? It differs according to what is being dried—reds,colors, or denim. The texture also differs, and that is what the artist saw. Try tossing feathers in the dryer and see what happens (not to the poor unsuspecting clothes, but to the lint filter art fodder residue?) What about glitter? It is really amazing how much art can come from a common household dryer when seen through the eyes of the artist. And, those volcanic lint quilts and collages got better and better, more colorful, and more textured, until the eventual end of that dryer. And, for the artist? Another medium to explore with one exhausted.

A life making art. A life enjoying art. Are these two so far apart? I think they are. The artist has a special way of looking at life, interpreting it, finding ways to use common items or common visuals as art. That interpretation, of course, is not what the viewer, or the art collector understands, even when articulated succinctly by the artist. Because, as everyone knows, art is in the eye of the beholder. But the joy, sorrow, jubilation, and emotion are resident as well in the viewer of the art, and, it is this emotion that moves one to enjoy art, to buy art.

Denise Furnish & Walter Early: Color Stories is on view through March 16.

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The Sound of Saarinen

Arch from above by Connor Bell

On Friday January 10, 2014 KMAC will be host to AUDIOOPTICS #2, the second in an ongoing series of events occurring throughout Louisville that explore the spaces between our auditory and visual experiences of the world. This installment of AUDIOOPTICS consists of three sets of audio / visual pairings from a diverse array of artists. On the program for Friday evening are the Chicago based sound art duo Coppice (Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer) presenting visuals prepared by Coppice.

The duo has produced original compositions for stage, fixed media, and performed installation settings since 2009. Drawing from their expanding glossary of study, the duo is currently focused on live repertoire with custom instruments, prepared pump organ, and  electronic processes.

Coppice
Coppice

The Louisville duo mAAs (Connor Bell and Tim Barnes) will play to a blueprint of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, the iconic monument to the westward expansion of the United States was built by Finnish American architect and designer Eero Saarinen, the subject of the current KMAC exhibition Eero Saarinen: Reputation for Innovation. When placed into this context Saarinen’s drawing takes on the quality of modern, experimental sheet music. It resembles a waveform, giving shape to the listener’s experience of the music.

Metastaseis (1953-54), mesures 317-333 : graphic by Iannis Xenakis
Metastaseis (1953-54), mesures 317-333 : graphic by Iannis Xenakis

Also performing is local musician, sound artist, and composer R Keenan Lawler with video by Louisville artist Mitchell Bradley. Bradley manipulates images and video from his trips through the outer limits of the city. He and his twin brother Matthew have also collaborated on a series of works that bring together overstocked toys from dollar stores and other items from the clutches of mass production. They have turned these materials into an unusual, yet playfully informed set of installations and sculptures that have been recently exhibited in shows at KMAC, The Speed Art Museum, and I.D.E.A.S. 40203. For over three decades Lawler has explored American Blues music, bluegrass, and rock all filtered through his extensive background in electro-acoustic improvisation. With an intensely focused technique utilizing western music tonalities Lawler works with masses of harmonic overtones and sustained textures using his trademark metal-bodied resonator guitar.

Mitchell Bradley color video still w/ R Keenan Lawler
Mitchell Bradley color video still w/ R Keenan Lawler

 

Bell and Barnes of mAAs sat in during the recent KMAC Hour on ArtFm Louisville to discuss the upcoming AUDIOOPTICS event, providing insight along the way into their creative drives and music making process. Connor Bell began the audiooptics series as a way to more closely examine the transferences that occur when image and sound makers are united. With the set goal of taking a more critical look at the interstices of musical creativity and visual art, these events are set at a distance from the production of typical synchronized music videos and more closely aligned with the intentions of artistic collaborations like the music and dance performances of John Cage and Merce Cunningham.

How to Pass, Kick, Fall, and Run was choreographed by Cunningham and accompanied by spoken text by Cage. Copyright:  Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike) Rights Held By:  University Musical Society
April 13, 1971, “How to Pass, Kick, Fall, and Run” choreographed by Cunningham with spoken word accompaniment by Cage.
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held By: University Musical Society

Beginning in the mid 1950’s Cage and Cunningham set out to dismantle the narrative structures of choreographed dance music and introduced the element of chance between the movements of the dancers and the actions of the musicians, creating a new space for the viewing of performance related artwork that was less about the demonstration of memorization and more concerned with the discovery of uncharted connections between artistic practices.

Barnes has had previous experience combining experimental film and chance music as part of the group Text of Light. Formed in 2001 the group first set out to perform improvised music to the works of Stan Brakhage and other filmmakers. Their express intent was to, “improvise (not ‘illustrate’) to films from the American Avante-Garde (50s-60s etc), an under-known period of American filmic poetics.” Members of the group also include Lee Ranaldo and Alan Licht (gtrs/devices), Christian Marclay and DJ Olive (turntables), William Hooker (drums/perc), and Ulrich Krieger (sax/electronics).

mAAs setup
mAAs setup

mAAs creates music using modular analog synthesizers. First developed in the early 1960’s this equipment revolutionized electronic music, allowing for greater ease and portability in combining, composing, performing, and manipulating electronically produced waveforms.  Earlier methods for making similar music required bigger machines and a process known as tape splicing. This was used in an early canonical piece of electronic music, Poème électronique, for tape (1957-1958)  composed by Edgard Varèse. As with the Gateway Arch and mAAs this was  likewise conceived of as a companion piece to the work of an architectural icon. Varèse wrote the piece for the Le Corbusier designed Phillips Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.

As you prepare your senses for the AUDIOOPTICS experience take with you this quote by art philosopher Susan K. Langer:

“The assignment of meanings [in music] is a shifting, kaleidoscopic play, probably below the threshold of consciousness, certainly outside the pale of discursive thinking. The imagination that responds to music is personal and associative and logical, tinged with affect, tinged with bodily rhythm, tinged with dream, butconcerned with a wealth of formulations for its wealth of wordless knowledge, its whole knowledge of emotional and organic experience, of vital impulse, balance, conflict, the ways of living and dying and feeling.”
― Susanne K. LangerPhilosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art

Event Details 

Friday, January 10th @ 6pm Doors, 7pm Performance

$6 General Admission | Free For Members

Purchase tickets at the door. Purchase tickets online.

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

Quilted Matter

Image above: Denise Burge, Roan Mountain Matrix, 2001. Fabric, thread, 70″ x 84″ Courtesy of the artist

By Mary Wallace

Denise Burge constructs layers of intricate fabrics and felts, explosions of color, lines, and words into quilts that fluidly combine two worlds into one; the graphic nature of the urban city—influenced by her residence in Cincinnati, OH—and the traditional pastime of the American country where she grew up. She utilizes the fabrics to create sprawling, sometimes jumbled images that consume the attention of their viewers and draw them into the work.

Burge, Maquette, 2002
Detailed view: Denise Burge, Maquette, 2002. Fabric, thread, 68″ x 98″

Childhood memories, along with her love of nature and the Appalachian Mountains, inspired Burge to create these quilts, which tell stories through image as well as written word. Thinking of her work as a metaphor for the landscape, she “sees nature as a powerful being and [she] sees quilts as a geological structure.” Just as the American landscape is pieced together with various geological elements, her quilts are a collage of fabrics merged into one cohesive structure.

Roan Mountain Matrix (featured image) exemplifies her connection with the terrain of the Appalachian Mountains which run through Kentucky and several of its Eastern Border States. Roan Mountain is one of the highest summits in the Appalachian Mountain range and is located on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. It also holds one of the largest iron ore deposits. Burge has been affected by the changing landscape due to Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining, a form of mining practice where the tops of mountains are removed, exposing the seams of coal. Read more about Mountaintop Removal HERE. She has said, “I’ve noticed how the land existed around the highway, changed by mountaintop removal.  I was fascinated by the theater of the land and how we use the land; how the land fights back at what we do to it….fascinated by the theater of how we experience nature.” Roan Mountain Matrix is indicative of the area in which The 7 Borders exhibit encompasses.

When viewing the piece, the eye fixates on the invitingly colorful entrance to the interior of the dark patch-worked mountain. Bright colored yarn creates a cross section of elliptical layers representative of the earth’s structuring layers. The various fabrics, threads and words come together to create a commentary about the fate of this mountain and the want of the matrix it carries.

Denise Burge is an accomplished artist in many mediums, including recent work in photography and film, and has shown in galleries and museums all over the country. She attained both a BFA and MFA in Painting and Printmaking. Though born in North Carolina, she currently resides in Cincinnati, OH and is an Associate Professor and MFA Program Director at the University of Cincinnati.

 

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.