The annual exhibit of Public Works, at the Fayetteville Arts Council, opened 4th Friday in April and can still be viewed by visitors to the Art Center on Hay Street. Sponsored by the Public Works Commission, 144 works of art fill the gallery walls or are on pedestals. Works on the walls are stacked on top of each other due to the successful outpouring of artists in the area.
    The annual exhibit is a way for anyone to participate in a 4th Friday gallery exhibit and show art enthusiasts what they can do. The exhibit demonstrates the vast subject matter and styles that artists in the area choose to work in and the variety of media they use.
    One of the more unusual mediums was by Adriana Zsilinska. The work titled Terra Nostra is on silk and is a remarkable use of a batik technique, in which the artist draws on the fabric with colored pens to create interesting linear elements.
    Knowing it is an open exhibit — anyone who has their work framed with a proper hanging system can participate — makes the exhibit a mix of work from professional and amateurs (even some very young, creative children are exhibiting). Doesn’t matter to me what the age, I just look for work that is strong in design or composition, evokes meaning and is skillfully constructed.
    The age of the artist or the style, it doesn’t matter; a truly successful work stands out on the wall. A good example of this is the work titled Sissy and Sara by a very, very young artist named Sara Tringo. How did the child know to pick the color of lavender to paint the figure on top of the dense colors in the background? At such a young age, did Sara know she was creating depth and pictorial space? (I feel confident in saying she did not know her childlike-style of image making has influenced great works of art by artists like Jean Dubuffet and others.)
    What are some of the conditions for a strong work? First and foremost, there has to be a figure-ground relationship of some kind taking place. In other words, the background shouldn’t just be a backdrop that doesn’t relate to what is painted in foreground.
    Michelle Wilson and Lucille Benoit both have small paintings in the exhibit and have painted the traditional still life as a subject. Both artists have a keen sense of how important the space behind the objects is in creating spatial structure through the use of color and half tones.
    Wilson’s painting is a still life of an artist’s brush placed horizontally across a table and somewhat inside an open box. Benoit’s painting is a small still life titled Nancy’s, and is a painting of a grouping of objects — garlic and onions. Both artists seem to have an understanding of how to create form with color and how to set up a successful composition.
    Knowing when a work is complete can be difficult. Not knowing when the piece is finished can result in it being overworked. Does the artist overwork a painting or drawing because they, perhaps, do not have an understanding of the underlying form they are trying to construct? More doesn’t always mean better. Craftsmanship is always an issue; a well-crafted work shows a certain amount of competence in using the medium — avoiding too many unnecessary details?{mosimage}
    Kids at Play by Leroy Robinson is a good example of how a painting can be left minimal in detail and is still a strong work. His acrylic painting of two silhouetted figures in the foreground is in contrast to an arrangement of colorful pattern, an abstract cityscape in the background. His color choices create a rhythm in the work that directs our eye across the surface of the painting.
    Rose Ann San Martino’ painting, Driveway, is an excellent example of using a lot of detail in a painting, but it works. Her purple and black painting consists of the bottom of a car in the top right corner of the painting, leaving two-thirds of the painting in a purplish color with text covering every square inch — horror vacui at its best (artists fill the entire surface of an artwork with ornamental details, figures, shapes, lines and anything else the artist might envision).
    Then there is always the pitfall of over-framing. If the work is behind glass, then it needs a matt to protect the work from the glass or Plexiglas; the borders of the cut matt shouldn’t be too skimpy to create a sense of the work being squashed in the frame. You should never see the frame first, always the work first. So, a provincial frame on a contemporary work just doesn’t work.
    The Wee Pumpkin Patch King by Abigail Wilson is a fanciful, tiny sculpture in black and white clay of a whimsical figure. Small in scale, about 5”x 6”. Wilson framed her capricious figure in a black shadow box on a black matt. The framing is a visual support for the work and remains subordinate to the very tiny man and the essence of what the odd figure exudes.
    Content — what is the work about? Content is not the same as subject. The subject of the work can be described in terms of something representational; is it a cat, a dog, a person, etc. Content evokes something about the subject — is it expressive, political, transcendental and many other essences.
    {mosimage}In Joy Tringo’s painting, Trapped Within the Mind: Tribute to Jonah’s Autism, is an excellent example of how you don’t need descriptive painting to evoke a feeling or to give the viewer insight into an experience. Colorful and joyous, the swirls and circular space balls fill the background, the pattern of puzzle pieces decorate the egg shape of the body. Two references to time are in the painting, an otherwise joyous work is unsettling as the animated figure wears a necklace with the word “help” on the necklace charm.
    Other important elements which are the underpinning of good work is a successful composition and using color effectively and structurally. Is the color local or expressive, does it create form and/or space? Is color (with all its complexity) actually used to create structure in the work?
    Stanley Croteau uses color to evoke an emotion in his oil painting, Don’t Lose Your Balloons. Medium in size, Croteau uses color to entice us to look at his work. The brilliant color used to describe form emphasizes the uncertain meaning behind the portrait of an individual turning into an angry clown face. Very emotional and well painted; Croteau uses the psychological as his artistic mace.
    Size is not an issue. Sara Tringo’s little painting is very small, about 7”x 9”. Pamolu Oldham has two small collages that are very political and well designed. In her collage, What Child Is This?, Oldham shares her views about the state of politics by placing a cutout head of President Bush on the shoulders of a child. The child is a well known icon and is interpreted as the Madonna and Child; the letters A.K.A. can be read across the space above Madonna’s head.
    I can’t write about the exhibit and not mention some of the sculptures in the gallery. The works are in two categories: the serious stone carving by Kyle Sonnenberg and the fun fabricated junk sculpture made from the recycled material.
    Sonnenberg’s carvings are well crafted. He selects his stone to reflect meaning in each sculpture, like the brick red and white color of alabaster in his carving, The Shop Girl’s Broken Heart.
Dan Brady will make you chuckle with his lighthearted fabrication of Mr. Coffee and Java. The figure is made of tubing, cans, plastic, small athletic shoes and two coffee cups as eyes. Java looked sort a like an animal to me — fabricated all in the spirit of having fun.
    Daniel Mattox created a similar pleasurable experience with found objects; his sculpture titled Reindeer is made out of metal parts, solid and open forms to express a joyful interpretation of a favorite seasonal animal. The interpretation by Mattox and Brady will certainly delight any visitor to the exhibit, of any age.
    Lots to look at and there is still time to see Public Works; the exhibit will remain in the Art Center until the third week of May. For information call 323-1776.
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