It's that awkward time of the month again when everyone is in transition, taking down their old shows and getting ready to put up the next one. I want to tell you about what's new and exciting, but I won't be able to see the shows myself until after this article goes to press. So, do I tell you about art I haven't seen yet?
Fortunately, some galleries send out postcards or e-mail pictures of the artwork. A picture on a computer screen doesn't come close to the real thing, but it's often enough to tell me something about the work, and then I get to go and see it after I'm done writing the article. This month, I got three postcards from Piante Gallery. Tina Rousselot, Barbara Dolan-Wilkinson and Lindsay Coats are all exhibiting their work there during the month of September. I can count the number of colors on the three postcards with one hand. In other words, this will be a minimalist show.
Rousselot's piece, titled Prairie Series 3 , is a 30-inch square field of color, lighter in the middle, warming to a deep rust color at the edges. Dolan-Wilkinson's untitled piece is a grouping of four small linen canvases, white with dark threads running across them, and Coats' piece, Cake Container Collar , is an abstract piece in grays and blacks on white.
'Untitled 4,' thread on linen, by Barbara Dolan-Wilkinson. Photo by Brandi Easter.
This is the kind of work that many people react to by saying, "I can do that." A simple field of color, inscrutable lines that look like scribbles on the canvas — how hard is it? If you're one of these people, I want you to know that I can relate. I may be a fanatical art enthusiast now, but I was an art skeptic for many years. Growing up I was interested in science and math (and still am) and I didn't have much use for art. The story of my sea change is a long one I'll save for another day, but one moment has always stood out to me as a catalyst to much greater understanding.
In a graphic arts class at the College of the Redwoods, we were looking at a piece of abstract art. A classmate muttered something disparaging along the lines of, "I could do that." Our teacher left the area years ago, but I still remember him fondly, and I loved his response. "Great!" he said with a grin. "Go do it."
And after hearing that, I realized that I could "go do it." There is nothing bad and everything good about art being something that anybody can do. And perhaps more importantly, I learned that although the freedom to create belongs to everybody, it is not as easy as it looks. Being faced with a blank canvas and license to do anything you want is daunting. Is it really that easy to paint a field of color, like Tina Rousselot? Which color? How do you manage the shading? How about some abstract swishes on the canvas? Where do you start? How do the colors react with each other? What do your lines mean and how do they relate to space they're in?
Do I like every piece of art that is created? That's not the point. Of course I don't like every piece of art, but I'm not the only person in the world. There are as many reasons to create an artwork as there are people in the world. Some art is not for me, but every piece of art is for someone. Some art is created to be aesthetically pleasing; some is created to make a "statement." Some is created purely for the sake of the artist, and some is created purely for the sake of the viewer. And every piece has a different effect on every person who looks at it. We all view art through the eyes of our own experiences, insights, beliefs and tastes.
'Meeting Arcata & McKinleyville,' Lindsay Coats. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Normally, I talk to an artist and discuss the work in terms of intent, but this time, I haven't talked to the artists at all. And as I said, I haven't had a chance to see much of the show. There is more to it than what I've seen on the postcards, of course. For one thing, Dolan-Wilkinson's show includes an installation piece (she's known for them) and Coats' work addresses a theme and includes more representational pieces. But I know this will be a show to make viewers ponder, and I'm leaving it open to interpretation.
So here's an opportunity to go and see a show without background information. And for a lot of people, it will be work that isn't to your taste. Perhaps you should go see it anyway and try to look at it with a new perspective. Instead of seeing the simplicity of the work, see the subtlety of it. Rather than fretting about what it means, let yourself be taken in by it and think about how it makes you feel. What do you take from it? What memories do the pieces evoke? What attracts you and what doesn't attract you? If you detest something, why do you feel so strongly about it? Even not liking a piece of art can tell you something about yourself. And of course, if you think you can do it too, then by all means, be inspired and go home and create something of your own.
The show will be up until Oct. 3, at Piante Gallery, 620 Second St. in Eureka. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.