“The medium is the message,” declared mid-20th Century social theorist Marshall McLuhan in his controversial 1964 book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (McGraw Hill, NY).
Now, in the 21st Century’s pre-teen years, many of the artists exhibiting their works at the 2011 Coconut Grove Arts Festival in Miami, Florida, appear to have embraced McLuhan’s mantra.
Unlike their more conventional peers who still slap paint on a canvas, chip away at a block of stone, or shape a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel, the innovators have found new and complex ways to express their creative urges.
Here are a few of these aesthetic trailblazers whose works caught my eye at the show:
Jennifer Ivory of Corvallis, Oregon, displayed her intricate Insectworks art. Her creations look so real that she has to post a disclaimer in her booth: “No Insects were harmed in the making of this artwork (They’re not real!)” She uses watercolor, inks, coated papers, mylar, horse hair, feathers, and many other materials.
Betsy Youngquist of Rockford, IL, does mixed-media beadwork. “[It] reflects a fascination with the intersection of humans, animals, and mythology,” says her profile on Etsy.com. “Stemming from a life-long love of all creatures great and small, Betsy’s work weaves together the human and animal spirit through a surrealistic lens. When creating her embellished objects, Betsy collaborates with sculptor R. Scott Long in designing and constructing the forms. Each piece starts as a unique carving. The surfaces are encrusted with beads and found materials in a mosaic process, often incorporating fragments of old porcelain dolls.”
Digital artist Day Greene of Dunedin, Florida, displayed works that bring together unlikely companions in contemporary America. For example, the portrait Bipartisan pairs the left half of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s face with the right half of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s. Rushmoore places conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh beside liberal filmmaker Michael Moore.
Dry Pigment Painting
Diane French of St. Augustine Beach, Florida, is a practitioner of dry pigment painting, a technique she developed herself. She uses raw pigments hand-pressed onto wood panels coated with marble dust. “A new second series of paintings incorporate original block printing in layers with dry pigments and acrylics, including symbols of finding balance, capturing your dreams, home, and nature,” her Web site states. Her art has soft-edged lines and flowing shapes, welcoming the viewer with a warm, intimate glow.
Matthew Adelman of Oberlin, Ohio, paints with oils on wood to create communities of art-lovers. “I like making really big paintings,” he says, “but not everyone has a big wallet or a big wall.” Thus, he “deconstructs” his paintings and sells them in individual segments. People who purchase one segment are told who the other buyers are and can communicate with them. The painting in the accompanying slideshow has 100 segments, including a couple filled in with photographs where buyers have taken the originals home. Adelman has begun work on another painting with a million smaller individual segments.
Maru Carreras of Miami, Florida, attaches shapes of brass strips to a brass background, then paints the entire composition with vibrant acrylic colors. In Cuba and later in Miami, her father had metalworking factories. “From a very young age, I was intrigued with the durability and strength of metal,” she says.
Ancient and new combined
Jeff League of Winter Park, Florida, employs a mixed-media encaustic photo transfer process that combines modern fine-art photography with encaustic painting using bee’s wax and resin, a technique employed by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. He builds up the encaustic medium in several layers and fuses each layer with a blowtorch. He transfers the photos in reverse collage, and paints the individual details by hand. Then he adds a final encaustic layer, heats it again, and hand-buffs it “to bring out a rich sheen that reveals the depth of imagery and layers of color.” He also creates and stains his own frame moldings.
Natalia Margulis of Livingston, New Jersey, has elevated another old art form – embroidery – to a modern and highly sophisticated level. She includes in her work “all kinds of hand and machine stitches and often some elements of other fiber techniques such as dyeing, fusing, gilding, beading, heat distressing and embossing,” states her Web site. Her intricately embroidered images “express the endless transformation of nature through the seasons from new life to decay.”
Aaron Kramer of Santa Monica, California, works primarily with recycled materials. He explores “the intersection between the found and fabricated [to] seek a deeper understanding of the transcendent nature of ordinary objects.” Kramer’s Spheroids are made from reclaimed street-sweeper bristles, with wires, buttons, and beads securing the major intersections.
Note: Click on the “Subscribe” button above to receive an email each time the Miami Travel Examiner publishes a new article.