Monday, May 24, 2010

Joel Vannfuller at Satellite Gallery

Asheville-based photographer Joel Vannfuller has combined his fascination with African tribal masks, and figurative photography for his most recent installment at Satellite Gallery called Primal Faces Exposed. Nubile female forms wearing African masks appear in these black and white photos which are reminiscent of erotic photography from the early 1900's. Vannfuller's figures are statuesque and the dramatic staging of his subjects is penetrating. From a technical standpoint, Primal Faces Exposed is high-brow on every level.

According to the gallery's press release, Vannfuller was inspired to photograph nudes with African masks initially for aesthetic reasons. He believed juxtaposing primitive art against the female figure created an engaging image. But as he began to uncover the stories behind the masks a deeper relationship began to emerge. Africa’s history– our common ancestry– and the pervasive use of masks raised some intriguing questions.

Because of his interest in African Masks, Vannfuller includes lengthy explanations of each mask and it's cultural relevance. While this is interesting from a sociological standpoint, I find these sort of commentaries in art exhibits a bit tedious, and would prefer that Vannfuller let the work speak for itself.

I particularly like "Spirit at Peace" which depicts a blurry porcelain form wearing a Maiden Mask from Nigeria. This photo reminded me of collages I've seen by
Hannah Höch, a German Dadist who created work during the mid 1900's. While there are visual similarities, conceptually the two artists are on opposite ends of the spectrum: Höch's photomontage art was a critique on feminine representations within mass media, whereas Vannfuller uses the form as a design element - contrasting it against it's setting, blurring out parts, or contorting it for aesthetic relevance.

Collage by Hannah Höch

Primal Faces Exposed is a regal photographic documentation of the human form, and a testament to Vannfuller's technical expertise. View images on The Satellite Gallery's website:
The show deserves to be seen in real life, however, because the large scale of the photos makes for a deluxe experience.

Read Vannfuller's blog about his 13 Stories at the Windsor Hotel series:

Satellite will hold a closing reception for Primal Faces Exposed on Sunday May 30th 6:00 pm.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cruising around the City of Brotherly Love

I spent the weekend in Philadelphia, a city I've never visited before, and had a smashing time. I didn't go into any art galleries, but just walking around was a visual feast. I also learned heaps of interesting historical tidbits, like the fact that Betsy Ross was married five times.

For $5 I was able to hop on and off the city's Phlash Trolley at touristy hotspots like the Rodin Museum (free admission), The Liberty Bell (free), and The Art Museum ($16). I didn't tour the Art Museum but hung outside with the George Washington Monument. The sculpture's wild fetishization of colonialism provoked me to study it at length. Naked Native Americans lounge around with pacified indigenous beasts while the genteel Caucasian founders of this country are represented on a higher platform. A mammoth George Washington on horse presides over them all.

Down at Penn's Landing near the Delaware River, The Irish Memorial captured my attention as it tells the story of Ireland's potato famine and the Irish emigration to the US. Lots of children were playing amongst the tombstones, and happy couples were getting their pictures taken next to it. I love memorials that people can climb on.

Masonic Temple at left, City Hall at right

Center City is quite impressive with it's regal architecture and contemporary public art.The infamous Robert Indiana Love Sculpture is to be found in this part of town. The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons that loomed a street over piqued my curiosity but unfortunately it's closed to the public on Saturdays. They offer tours Tues-Fri.

Walking around Philadelphia one notices a lot of outdoor murals and mosaics. The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program offers tours of the murals. On South Street I came across the Magical Gardens -- a labyrinth of mosaics of mirror, glass and found objects constructed by Isaiah Zager. Other mosiacs by Zager are scattered throughout The South Side neighborhood.

The Mutter Museum College for Physicians held a bounty of scientific and medical couriosities, and it was enthralling at first to look at all the skulls, deformed skeletons and gangrene hands, but after awhile I felt a little sickened by the multitudes of misshapen babies floating around in glass jars.

As captivating as the decapitated, was the museum's visual art exhibition: Corporeal Manifestations -- the first of it's kind for the Museum and hopefully they will run more in the future. I was particularly stirred by Tip Toland's sculpture, Survivor. I imagine it to be a physical representation of the gaps one lives with psychologically/spiritually after experiencing trauma.

In the end I give Philadelphia a hearty thumb's up for it's public art and cheap stuff to do on the fly. It kind of reminded me of Savannah Georgia with all it's history, cemeteries and squares. It also reminded me oddly enough of Berlin given it's sculptures, street art, grandiose architecture, and governmental monuments.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Three fun events this Saturday!

Marble sculptor Alexei Kazantsev will be working on a piece at 85 Patton Ave all day May 15th

May 15th promises to be a hearty day for art aficionados attracted to unusual art happenings.

One of them is
Fanaticon at The Asheville Art Museum which will feature local comic book vendors, artists, panel discussions and special guests. Among the notable artists exhibiting work: Jessica C. White, Hope Larson, Gabe Shaffer, Brent Giles and a ton more.
Here's a great article about Fanaticon written by Miles Britton for the Mountain Xpress.

Another event is the
Bountiful Cities Bird House Auction at the Arts Council on Saturday evening where birdhouses created by local artists will be auctioned off 4-7:30 pm. One of the artists is Melissa Weiss of the Clayspace Co-op who created a ceramic house especially for the event.

The third event I found out about randomly while strolling through downtown Asheville today. A handwritten sign taped to a new shop at 85 Patton Aveue called Rugs-n-More alerted me that marble sculptor
Alexei Kazantsev will be in the shop all day Saturday working on one of his marble sculptures. This is a one-time event, and if you are interested in that sort of thing, it seems like a great opportunity to watch it in action.
Kazantsev does not live in Asheville, but according to the shop owner's wife, Sundae More (her real name) the artist found the shop appealing and asked if he could work on his sculptures in there. Sounds intriguing!
To see Kazantsev's work visit his website:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Luca Dipierro

Artistic violence sometimes reveals is true power in its ability to stand the test of time. A sensationalized video of gore and explosions, for example, may shock viewers one day, but after a few years it runs the risk of appearing campy. Consider, for a moment, how the sweetly disturbing illustrations of Edward Gorey or the videos of The Brothers Quay have been able to quietly provoke viewers long after their creation.

Such is the case with artist Luca Dipierro, whose paintings and video art are enchanting and macabre all at once. Aesthetically reminiscent of Mexican Day of the Dead Folk Art, antique circus posters and old comic books, Dipierro's work quietly infiltrates the mind through the disarming characterization of nuns, sailors, acrobats, hanged creatures, caskets and detached limbs. "The art I am interested in is one that is little, but adventurous," he says.

To produce his animations, Dipierro first creates paper characters using just acrylic paint and markers. Each paper cut element is rather small — no bigger than 4 or 5 inches, but often Dipierro must create multiples of something to establish movement in his work. Blood emanating from a hand in one animation required 80 red paper drops. "Some animators would just make a loop out of five or 10 drops," he says. "Instead, I cut the 80 drops. On a subliminal level, people understand that they're all different."

Dipierro plans to screen his videos in Asheville later this year. For now, his paintings are on display at Hip Replacements in downtown Asheville. DVDs of his videos are also available for purchase, and they are a must-see. The enlargement of his images through video adds dimension to the drawings, as does the haunting music/narration that accompany each vignette. Paper fibers, cut edges, brush strokes and shadows are more apparent at this scale than with the naked eye. "Animations are art plus time," says Dipierro, "it's not just telling a story — it's a painting that moves."

Read the full version of
"Animating the macabre through paper and paint." written by Ursula Gullow for Mountain Xpress 05/05/2010

Check out Dipierro's stop animation videos and visual art through his website:

His visual art is currently on display at Hip Replacements in Downtown Asheville.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tami-Lu Barry

Collage art is kind of like the acoustic guitar of the art wold. Everyone knows at least a few songs, but the special ones are those who develop a distinct and authentic voice with their instrument.

I recently came across the playful collages and paintings of Tami-Lu Barry at Downtown Books and News and was drawn to her energetic use of materials. If her work had a personality I would imagine it to be something like Marilyn Monroe's acting in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. At first glance the work seems kitschy and effusive, but it took smarts to make it that way.

Barry seems to be unapologetically self-referential, since her name is often incorporated into the work as a predominant design element. I appreciate that kind of chutzpah in art.

DBN also carries Barry's "Go Make Something" kits, which are nothing more than a bunch of random scraps of things packaged together, but done in such a way that you actually want to buy the kit and use it. Again, it took smarts to make such a simple concept so appealing.