Saturday, October 16, 2010

No beginning, middle, or end: a journey through the art world with Savannah

No beginning, middle, or end: a journey through the art world with Savannah
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom

© 2010, Paintings of Home, Bo Bartlett

No beginning, middle, or end: a journey through the art world with Savannah
(Originally published by The Examiner, October 15, 2010)

Popular Culture, Comics & Cartoons

“I’m telling a story with no beginning, middle, or end, one that is hard to tell in words,” pseudo-excitedly explained Jason Limon to three fans that were surrounding him, three middle-aged men who seemingly had closely been following his evolution as an artist.

“Are you still doing your electrical-battery work?” anxiously intoned one of them to the boyish-looking Limon.

Limon replied with a surprised look in his eye, “I still do them, but not as much. People were into the robots and electrical pieces, but I’ve moved on because I want to tell a story that takes shape over time, filing in the gaps with every new painting that is completed.”

This ambiguous, open-to-wide-interpretation explanation is abetted by the artist statement he has posted to his website, one which reminds me of some of the lighter, high-flying moments I’ve had with my friends:

"I am an observer of our world, silently scanning its elements and the beings who move among them. My mind absorbs and overflows with thoughts and emotions with no way to be revealed but through marks on a blank surface. There is a curious young soul within me that begs to show its existence. My mind drifts to far of places in hopes of returning with fragments of memories and dreams to share with others. I create so that I may speak. With every image released I step further away from the shadows of my past and into the bright lights of a happier place."

His work consists of a fantastic ensemble of “masks,” as he calls them, hiding giant insect-like-aliens, or at least the heads of them, because almost all his figures all body-less. The paintings are all reminiscent of a surreal genre of work that is headlined by established stars like Todd Schorr, who have been influenced by strange images drawn from popular culture, comics and cartoons.

Collectively, artists like Schorr and Limon, have driven a movement known as lowbrow artor pop surrealism. Limon’s work was recently previewed in Juxtapoz, a magazine which was has been at the helm of the movement since 1994.

It’s Now or Never
This run in with Jason at the opening of his show, Blood Nectar, at the BOLD HYPE Gallery, was just the first stop on my tour through New York City’s premier art gallery district, Chelsea, with my partner in crime for the evening, Savannah Spirit.

Savannah is a photographer, curator, blogger, all-around cool art chick and someone who likes to profess her love for New York City (most of the time). Hanging around her for an evening, one immediately gets the impression that she is a connoisseur of the art world, she knows whats-what and whos-who, and admittedly has made many of her connections first online.

We talked about the "it's who you know" principle, and she said, "Actually, I feel like I've truly just begun my journey through the art world. There is so much to absorb, so much to know about art and the people who make it happen. Often, I feel like the eternal student, always learning. For now, I'm just sponging it all in. Moreover, I also feel as if I'm part of something bigger, contributing to the larger picture. My role keeps slowly revealing itself."

“And it’s amazing how many people you can meet in the art world via Facebook,” she added, unapologetically .

In fact, while we were at Noah Becker’sSix Degrees of Separation show at Claire Oliver last night, a number of people approached us who recognized Savannah from their conversations over the Internet.
One of them was Dawn Hunter, professor of art at the University of South Carolina, who was in town for a long weekend with her husband. After all the handshakes and introductions, we got to talking about Work of Art, a reality-TV show on Bravo that promises to find “the next great artist.” We discussed important questions as to whether or not Jerry Saltz, art critic for New York Magazine, was “selling out,”(read his defense here) and whether or not we would be willing to be a judge or contestant if they didn’t pay us.

Having actually experienced this dilemma when I was asked to be the lead artist for the HP Be Brilliant campaign a couple of years ago, I weighed in. “Sometimes, you’ve just got to give it up for free. Ultimately, the promotional value you get is worth a lot more than the standard professional compensation everybody cries about. I whined too when they first told me that I would ‘not be paid’ for my work, but then my ex straightened me out—‘Your ego is getting in the way of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’ She was right, so I groveled back to strike my Faustian bargain.”

We also met the painter CJ Nye, who much like Savannah, has found that Facebook is a great conduit for fomenting relationships in the art community. Moreover, CJ would later reveal that one of the reasons that she picked up art again, ten years after a tragic accident in which she lost the use of her painting hand, was that Jerry Saltz had praised her work while taking an extracurricular painting class while getting her MA in Arts Administration.

As we were exiting the exhibition we ran into the curator of the show, Noah Becker, who seemed both exuberant and somewhat haggard by all the balls he’s been juggling lately as curator, painter, writer, critic and magazine editor of online art zine, Whitehot Magazine. Although the introduction was short and sweet, we agreed to continue to our conversation later (click here to read A Talk with Noah).

In addition to many of Savannah’s Facebook friends, we had conversations with a couple of the artists that Savannah knows through her latest project as a photographer. With the working title of “Shoot Me: The New York Art World in the 21st Century,” Savannah is attempting to capture the zeitgeist of the contemporary art world in two ways. First, by taking portraits of New York based artists, in a way that reveals who they are outside of their creative medium. And secondly, by documenting the art scene, through pictures of events and openings.

Ultimately, both of these perpectivies will be used in the book and exhibition that will showcase this project. She's currently working with Bruce Checefsky, Director of the Reinberger Galleries at the Cleveland Institute of Art, who will serve as the photo editor for the book and curator of the exhibition.
So far, she’s shot seven artists including Augustus Goertz, Gregory de la Haba, Jazz-Minh Moore, Grace Roselli, Michael Anderson, Lowell Boyers, and Will Ryman.

She exuberantly explained to me, “This project will serve to create a historical portrait of where we are in the contemporary art scene today. At the same time it will give the artists I photograph a chance to show us who they really are as individuals apart from what the public can garner from their work.”

“Moreover, the type of ‘camera’ I’ve chosen to use for the project is 'The Hipstamatic,' an app you can buy for your iPhone that allows you to take photos in various cool modes that mimic different kinds of analog film. I’m using this intentionally because it draws attention to the nature of an ‘instant’ age we live in, one where no one wants to wait for anything anymore. Everyone wants it now or never.”

Continuing the Legacy
Our final stop was at the P×P×O×W Gallery, which was hosting the opening of Bo Bartlett’s tenth solo exhibition, Paintings of Home, depicting “scenes from his childhood home in Columbus, Georgia.” To set the mood, the reception featured a trio performing bluegrass music.

Even though the press release claims that as a painter he is “continuing the legacy” of American Realists such as Eakin, Homer and Wyeth, many of the paintings were highly reminiscent of Norman Rockwell.

Moreover, although Bartlet graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, which emphasized the mastery of realist principles, there are quaint references in his work to his training in film at NYU, with images of movie cameras sprinkled throughout the series and many of the paintings, both past and present, resembling scenes from a movie (e.g. Car Crash, Homeland, The Bride, and Return of the Three Graces from Exile).

And as per his artist statement it is clear that Bo renders from a cinematic point of view, “(My) paintings celebrate the underlying epic nature of the commonplace and the personal significance of the extraordinary. Family and friends are the cast of characters that appear in his dreamlike narrative works.”

Overall, PPOW’s show brings together an impressive ensemble of Bartlett’s work, an exemplary example of the mastery of painting that inspires many aspiring artists today.

Blood Nectar will run from October 14 until November 11. The Bold Hype Gallery is located at 547 W. 27th Street, 5th Floor.

Six Degrees of Separation runs from October 14 thru November 13. Claire Oliver is located at 513 W 26th Street.

Paintings of Home runs from October 14 until November 13. P×P×O×W is located at 511 W 25th Street, Room 301.

Read more articles and interviews by Lorenzo like these at the

Fine Art Photography in New York City

National Fine Arts

Check out the #1 Photo Essay on for 2010!
25 Lessons I’ve Learned about photography Life!


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