Through other eyes

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We got a couple of out-of-town visitors, fellow art blogger J.T. Kirkland and his girlfriend Bren last weekend. Roberta met up with them at Vox Populi and then I joined the group at Larry Becker Gallery. We also hit the Wood Turning Center, Pentimenti, the Painted Bride, and Bridgette Mayer Gallery (image, Kirkland’s “Pine 3”).

Kirkland said in the course of our wanderings that he started his blog, Thinking About Art, because art coverage in the Washington, D.C. area wasn’t extensive enough, a motive that got us started as well. We also learned that Bren, who seemed to know her way around a camera a lot better than we do, was the chief blog photographer of Thinking About Art. The photos there are great.

Kirkland, who thinks of himself as a minimalist, was happiest of all at Larry Becker Gallery and clearly felt an affinity there with what was up on the walls. Roberta said to Kirkland that she thought his work had a lot of other things going on as well. Here’s a link to Roberta’s three-part interview with Kirkland.

The Beckers still had their summer group show up, but were looking forward to a showing artists Rebecca Salter and Fernando Colon Gonzalez, opening Sept. 24.

When we got to Pentimenti, luck was with us and painter Isabel Bigelow and her husband, sculptor Luis Castro, were there. What a great show! Bigelow and Castro actually had been at Becker at the same time we were, but we didn’t know they were them. (More on the show at Pentimenti later). (Here’s a shot at Pentimenti, showing, left to right, Bren’s back, gallerist Christine Pfister talking to Kirkland way in the back, Bigelow talking to Roberta, and Castro, who was talking to me).

Wood conference, wood store

The Wood Turning Center had some excellent work up from their International Turning Exchange program which brings together woodturning artists from around the world.

We also had a look at their swell new store, which they got open just in time for the major woodturning conference they are hosting in a couple of weeks–WOOD 2005 Collectors of Wood Art Forum & World Turning Conference, Sept. 21 to 25. If you’re not aware of it, check out the site, because a number of local galleries are in on the action, also showing woodwork.

Kirkland was especially interested with a wood that came with natural holes in it. I wondered to myself where he’d drill in this stuff.

While we were in a wood mode, we stopped at Shelley Spector’s show at the Painted Bride (see post).

Ways to support artists

And our last stop, at Bridgette Mayer, was to revisit (for Roberta and me) Tim McFarlane’s new paintings. This was Roberta’s third visit there, my second. (More on these later too). Artist and 2004 Pew fellow Rebecca Rutstein was there, talking about her upcoming show Nov. 2 at the gallery.

Rutstein had spent a couple of weeks in Hawaii on the Big Island researching volcanos, with some support from Mayer, who raised $2,500 dollars for her, the first of what Mayer hopes will be an annual grant to help a gallery artist. The grant was privately funded by a couple of her clients who prefer to remain anonymous.

Mayer has even bigger plans, hoping to extend the grants to the larger local art community, she said in a phone conversation earlier today. “My mission is to educate the public through art, and to give my artists a chance to do what they want to do.”

She’s excited about the fruits of her initial effort with Rutstein. The work, she said, now includes drawing and has changed spatially and in depth. She said Rutstein has been highly productive since the trip, working in her studio from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. without a break.

Mayer was partly spurred to undertake this by her financial panel for gallery owners that she put together earlier this year, and she’s hoping other local gallery owners also begin to undertake similar efforts (see post on a grant arranged previously by Pentimente’s Pfister).

The recent New York Times article about Philadelphia as the new Brooklyn Mayer thought was unfair to Philadelphia’s art community–and untrue. (A clearly behind-the-times Soho gallery owner is quoted as saying Philadelphians don’t shop for art in Philadelphia.) Mayer herself has been selling to local clients and so have the galleries in Philadelphia that have longevity (or they wouldn’t still be in business). “I love…connecting people with fine art. I work with a lot of first-time art buyers,” she said. She added, emerging artists are making a living here, too.

Which brings me back to Kirkland, who said with some sadness that Washington’s gallery scene is smaller than ours–yet he only saw a slice of what’s showing here–based on his interests and what was open on Labor Day weekend. Hey, Philadelphia art world. Plenty to feel good about.

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