“Decorative” is a bit of a dirty word in the art world. It’s why we say “interior decorators” instead of something like “décor artists.” In galleries and museums, the word “ornamental” is preferred, describing artwork that incorporates motifs from traditional crafts, fashion or architecture into a larger statement or meaning. If, in the context of your work, you scrutinize an aspect or example of craft, then you’re considering the ornamental. But if the work doesn’t mean beyond its aesthetic fact, it might be dismissed as merely decorative.
The full-body portrait “Juliette the Baptist” is Walker’s best riff on a religious original, copping an aspect of Caravaggio’s beheaded St. John the Baptist. A woman poses jauntily in a slim brown suit against a dim, indeterminate background, grasping what seems to be the severed head of the actress Julianne Moore. Walker applies minimal sculptural collage to render the gore streaming from the neck to the painting’s ground. Something between thick rose petals and a bright red version of bracket fungi is affixed to the panel in bloody bunches.
Tonally, this woman could have stepped right off the pages of Vogue. She conveys feminine independence without overt sexuality, but the head she’s lugging looks just like her. Walker’s pointing out that independence has a habit of eating the independences of others. It’s a lesson that St. John learned the hard way.
The circle and the square. This phrase recalls Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man notebook drawing, in which he exemplifies the proportional relationship that the Roman architect Vitruvius asserted as optimally connecting man to the structures around him.
It would be difficult to find a young artist more sincere and intentional than goetz. She works in many different media—this show includes 16mm film, watercolor paintings, a sculptural installation and performance. Playing the art field like this is common for student artists, of course. goetz, however, differentiates herself in that the media are all put at the service of her ideas, rather than the other way around.
UPDATED: 10:48pm Monday, Nov. 21.
The Durham City Council passed a resolution Monday night to devote up to one percent of the proposed General Capital Improvement Project (CIP) annual budget to the installation of public art at CIP sites and other locations around the city, including a priority area downtown and along "gateways" to the city. And it's been a long time coming.
The percent-for-art program was flagged as a high-priority section of Durham's Cultural Master Plan (CMP) as early as 2004. Once the city created a board to oversee moving forward with the plan, the program took second-tier status. The board designated a task force to create a temporary public art policy for the city to use in the meantime, and a consultant developed a plan after examining what other community percent-for-art programs looked like. Things were moving right along toward City Council consideration when the economy tanked.
"In talking with the CMP board and the Public Art Task Force, and internally with the City," explains Josh Parker of the Cultural Advisory Board, as well as the TBL Group, a diversified community development and invest firm, "We just felt like trying to bring forward a program that looked like it was asking to spend money—which in fact it wasn't necessarily doing that—but even had the appearance of that was probably not a good idea when we were dealing with massive budget shortfalls. So we sort of put it on ice for about eighteen months."
While on ice, the resolution was further vetted and crafted. Which was time well spent, according to Parker.
"We’re ending up with a pretty strong document that we know we can execute on. And that’s why I think it’s felt like it’s moving a bit slow through the City but there has been this piece by piece progress, just to have assurances that the policy makes its way to the Council agenda."
Kim Rorschach, director of the Nasher Museum of Art, has served on the task force. She's thrilled the resolution is now in place.
"The policy sends a message very broadly that art is valued in this community," Rorschach says. Whether someone is going to Full Frame, or to something at Duke, or to DPAC (the Durham Performing Arts Center), we care about the experience that they have, and we want to welcome them in terms of visiting the city and its atmosphere and ambiance. And I think public art has a role to play in that."
"We’re trying to think about public art as broadly as possible. It might be a sculpture on a plaza, or outdoor mural paintings. Just as an example, we saw a preliminary project proposal in which sewer grates all around the city could be painted according to a certain theme by a certain group of artists. And then there could be a map to find the sites."
After waiting patiently for years, the Cultural Advisory Board will waste no time, meeting the morning after the vote to talk about next steps, the first of which is to determine the scope and selection process for a Public Art Committee that would be the first body to see public art project proposals.
The approval process, however, is fairly set. The Public Art Committee would flag proposals to pass along to the Cultural Advisory Board, and an internal city process would weigh in as well. In addition to considering any project's educational possibilities, the Cultural Advisory Board would seek public input, particularly from neighborhoods and businesses close to a proposed site. The final decision on a proposal would rest with the City Council, which would vote on it at a public meeting.
Small-scale or temporary projects, or maintenance of existing public art, could be fast-tracked, however. "It could be that if it’s under a certain amount and there’s not public money and it’s just the lease of some space, the City Manager might be authorized to make those decisions on his own. But any meaningful public art is definitely something that the Council would have the final say on," Parker explains.
Locations for temporary art exhibitions specified in the resolution include CCB Plaza, Central Park, Five Points, the Civic Center Plaza, the grounds of the Durham Performing Arts Center, City Hall, the Hayti Heritage Center, the Durham Arts Council, the Carolina Theatre, and Durham Athletic Park.
The CIP, which runs the fiscal decade 2012-21, covers everything from large-scale projects like the Human Services Complex and the new County Courthouse, to public schools, refurbishments to the Museum of Life and Science, and IT infrastructure. After hovering in the mid-$30 million range for several years running, the CIP line in the 2011-12 budget is $46,962,324.
The percent-for-art program won't kick in until fiscal year 2012-13, but that doesn't necessarily mean citizens should anticipate $470,000 for public art. The "up to" in "up to one percent" gives the Council leeway in determining the annual allocation.
"The percentage really just asks the manager not so much to consider a number each year relative to the CIP, but to make sure that public art has a budgeted number," Parker notes. "It’s to make it a part of the budgeting process. And I think that’s really where it provides transparency to citizens. It’s not arbitrarily tied to some budget line item. It’s something that citizens can really advocate for to be funded."
Although summer doesn’t end until the fall equinox in late September, August’s Third Friday in Durham uses the public impatience with the season as a springboard into fall. Tom Elrod already described some of the bounty of visual arts in an earlier post, but that was only the half of it.
Whiteside uses a large vocabulary of lines, forms and gestures to construct his unpopulated scenes in india ink. Sometimes his images are wrought, almost etched; in other pieces a layered wash and contour approaches watercolor technique.
“The Duck Blind” depicts a still pond reflecting its perimeter of cattails and an ominous, obtrusive blind. Neither hunters nor prey are visible; only the tangled, empty scrub trees along the shoreline. But the tangles more than step forward as the subject. A wilderness of leaves and growth rendered as hectic curlicues, the dense undergrowth sums to an animate complaint against the hunters’ presence.
Installation by Sarah Spencer White
Through Feb. 14
It took sculptor and ceramics artist Sarah Spencer White 18 months to hand-craft more than 100 individual pieces of earthenware for an exhibit at the Golden Belt gallery in downtown Durham.
White's new installation, SPILL, references past and present handcrafted forms, and explores the shift between industrial and handmade, symbolic of the former Golden Belt's recent past as a functioning factory. SPILL asks us to meditate on what we expect from a vessel. Functionality or dysfunctionality? A sieve or a container? In a Q-and-A with the Indy, White took the time to describe her vision, her discoveries and her inspiration.
Independent Weekly: What brought about this particular ceramics installation, SPILL?
Sarah Spencer White: The work for the SPILL exhibition was conceived and made for this particular space. I wanted to make work that would refer to the industrial production history of Golden Belt and also work well in a gallery that is basked in natural light from the large skylights. These two goals led me to conceive of an exhibition that would be mainly white in color and one that would be a large grouping of pieces. The idea to make pieces that all had a series of holes and perforations grew out of some earlier pieces.
Each vessel has holes that make it useless for the purpose of containing liquids. Why?
I wanted the pieces to reference various vessel and container shapes, but to also have holes that would make these containers unable to contain liquids. I like setting up contradictions. The perforations create a window of sorts into the enclosed space, but they also make it impossible to hold liquid. I think that the function/ dysfunction juxtaposition urges the viewers to ask more questions about the work, to look at it a little bit longer, to engage with it on a deeper level.
I'm curious about the connected network of ceramic pieces.
The table piece is called "Hydropathy." I have used the table to house other collections of work in the past and originally fabricated it because I was frustrated by the pedestals that [another] gallery had to offer while [I was] planning a show. For this piece I wanted to create a system or network of pieces that implied a filtering-down. The holes in the piece at one end are the largest and the holes get smaller and smaller as you proceed down the table. I also wanted to use this piece for the Golden Belt show because it points back to the industrial history of the building.
You mention you were hoping to discover the shifting barriers between industrial and handmade in creating SPILL. Do you feel you made that discovery?
I have been thinking about and working with the shifting barriers between the mechanical/ industrial and the organic/ handmade in my work for a long time. I don't know that I can name specific lessons learned from this body of work. I can say that anytime I complete a large body of work or install a show I am aware of how precarious and changing the human relationship with the industrial is. We live in such an interesting time of science, technology and medical advances. It is also a time where a value of the handmade and natural seems to be increasing in response to these advances.
Indy contributor Rebekah L. Cowell visited the Made in the USA exhibit in Raleigh prior to its official opening. She sends us this report.
Empty warehouses haunt the landscapes of many North Carolina cities. Some have been renovated into funky apartments, art spaces and restaurants, while many others remain shuttered.
On Friday, Oct. 2, a vacant warehouse at 320 S. Harrington in Raleigh-built in the days of the American Cotton Oil and Fertilizer Company-came to life.
Here are some photos of the Made in USA exhibit, opening in Raleigh's warehouse district. It's one of the highlights of the First Friday tour, and it's happening at 320 S. Harrington St.
We'll have a longer look from Rebekah Cowell soon, but here are a couple of photos taken by Carter Hubbard, co-curator of the exhibit.