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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Breaking Barriers with Ania Gola-Kumor

By Alaina Rook: DU student, intern, chai tea enthusiast

Ania Gola-Kumor was insistent that a phone interview would not be enough to truly understand her work--“I just don't think people can see me without my painting around me”--so rather, we skyped. Immigrating some thirty years ago from Eastern Europe, where she was classically trained in the arts since childhood, Ania uses her paintings to express herself when words aren't enough. And while there was no need for her to be self-conscious about her grammatically perfect, albeit musically accented English, I did bless the technological innovators for providing me with a means of actually seeing into Kumor's colorful world.

When considering what I could possibly write about for this blog, I headed to the quiet gallery basement in search of some inspiration amongst the canvases stored below. Flipping through canvas after canvas of dreamy colors and idyllic scenes, I came to an abrupt halt as I came across one of Kumor's magnificently massive canvasses, immediately entranced by the intensity and power of each intentional stroke. Kumor is humble and reluctant about these paintings that so enamored me, feeling somehow that they are unfinished even in their completeness—desiring to pour even more of her heart and vision onto the canvas in layers and layers of color and feeling that make her paintings so raw and juicy.

But in Kumor's adept hands, a painting might never be finished. “I have to paint. If I don't have a painting to paint, I repaint over finished canvases”. She explains her compulsion to paint as a need to express her emotions, without which she would go crazy. In America where she originally came as a political refuge, where speaking English (her third language) is the norm, it is easy to see how words could not be enough. Truly and openly communicating one's emotions in a way that in honest is nearly impossible in any language--language is fallible to express that which is most essential to our souls.

Her paintings are an attempt to capture the feeling of a moment. They are abstract aerial landscapes--not so much that they are one refracted image of a physical place, rather, that they are the collective memory of the color and emotion of being in that space. Since coming to Colorado, her artistic palette has evolved to fit the landscapes she sees here telling a new story—the reds of the rock, the yellows of the sky, the black of the shadows where the two former meet.

The other aspect Kumor attributes to her evolution as an artist in the past twenty years has been her children. Literally, the persistent demands of raising children forced her to reevaluate how she was able to create art. “I didn't have time to wait until I had the courage—I just had to do it. Bolder, faster, more spontaneous.” Her paintings speak with strokes of power, colors of emotion, a voice that calls strongly out for all to come and listen to what it has to share. Her artistic vision is no longer soft-spoken or shy, it is a declaration of her world and how she chooses to exist within it.   

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fifty Shades of Strawn

By Alaina Rook:
Student, Intern, Overall Life Enthusiast

 A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the premier of the gallery's Mel Strawn exhibition. Mel Strawn is fifty shades of awesome. He looks like he could be your kindly, white-haired grandfather, but bets are that your grandfather is not nearly as cool as this guy—an artist creating masterful works for more than half a century.

Strawn is ever an innovator--and it evident in his almost experimental pieces of art—which play with lines, with shapes and colors, and with light and darkness. Paintings like “Genie”, “Negentropy” and “Series Last” were part of a fourteen year artistic odyssey of investigation and invention—using only four shapes he created perfectly chaotic yet contained and restrained structure compositions. Strawn explained the process of painting these complex canvases to me as “made by probability and chance”-- highlighting the mathematical intentionality of his shape experiments, but moreover, that these pieces are a reflection of the nature of experiments in and of themselves—delving into the unknown and unpredictable, unsure of all possible outcomes.

While his work is intricate, daring, and beautiful, I am drawn to the essential simplicity behind Strawn's works, breaking the way we perceive our space into it's essential pieces. Four shapes are the building blocks of the world he creates on a canvas, like a scientist breaking down every known substance of the universe into a periodic table of elements. His more recent works use prints and solar exposure (in the vein of old fashioned photography) to create tangled webs of illusions (and allusions as in “Vulcan's Forge”).

My personal favorite in the exhibition is Strawn's “Tree Stump”, drawn to the romantic notions surrounding its creation. Noticing that I was particularly drawn to this piece, Strawn told me the paintings story: In 1966, Stawn and his wife were living in an ancient manor house in the French countryside. While it was a beautiful, esoteric place to inhabit, it also lacked certain seemingly basic amenities—such as heat. Seeing as it was winter and the cold was pressing down upon them in the drafty old house, Strawn was constantly collecting wood to fuel the simple stone fireplace. He started making sketches of the wood pieces he encountered, this stump being one of the many that filled their hearth that winter. Perhaps the most aesthetically diverse from the rest of the collection, it is also the earliest of his works represented in the gallery.

And while I may have been quick to identify a favorite, Strawn is more reluctant. His philosophy on his works? “They're like kids. I have to love them all...Or hate them all given the day.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Faces in the Spotlight by Sandra Phillips
Sandra Phillips Gallery artists Irene Delka McCray and Margaret Kasahara have been chosen to participate in the group exhibit “Faces, Places and Spaces” at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. A face is the primary embodiment of identity—it is what we present to the world. One's face is like our implicit calling card, the first and most recognizable aspect of one's being. How we choose to paint and portray our faces is how we share the stories of our selves—our emotions, our personalities, our roles. McCray and Kasahara will be featured in the “Faces”portion of the exhibition. Located in the main floor of the gallery, this show goes beyond the traditional portrait show focusing on the face, the quintessential expression of humanity. The exhibit features the flawless technical painting skill of Irene Delka McCray articulating universal themes within the human condition. Acclaimed painter Margaret Kasahara uses the lightness of kitsch and humor to explore the heavy topics of stereotypes and personal identity. Her colorful and powerful images pull from Japanese and American pop culture.

The exhibit runs from June 7 thru August 26.