“A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth. The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water. Even so, life is but an endless series of little details, actions, speeches, and thoughts. And the consequences, whether good or bad, of even the least of them, are far-reaching.” –Swami Sivananda
The exhibition ‘Detailed Information’ showcases a group of artists whose work is minutely crafted to exacting detail, rich with narrative content. The works in this show invite multiple viewings in order to capture important visual components that serve to decode the artists’ perspectives. Implicit to this group of artists is their mastery of techniques―whether it is old master, or the application of new technologies. Each artist uses their significant knowledge to impart a comprehensive visual story.
Marc Burckhardt, a painter trained in old master techniques to achieve texture and luminosity, defines his work in these terms: “I come from a storytelling as well as figurative tradition that is steeped in the visual language of Western art’s historical symbolism. I attempt to take the framework of this mutually shared iconography, and the cultural baggage we bring to it, and ’tilt’ the content to provide contemporary insights and commentary. Much of my work references what I call ‘possession-oriented’ genres that include portraiture and sporting painting; by altering these forms, I hope to provoke the viewer to question their intuitive cultural assumptions as well as explore the narrative potential of my imagery.” A sense of familiarity inhabits the work―yet the viewer is struck by a psychological disconnect between the real and imagined.
Another artist who utilizes elements of the familiar in a deconstructed sculptural milieu is John Byrd. Byrd’s highly articulated porcelain forms combine elements of recognizable animal bodyparts punctuated by incongruent mammalian elements. A taxidermy rabbit head sits like a specter atop a neck that seems more appropriate for a horse’s head. Internal organs and muscles peek out from layers of peeled flesh painstakingly carved and burnished to an ivory-like finish.
Artist Kate MacDowell also painstakingly carves porcelain to reveal elements that are metaphorical in nature. MacDowell states: “I hand-sculpt each piece out of porcelain, often building a solid form and then hollowing it out. Smaller forms are built petal by petal, branch by branch, and allow me the chance to get immersed in close study of the structure of a blossom or a bee. I chose porcelain for its luminous and ghostly qualities as well as its strength and ability to show fine texture. It highlights both the impermanence and fragility of natural forms in a dying ecosystem while, paradoxically, being a material that can last for thousands of years and is historically associated with high status and value. I see each piece as a captured and preserved specimen, a painstaking record of endangered natural forms and a commentary on our own culpability.” Each piece is a microscopic examination of the implications of our behavior on the natural world.
Artist Christopher Torrez is also highly engaged in the minutia of the natural world. Torrez writes: “I am drawn to issues of change, primarily in the natural world and the sciences. The use of a miniature scale reflects the small, yet complex and often overlooked details of the natural world. My forms, although inspired by nature, are not intended to replicate any known species or place. The fragility and the preciousness of these small worlds mimic the similar qualities of a delicate and complex ecosystem―once gone, irreparable. The predominantly white unglazed porcelain creates a quiet, somber quality. It reflects a palette to be filled, a life-force not yet present or that has been drained away. The discussion of the human impact on the environment becomes evident in these miniature worlds.” The inclusion of mirrors and lights create a visual illusion of multiple images without limits.
Artist Carrie Ann Baade paints extremely embellished detailed works that are part mythological story and new-age science fiction. Baade states: “As an artist and subject in my work, I serve as the steward and the axe-man to art’s legacy. Studying with art conservators and looking at the old masters has informed my choice to revitalize the archaic traditions of both traditional oil painting and egg tempera. My subjects are adopted from religion and mythology; these are often cautionary tales that mirror my personal experience. In desiring to speak to the complexity of the human condition, I use this language of allegory and narrative to relate my own story, which is at once an age-old tale.” Baade’s use of hundreds of separate clippings to form a new whole provides the viewer with an arresting array of pictorial references.
Fresh perspective and pristine detail are the hall marks of Wookjae Maeng’s animal heads. Maeng’s porcelain animal heads and other combined cast forms convey a sense of preciousness and fragility. The stark white porcelain against the bright gold eyes of a big horned sheep, or the perforated black porcelain head of a rhino mounted on a wooden board reminiscent of a trophy room in a hunting lodge, remind the viewer of objects known but altered. The deceptively small animal heads are a ghostly reminder of deeds past and actions gone unnoticed by an irresponsible world. Maeng’s work provides the most information with the least amount of detailed information.
Each of the artists exhibiting in ‘Detailed Information’ are masters of their deeply personal narratives—featuring an eye for finite detail while uncovering unique perspectives.