Cheryl McGinnis surprised me with this review of my work on smART stART live from New York City. Cheryl is the founder of Cheddar, Cheryl McGinnis Projects, and smART stART, Watch the video to learn more about my paintings and the work's historical references. Thank you Cheryl!
Art as Advocacy: Maria Maneos on Incarceration and the Opioid Crisis
By Paula Cahill
Stepping into Maria Maneos’ North Wales, PA studio, one immediately notices a large oil painting in progress: a tree, with bare limbs painted in sombre tones, and strategically placed graphite marks indicating an unknown, eerie distance. Maria is quick to share her viewpoint: “Art isn’t only about being pretty. It’s about bringing people together and recognizing what it means to be human. I want my art to make you feel emotion and have relevance to larger issues.” Maria takes on those larger subjects by seeking and finding meaningful projects in the community to bring together people of diverse backgrounds. A common thread runs through these projects and Maria’s widely exhibited paintings. Exactly as she intends, all of these endeavors are personal, thought provoking, and deeply emotional while addressing immense social issues.
As the founder of Brush With The Law (BWTL), Maria often tells her students, reticent to participate, “I don’t care if you make stick figures. I want to see your stick figures and what they’re doing with the other stick figures. I want to see the humanness, not a pretty or perfect picture.” That’s when healing begins through art projects designed to inspire self realization and reflection. For a recent paper-making project, old probation records, divorce papers, and anything reminiscent of old hurts were shredded into pulp and pressed into new paper artworks. Maria has an image of one of her students proudly holding her pressed paper project, embedded with flowers she found on the state hospital grounds in Norristown - her new artwork symbolizing beauty and new beginnings.
BWTL is a nonprofit organization that implements community-based art projects and programs in Montgomery County and the surrounding tri-state area. Maria seeks and identifies meaningful projects, and then guides individuals from various walks of life to create public art that benefits disadvantaged communities and homeless shelters. Project participants have included local college students assigned by their professors, lawbreakers assigned community service hours by the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office, and socially marginalized groups including: the incarcerated, parolees/probation, at-risk youth, the homeless, and those struggling with addiction, mental health, or behavioral issues.
Maria shares images of her daughter, Arianna, local student volunteers assigned by their professors, and community service participants creating a mural in honor of the late Lieutenant Patty Simons alongside police officers at the Norristown Police Headquarters. “Everyone was mixing, talking, and working together. They didn’t care if you were a community service person, a volunteer, or a police officer,” Maria explained. They saw each other in a new, positive light through BWTL.
Before BWTL, art, for the most part, was unavailable in the local county jail. Maria spent many months filling out forms, speaking with the warden, and securing grants to fund Brush With the Law. Some may wonder why a mom, artist, and proverbial “nice lady” would work so tirelessly to establish an art program for people accused of breaking the law. Maria is intimately aware of the real goodness and hurt inside of each person struggling with incarceration. Her son Johnny, a bright young man destined for success, unscrupulously became addicted to opioids, then heroin in high school. Eventually, Johnny was incarcerated for an addiction-related, nonviolent offense. Maria, shocked and frightened to visit the county jail, went anyway. When she looked into the eyes of her son and his fellow inmates, Maria saw their goodness, hurt, and potential. When she asked what they did all day and the answer was “nothing,” Maria decided to launch BWTL.
Once BWTL was up and running at the facility, she went on to address the opioid epidemic. Her deep interest in educating the public about the opioid and heroin epidemic ravishing our nation stems from her first husband, who became addicted to opioids that were prescribed to him after a car accident in the 1990s, and died of an overdose. The opportunity to advocate for those afflicted with opioid and heroin addiction arrived when Maneos met Patrick Rodgers, Gallery Director of the Montgomery County Community College Art Gallery.
Maria and Patrick collaborated to create a collectively produced exhibition titled “Art of Recovery” that was on display during the Fall of 2017 at the Montco West Campus gallery in Pottstown. They addressed the opioid/heroin epidemic head on by personifying its 2016 Pennsylvania death toll with 4,642 small baggies, traditionally used for encasing and selling heroin, to represent each opioid / heroin-related death in Pennsylvania that year. Each bag contains a shining crystal that stands for the goodness and beauty of the person, the soul inside of every victim. The sublime installation, entitled 4642, was immense, beautiful, and horrific all at once. It sparkled and filled the gallery’s 25-foot-tall, two-story mezzanine. Maria notes, “Just hearing a number doesn’t impact you the same way as actually seeing it.”
A second version, 5535, represents the 2017 opioid / heroin death toll in PA. It was selected for Pennsylvania Art of the State 2018 and will be exhibited at the State Museum in Harrisburg from June 24 to September 9, 2018. As 5535 and 4642 demonstrate, Maria represents the opposing attributes of beauty and the horrific simultaneously. In so doing, she enlightens us as to the immensity and horror of the opioid and heroin epidemic, along with the goodness inside of those who struggle. Maria’s installations, work with BWTL, and widely exhibited paintings offer the gift of feeling, thinking, and seeing the complexity of the human condition anew.
Maria is the 2017 recipient of Kutztown University’s Outstanding Mentor in Alternative Settings Award. Brush With The Law is funded by prestigious grants awarded to Maria including a 2018 Pollination Project Visionary Grant, multiple Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Grants, and a Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grant. To learn more about Maria and Brush With The Law, click here to watch her TEDx talk and visit MariaManeos.com or BrushwiththeLaw.org.
I'm honored to announce that my painting, Progression, was selected for "Art of the State 2018" at the State Museum in Harrisburg, PA. You can read more about the opening reception and events at: https://ethosting.s3.amazonaws.com/artofthestatepa/events.html
An Interview with Brooke Lanier By Paula Cahill
PC: I’m excited to see your upcoming exhibition, Unintended Consequences. Can you explain how the images in Unintended Consequences relate to the landscape historically?
BL: I see these paintings and photographs as part of a larger art historical lineage that began in the mid-1800’s and is still very relevant today. For instance, the Impressionists made paintings that are now seen as merely pretty, colorful, and imbued with beautiful light, but if you look at their subtext, the diffused light and color were caused by extreme air pollution from the industrial revolution. Likewise, the landscapes in the show are quite beautiful and serene on the surface, but they depict the continuing aftermath of industrialization and human impact on the environment.
PC: How are the artists addressing climate change in Unintended Consequences?
BL: Jennifer Manzella’s prints of abandoned industrial building facades along the Delaware and Hudson Rivers are the first images viewers see when they walk into the show. They imply the environmental impact of industrialization. Diane Burko’s photographs from the Arctic Svalbard as well as Greenland’s Ilulissat Glacier and Ekaterina Popova’s watercolors of Skagaströnd, Iceland depict melting ice caps in the polar regions. Moving south, Geoffrey Agron’s photographs and my own watercolors depict shorelines destroyed by hurricanes and tropical storms. These are increasingly impactful, intersecting phenomena for densely populated coastal areas that are being developed at the same time that melting polar ice is causing sea levels to rise.
PC: How has climate change impacted your own work?
BL: I was making theoretical and abstract work until this past January when I visited my grandmother in south Georgia. I had the opportunity to explore the coastline and marshes from southern Georgia to Jacksonville, Florida. Exploring eroded dunes in terrifyingly disorienting fog and tromping as close to the edge of the salt marshes as I could get without sinking in, I witnessed the destruction, change, and extreme erosion that hurricanes and tropical storms have wreaked onto the landscape during recent years. I began to focus on the environmental impact of these events and the interaction between human destruction of the wetlands and the development of desirable beachfront communities. To accommodate mass development of coastlines, flood plains and wetland areas were paved over, decimating an important source of natural flood control. An ever increasing coastal population means that the impact of the storms on humans is much greater since so many people lose their homes and businesses. After seeing the immense impact of the hurricanes, I came back to Philadelphia and completely changed what I was making.
PC: It sounds like you had a deeply moving response to this experience and that your work became more personal as well as more focused on social and environmental change.
PC: What would you like people to take away from Unintended Consequences?
BL: These images deal with the beauty in the details, but they evoke the sublime: a feeling of being very small in the face of something very immense and powerful like a storm, the climate, or how tiny one is compared to a glacier. I hope the viewers will think about their place in the universe.
Unintended Consequences, May 5 through June 5, 2018
Opening Reception, Saturday, May 5, Noon to 3:00pm
Artist Talk, Tuesday, May 15, 6pm
201 South Camac Street, 4th Floor, Philadelphia, PA
I'm honored to announce that Arrangement and Insomnia were selected by Michael Kalmbach for "Strong Lines" at the Delaware Contemporary with esteemed, regional artists Brian Conaty, Phyllis Gorsen, Suzy Kopf, and Gregg Morris. Please join us for the opening reception May 4, 5-9pm. Exhibition continues through July 28, 2018. You can read the press release and learn more about the Delaware Contemporary here: https://www.decontemporary.org/strong-lines/
This is an installation shot of my small works on paper. These paintings are based on my experiences as a scuba diver. They will be available for purchase at the Crane Open Studios on Saturday, April 21, 2018 from noon to 6pm. Over 30 artists and nine galleriests will open their doors to the public for this event. That's a lot of great art! Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Christopher T Wood creates a drawing a day, a ritual he has maintained since January 1, 2016. During a recent conversation, Wood noted that Daydrawing is in its third year and the drawings now number over 820. With a deep knowledge of pataphysics, Wood seems to conceptualize the drawings as coalescing into one large hyperobject as opposed to individual segments that make up a finite body of work. As is typical of hyperobjects, Daydrawing’s immensity precludes our ability to view it in it’s entirety or to establish perceived, finite boarders of its existence; Hence, Daydrawing’s endpoint eludes us.
Following Wood’s work, one travels through time as Daydrawing moves from space to space, sometimes existing in multiple locations at once, while it is constantly reconfigured to accommodate its own expansion and transience. Daydrawing presents a destabilized reality, one in which abstract objects take on the properties of real entities as they create a fictitious sense of real depth. While some remain abstract, others include figurative shapes and ambiguous objects with a reality of their own existing inside of Wood’s masterful graphite surfaces, simultaneously exuding beauty and anxiety. Somehow, it all begins to mirror a shifting contemporary identity until I can’t quite put my finger on it and I’m reminded of Edouard Manet’s dark seascapes that dissolve into abstract dashes and dabs, signalling immensity and stirring a collective sense of foreboding. The more I look at Daydrawing, the deeper I’m drawn into a heady discussion that questions life, history, art, and perception.
Christopher Wood’s Daydrawing is currently on view through April 21, 2018 in "International Variety" at James Oliver Gallery and Hot Bed in Philadelphia, PA. You can learn more about Christopher and Daydrawing at christophertwood.com or daydrawing.com. Follow the daily additions to Daydrawing on instagram @christophertwood.
One Eyed Fiona, Oil and Graphite on Linen, 60 x 48 in, 2014
I'm happy to announce that "One Eyed Fiona" will be exhibited in "Dig" at the Hamilton Street Gallery in Bound Brook, New Jersey from March 18 to April 26. "One Eyed Fiona" was awarded an honorable mention by Lydia Panas in the GoggleWorks 2016 Annual Juried Exhibition. It is a part of the "Darkness Project" and it represents some of my earlier explorations in abstraction.
System, Oil on Canvas, 48 x 48 inches, 2018
"System" is my most recent painting. In fact, I just finished it on Tuesday. I set up a challenge to create a conversation between foreground and background as a tool for balancing the composition. The lines on each layer ebb and flow to accommodate one another. Although the painting is monochromatic, the dominant line is set up in gradations of warm white and light cerulean. The paint is laid down one brush stroke at a time with a goal to make certain that warm hues overlap cooler tones at intersecting junctions and turns of the line.
Havana to Key West, Oil on Linen, 36 x 24 inches, 2017
I'm excited to announce that juror, Leroy Johnson, selected "Havana to Key West" and "0078" to be a part of "Transforming Jazz - A Visual Journey" in the gallery at Philadelphia City Hall to celebrate Jazz Week. The exhibit will be open March 28 to May 4, 2018.
In "Havana to Key West," I strive to simultaneously subvert the seascape and linear abstraction. The catalyst for this piece was digital music composed by musician and art theorist, Janet Brooks. Janet's digital compositions include jazz and latin components that I visualized and transformed into line for "Havana to Key West." While Janet's song is titled, "Havana to New York," my painting is informed by my childhood experiences of visiting relatives in the Florida Keys and hearing tales of travel to Cuba prior to the travel restrictions imposed by the United States Government in 1963.
Installation shot on 23 foot wall space - Left to right - Insomnia, Stowaway, and Arrangement
Insomnia, Oil on Canvas, 48 x 60 inches, 2017
I traveled to Italy in 2017. When I saw Michelangelo's favorite sculpture, "The Sleeping Ariadne," 6AD, at the Uffizi Museum in Florence, I knew that I wanted to make this painting. "Ariadne's Sleep" was a popular motif in Roman statuary and early Greek vessels. While controversy exists among scholars as to Ariadne's true identity, most agree that the Uffizi's sculpture depicts a restless and oppressive sleep. I referenced antiquity and strove to contemporize line and the ancient theme of "Ariadne's Sleep" by studying the angles, contours, divisions, and folds of the fabric in Michelangelo's favorite piece. Through this approach, "The Sleeping Ariadne" became the catalyst for "Insomnia." The painting is comprised of a single luminous line that changes color, moves forward and backward, then seamlessly connects back to itself. To make these paintings, I mix up to 100 gradients or color and lay them down one brush stroke at a time as I gauge where the line is headed to assure that adjacent lines and perpendicular junctions are of varied colors to make them pop.
"Variable" is my most recent, 48 x 48 inch, oil painting on canvas. "Variable" is comprised of a single, continuous line that changes color and connects back to itself. Variable is concerned with the divisions of the canvas and variations within them. To make these paintings, I mix 80+ colors that I arrange in close gradations on my palette. Next, I lay the colors down next to each other, on the canvas, one brush stroke or line segment at a time, carefully judging where the colors are going. The objective is to line the colors up strategically on the canvas so that the hues alternate, pop, and eventually connect back to the same color.
"Variable," Oil on Canvas, 48 x 48 Inches, 2017
You still have time to see my solo show, "Progression" at Crane Arts. Contact me for a private appointment.
Please join me when I open the doors to my studio this weekend.
Saturday - Noon to 6
Refreshments and Adult Beverages
Sunday - Noon - 2
Coffee and Baked Goods
email@example.com for more information or to schedule an appointment.
Crane Old School, Studio 3L
1417 N. Second St.