Monday, January 23, 2012

The Golden and the Mean

So, I'm not planning on making a habit of commenting on other people's commentary. Once we members of the chattering class start chasing each other's tails, we tend to miss all the important stuff that's going on outside of the flying fur.

That said, and acknowledging that I'm a few days late to the snark party, I have to say that I'm on the "art makes this city better" side of the recent Hampton Stevens/Chris Packham divide.

First, in the Kansas City Star's op-ed, ESPN/The Atlantic scribe Stevens wrote an unabashed hymn to the city, proclaimed its resurgence as of 2011 and piled most of the laurels on the arts (saving a wreath or two dozen for Sporting Kansas City's spiffy new home, Livestrong Sporting Park, which is certainly understandable).

Was it gushy? Oh, yeah. But hey, it's hard to fault a guy for being a bit starry-eyed over the arts community here, right?

Packham not only faulted Stevens' enthusiasm in a rebuttal piece for the Pitch, but went on to question Stevens' masculinity and his concern for anyone but white folks who live west of Troost. With people getting shot and other Very Bad Things happening in the metro, he reasoned, it's just foofy and elitist to be happy about that rich-people folderol.

Look, there are valid reasons to hate Hampton Stevens. I barely know the man, and I loathe his entire digestive tract for looking better in a hat than I ever will. Also, the guy's a known raconteur, which makes him a suspect character right away.

(Note: I don't really hate him, nor do I think he hand-embroiders anything.)

Point is, effusive though he might have been, he's right about the arts elevating the city -- and the visual arts are a huge part of that. Also, anyone who thinks art is just for affluent, pigment-challenged folks needs to get out more.

There's no socioeconomic litmus test required make the gallery rounds on an art walk, take in an artist talk at one of the local museums or even see art being made at street level.And on the art-making side ... well, let's just say that the creative community is just as diverse as the metro area itself.

Yes, things need to get better in all sorts of areas here. But acknowledging that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the good stuff, too.

And in the Kansas City area, there's no denying that art is some of our best stuff.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In other people's words (and pictures) ...

It's Sunday night, I'm working off two hours' sleep and a fitful nap, and so the coherence of any pontificating I might do is likely to be iffy, at best.

You know what that means. Wait, no you don't, because I haven't done this sort of thing before.

It's Links Night, wherein our groggy hero scours his inbox and his Facebook feed for interesting pass-alongs (and in the process, shamelessly name-drops so as to show up on all manner of Google searches).

For your listening pleasure, Kansas City's Cheryl Gail Toh and Lawrence's Molly Murphy are among those featured on this 30a Radio podcast.

Feeling more visual? Check out the Black Love series from jazz-inflected portraitist Harold Smith. Smith's work is always vibrant and colorful, and the emotion in these paintings fairly smolders ... even, as the above example shows, when filtered through the computer screen.

Bouncing back over to Lawrence, Jason Barr (aka BARRR) has relayed these guidelines for the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commision's 18th annual Community Arts Grant program. The deadline's March 26, so get cracking.

Go now. Listen, view, apply like the wind. Me? I'm going to play YouTube videos and read soccer copy until this caffeine wears off ...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Energetic Meditation: Heather Gottfried at Apex Gallery

(2012, take two: Let's hope for no more computer glitches, shall we?)

Some dichotomies are annoying. Some are perplexing.

This one is, in a word, captivating.

Looking at Heather Gottfried's current show of paintings, at Apex Gallery in the Crossroads, it's easy to picture the works as taking shape over a span of years, developing a theme and patiently exploring variations on it.

Not so. The paintings were all created in 2011; as Gottfried put it at this month's First Friday opening, "I was a painting fool for a year."

That's where the dichotomy comes in -- because the works don't look rushed, or even mildly hurried. Pieces such as Fire Drops (above) are energetic, true enough, but each is also full of a deep, even meditative calm. That's reinforced by Gottfried's repeated use of the circle, a deeply centering symbol, as visual motif.

Gottfried's approach to creating her art also lends itself to meditation, calling to mind the work of monks in a vineyard or the creation of a Buddhist sand painting with no tools but the creators' fingers.

Everything in my life is heavily focused on texture, from my foods to my clothes to my choices of media, she writes. Just as there are certain foods that I will not eat due to texture, there are certain items I will not use in my art pieces because I don't like the way they feel under my fingertips. I sometimes do not use paint brushes, preferring the feel of the paint and other materials on my hands.

From her hands to the viewer's eye, that approach comes through with calming (and yet stimulating) clarity.