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  • By Carol Taylor-Kearney

Poetry In Pictures

Alas, I am late to writing my blog about this current exhibition of the artworks of Fran Lightman Gibson, Andrea Lyons, Tilda Mann[CT1] , Michael Moore, and Amanda Moseley at Cerulean Arts Collective Gallery. What is most frustrating is that I saw much of the work early as it was being readied to be hung for exhibition. And I was very excited to see these exhibitions. They are all so lyrical! As I moved from gallery to gallery different poems about the nature of “Truth” came to mind.

Postcard for Cerulean Arts Collective Members' Exhibition

Fran Lightman Gibson gave her exhibition the title “If you need a place to go, take any road.” And as expected, she presented painterly landscapes where every color and every

Gazing at Pt. Mugu  by Fran Lightman Gibson

brushstroke, whether for ground or water or sky, directs your vision around, over, and through the painting. She has an interesting way of using her marks in that sky, while the water has a greater consistency of strokes, and land masses are made up of a variety of blotches and smears. What this leads to is a little different in each work. In After the Eruption, the image presented on the post card, the sky is a light blue at the top with whites along the horizon line. The changes in density and shapes of these colors makes it feel as if the sky is sweeping,

Venice Beach by Fran Lightman Gibson

reconfiguring itself. I suspect that the ground is made by an undercoat of yellow on which other colors like green, violet, sienna, and white are brushed over. This gives the land a shimmering quality of sun and heat. In Can’t Find My Way Home Lightman Gibson gives us a strong directional in the forma of a diagonal running from bottom right to mid-section left. There is clarity in this diagonal, but it runs off the frame, out of the picture plane. Above this the strokes become more compact setting up mazelike blocks until they release at that horizon line and into the smoother air. Gazing at Pt. Mugu is created by a series of intersecting triangles—of sea and road, and vegetation, and mountain—augmented by the cloud-textured sky. Lightman Gibson has made addi

tions to her oeuvre— she has added figures to her landscapes as in Quiero Esta Realidad and Venice Beach. The figures are minimal and sticklike. Compositionally, they don’t seem to add nor detract from the painting. Psychologically, though, they connect us to a world of real-life experience, making the scene less abstract and more document, less about paint and more about narrative. Her smaller works like Dream Baby Dream and Sunlight on Route 40 are so expressive in their paint handling and experimental with color that they induce you to go back to look at the other works for reinterpretation. I am reminded of the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken”; a poem that is less of a lament or an encouragement of an untrammeled road but about the road that was taken (less traveled or otherwise), and how the choices of observation “Make all the difference”.

Andrea Lyons does not just make paintings; she makes constructions. Two-dimensional works

Bird in Flight by Andrea Lyons
Homage to Ghry by Andrea Lyons

on joined wood that uses the wood grain to produce phenomena that winds and bends and makes you wonder. Now Lyons has added to her 2-d works wall-hung 3-d ceramics that expands her story. Previously this story included birds along with the structural elements. So it is in keeping with her oeuvre that the clay-works are of birds in nests and chunks of wood. And her story reminds me of Maya Angelou’s poem, “A Brave and Startling Truth”. And like this poem that repeats “when we come to it” to present what we need to overcome and the possibilities of what it is to overcome, Lyons’s artworks allude to home in the forms of wooden structures and nests of clay; materials and ideas synonymous with life on earth—trees, nature, home, humanity. Ascension is the postcard image that resembles an origami fan rising up the wall. A more colorful venture is Homage to Gehry, part of a series of works that express the signature characteristics of a pai

nter (Homage to Dove), architect (Homage to Gehry), or sculptor (Homage to Serra). Sitting in a corner of this gallery space is the similarly monochromatic Bird in Flight. Both paintings also take on the outward boundaries made by the change of wood grain and treatment intended to produce the dimensional effect. But Bird in Flight feels more charged and changed. The convex-ended “tree” has color added to project; the concave, longer, and white side resembles clouds or air flow. Additionally, there is a bird with spread wings—a perfect piece to connect the wood-panels to the ceramic nests. It also helps that each nest contains a bird that is

a wood cut-out. Considering Lyons’s reference to “home”, my supposition is that she did not want the nests to be read as empty. And perhaps the bird, a traveler, rather than just the nest is to be equated to abode, a self-contained unit. Each of these are playful in their own way. My own favorite is Bird in Nest that includes a mossy bottomed nest and a bird staring me down. On the other side of Homage to Serra is Log and Sky, made of stoneware, it is a perfect foil for Bird in Flight. Grained City, made of terracotta, is the most colorful of the clay pieces and most reminiscent of the false-faceted wood works. Both make me think that “When we come to it/ We, this people, on this wayward, floating body/ Created on this earth, of this earth/ Have the power to fashion for this earth/ A climate where every man and every woman/ Can live freely without sanctimonious piety/Without crippling fear” (in Angelou’s words). We will see that we can make this earth, this home of ours possible and miraculous by observing not only what things are made of but what they can become. Like the art of Andrea Lyons.

Davida by Tilda Mann
Grace by Tilda mann

Tilda Mann has called her show “Premonitions and Visitations”. As I move through her work I think of one of my favorite poems, Emily Dickinson’s “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—“. But seeing the Artist Statement from Mann I discern a poem that she has written herself. It begins “You don’t have to tell me it’s pretty” and ends with “They are just art: something of what it is/ To be alive, a human animal on this planet”. This is a beautiful statement that I encourage everyone to read, especially visual artists because it says so much about both the inner and outer journey of making art. As do these paintings. On the surface they may seem quite simple: minimally drawn in paint, slap-dash brushwork, unmediated compositions. All of this comes together to present statements of exquisite expressionism much in the same way that young children’s artwork tells their story. A story that both shows the thing itself and the child themselves. So, in looking at these portraits, these creatures, these strange landscapes, I see self-portraits. In Josie, the image from the postcard, I see a gaped-mouthed girl in a green shirt painted wet-on-wet in a red background. The almost circle of hair accentuates the other shapes of mouth, eyes, and even drawn-in ears. The darker red of the mouth lifts from the ground making an “OOOO” sound, like its shape. The one eye carries the same shape as the mouth but becomes a black hole while th

e other eye is negated by rings that lead to questions—is this a viewing device like a monocle or a black eye or maybe even the idea of an inner eye? The facial expression could be of horror or of revelation. Colorwise, Josie plays on complements—red and green, black and white—which set up figure/ground associations. But color plays even more a part of

La Criatura 2 by Tilda Mann

storytelling in other pieces. In Abuelita which translates to “Granny”, grays and desaturated color points to the portrayal of an old woman while in Davida, a profile made in the colors of camouflage, I am left to wonder if this is a tribute to a warrior. Symbols take place in more ways than just color. In Grace a bow in the hair of a girl could represent her age (8) or be an infinity sign that makes this a portrait of balance, goodwill, or blessing. In Silvia the figure has a heart for her nose, in Olivia a red cross on a head bandage is done in the same way as the eyes and the toothy mouth of an injured child. There are many zoomorphic works, too. In Mann’s largest work Nap Time for the Inner Critic she seems to be mixing a self portrait with that of a cat in a hat. (There are several cat images in this collection.) Cats are symbols of independence as well as magical thinking—something that Mann obviously does. Looking at this Critic I am reminded of “Harvey”, a movie about a pooka and his human. Pookas are part of folklore and can be beneficial and destructive—as can “inner critics”. Her Criatura paintings suggest, via animal symbology, voices of the creative process. I get the feeling that, in her very imaginative world, Tilda Mann is surrounded by talismans that she is trying to bring to us.

Michael Moore’s Artist Statement says that his works are “Quartets of Paper, Brush, Ink, and Hand”—a four-member practice to make a composition. This description also relates to a

Filigree and Fingers by Michael Moore

marriage of two genres so apparent in Moore’s work—the art of calligraphy and pen and ink drawings. By “calligraphy” I see less of letter writing than of automatism. And in “drawing” it is less marks on a page as a dialogue between page and ink. Starting with Full and Wiggly, the artwork shown on the post card, areas of dense marks share spaces with outlines as in the upper left corner where what appears to be a mouth is made by both contour throughout most of the shape and contrast along the upper lip. In this darkened area winding curves pull in and out, toward the mouth-shape and away creating a pursing movement. Along the right side , moving toward the middle, is a spine of knobby lines that culminate in a single line attachment to a slick that runs from the mouth into some of the slightly lighter but more textured areas at the bottom. I see shapes that remind me of ribs, small blockages at the ends of tubes. I wonder if some of the connected loopies are fingers on hands. Is that another mouth shape? I look first to the white areas to decipher, then to the black. Perhaps they make a system to this maze. My favorite part is the upper right where arrangements of lines seem to argue over what is in front and what is behind. The composition itself is not exactly in the center of the page and the less full bottom is made more full by two bubble-burps. I rather feel like I am looking at an x-ray or s

can of the digestive process. But this “digestion” seems less about food per se as experience itself—how it goes through us and out of us. So that mouth may not only be eating but talking. In If It Whimpers Let It In Moore explores another way with his favorite elements of line, shape, pattern, texture, and value contrast. Here he sets up a room with window. Parallel lines run

Ruffled by Michael Moore

across the left-hand side and a dark expanse cuts a diagonal to fill the right-hand bottom area. On the left, toward the top, is a window where a chain of interlocking curvilinears seem to move to climb out or perhaps come in. Most of the right is filled with juggling amorphous and irregular forms. Overall, because of the use of a window, the careful strategizing to create the feeling of a room, and the playful series of shapes that become characters, I think of Joan Miro’s Harlequin’s Carnival. But this “Carnival” feels more compressed— maybe because it is narrower as a vertical composition and maybe because the proximity of all the marks—yet as dreamlike and lively. Perhaps the most minimally drawn piece in this collection is Ruffled. A radial layout, the center is a squarish shape made of two different densities of small marks. This creates textures that remind me of wooly fabric. Segments of pattern, some made by repeated lines, some by grids, some by fill-in, some by dots or rounds complete the page in a frill. This is the piece I feel most invited to touch, yet it is also the one that feels most combative—as though, rather than transitioning, one pattern is jumping out of another (as in the top, right corner) or swallowing another as in the bottom, left corner.

Morandi Bottles by Amanda Moseley

All of Michael Moore’s brush and ink works do have that quality of being musical. You swoosh along lines, twirl through curves, trot through densities, and get caught in dark silhouettes. And you sense yourself moving through his drawings in a temporal way—going over and around and under and up while the quality of the lines and blotches let you know that these were made by a flowing hand. These are not slick but incredibly human, serious with a wry sense of humor, and personal. Much information is given and there is a space for one’s own reading. they relate to the world but are of the imagination. I am reminded of a line from E. E. Cumming’s poem in time of daffodils when I come to Michael Moore’s artistry: in time of all sweet things beyond/ whatever mind may comprehend,/ remember seek(forgetting find)

Illuminated Pepper by Amanda Moseley

When last I saw Amanda Moseley’s exhibition it was a room full of butterflies, each itself, each unique, each a watercolor, and each sized and spaced around the room. An installation of passing beauty. For this exhibition Moseley has expanded her output to include landscapes, still lifes, and birds. And although most of the paintings are relatively small, there are two larger paintings, too. Magic Morning, the painting featured on the post card, bears many of the characteristics in Moseley’s oeuvre. Smallish, it feels like something you should cradle in your hands. It is not full of detail, but don’t mistake this for not being full of information or sense experience. The colors, the washiness of the paint, the contrast of warm to cool, and the compositional set up lead to a duality of suggestion—is this image coming into focus or disintegrating away? Is it a quick rendition or a permanent stain of a passing moment? I see an obscure bottom-half meeting an active upper-half. The top becomes stable sky broken into by jagged greens that fall into a demarcating line. And below that, a sweep of cool that becomes cleaner as it moves toward the foreground, into my space. Perhaps this is a depiction of coming upon an early morning scene at a lake where the mist is just getting burnt off by the sun. The cream of the sky with its yellow disc permeates the trees, green and

Red Onions by Amanda Moseley

brown, and even the gray to blue water. I can feel the cool of the fog coming toward me as well as that warm sun on my skin. Of the still lifes Mosely presents several kinds. One is of solid color-shapes, two at a time, positioned “Morandi style” on a tabletop with space described by the paint— thin paint indicates light-source, darker paint becomes shadowy places. In Morandi Bottles jewel-toned, outlined shapes are accented by a dull-colored, striped ground separating object from setting. In Pink, a bottle in pink and a yellow round are surrounded by a dark blue. These are bookends achieved by similar means—contrast in value and contrast in color—simple yet exquisite. Some of the fruit or vegetable still lifes follow this same tract. Illuminated Pepper relates to Morandi Bottles although this time the lines are set at diagonals; Peaches with their orange and yellow light sit against a dark blue, smoldering like the shapes in Pink. Arrangement of the objects—really just colors here—is of import. Many have the quality of a target by either being a circular shaped object or objects placed in a circle. Squash allows the structure of a squash to

become a green bloom radiating out of a yellow center. While Red Onions, with its curvy blue lines squiggling between the arrangement of red and purple onions appears like a game of ring-around-a-rosie or some chase game. The two largest paintings are single-subject studies of birds—Dove and Blue Jay. The birds are placed in the center and fill the entire space reminding me of studies by Audubon in their careful attention to features. But just as the other subjects are kept minimal in their descriptors, the lack of particulars turns these animals into something more akin to symbols. And in this way, with the experience and then the document of the painting, and especially in this painting’s character, I think of the poem by Stephen Crane, “Truth”, said the traveler--, which ends: And I believed the second traveler;/ For truth was to me/ A breath, a wind,/ A shadow, a phantom,/ And never had I touched/ The hem of its garment.

The Cerulean Arts Collective Members’ Exhibition will close on Sunday, November 10th. But you can still experience the artwork by going to the link listed for each artist:

As I began this blog with "Alas", it is fitting that i close it with a quote by Walt Whitman from his poem "All is Truth":

And that the truth includes all, and is compact, just as much as space is compact,

And that there is no flaw or vacuum in the amount of the truth—but that all is truth without excep- tion;

And henceforth I will go celebrate anything I see or am,

And sing and laugh, and deny nothing.


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