Things are (not) always what they seem.
An Artwork by Gwendolyn C. Skaggs
with David B. Frye, Art Guerra, Patrick Mangan
Gwendolyn C. Skaggs
I am an installation and conceptual artist. I do not consider myself a practitioner of paint or sculpting, i.e. painter or sculptor. I approach art making as an observer of these practices and my works become commentary on those observations.
Fragile and vulnerable, yet determined, my work is always on the verge of change. They are simple, though daunting to construct, contemplations and tests on art, materials, weight and support, beliefs, nostalgia, and my discomfort with contentment. This stimulus is bound by my sensitivity to Fine Art vs. Arts and Craft, and the Visionary.
Art is celebratory, or if not, at least it can be therapeutic. Edith Hoffman, writing of Kokoschka’s relationship to his portrait sitters: “Once he had realized what the faces of his friends expressed, he was filled with fear for them: but at the same time was seized by an indomitable urge to relieve his own fears and uncertainties by fixing theirs on his canvas.”
In these works on felt, bubble wrap, and linen, I use duct tape, masking tape, pins, and acrylic paint (all innocuous materials) to recreate the experience of the house I grew up in. The houses often tend to be small. This is because the original house has withdrawn a bit in memory. Other images in my work are often analogous to that first house.
David B. Frye
American historical painting has, for the most part, always been about ideals and ideal realities. Americana is an ideal representation of the glory of us. Through this device painting is frequently pressed into the service of some perceived “good” to our society. I think of the happy slaves one sees romping through their chores at the splendid home of George Washington. I can promise you all there is such a painting. It hangs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I did not paint it, of course, but it is as much a product of lies as any thing I ever dreamt up. Such a painting not only tells the “story of George Washington,” it supports an ideal social order that many Americans are comfortable with. Think of pious Christian mothers free from the struggles and trials of women, or walls filled with images of those soldiers who do not bleed, but walk eternally towards the glory of battle. Our national story is made clean by means of these symbolic realities. Our history is thereby esponged of the lessons hidden in its tragedy. This may be seen as the noble lie that Plato spoke of.
I paint in layers, paying equally close attention to the under-painting and over-painting, and working until a previously unseen visual effect reveals itself. Time is spent creating the paint, and then experimenting with the potential of its various components.
In these works, much of the paintings’ surface is covered by glass beads of various sizes, as well as glass flakes. I color both beads and flakes with transparent and light-reflective pigments. The beads reflect in a 300+ degree arch while the flakes reflect directly back at the viewer.
Effect pigments shift color through interaction with the existing environment. In essence, the painting will reflect in a myriad of ways, depending upon both its surface as well as the prevailing ambient light. I use other media, such as tire rubber, to deaden the surface in order to intensify the reflective elements.
For me, the painting process represents a form of alchemy: straightforward and, quite simply, pure fun.