Abend Gallery Fine Art, June 20-July 31
This story was featured in the July 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art July 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Stand before the paintings of Jim Beckner, Stephanie Hartshorn, or Robert Spooner, and you find yourself a part of the work. All three artists use familiar scenes as starting points, but their interpretations allow ample room for viewers to engage their own individual associations as well. This month, Abend Gallery Fine Art presents new works by the three artists in a show that opens on June 20, with an artists’ reception from 5 to 8 p.m., and runs through July 31.
Beckner, who brings five paintings to the show, is continuing to pursue a journey into color. “I’ve done a series of turn-of-the-century houses that I’ve used to explore different colors,” he says. “I start with bright-red paint and then apply superwarm colors. I’m using higher contrasts; it’s one of those things that I push and see where my boundaries lie.” Beckner is loyal to his large cityscapes as well, “but I want to be more painterly, expressionistic, not too concerned about the details, and to have fun with paint and color.”
Hartshorn shares up to 15 works illustrating her exploration into the nuances of applying paint in innovative ways. “I love to pursue how to lay my paint on the canvas: thin, thick, with movement, with brushwork, based around objects,” she says. She paints by laying her birch boards on the floor, eschewing both canvas and easel. “I see layers of history in the objects I paint. I don’t need to know each story behind a subject, but each brush stroke has richness to it. In a strange way, it’s like acknowledging another layer of its story.” Hartshorn focuses attention on her subjects by scraping away the backgrounds, leaving them as mere suggestions.
Spooner says that in creating his new works, he went through a series of “scrape and shape” layers, where “I put paint down and scraped it off. By doing all of these transparencies, translucent things began happening. I work from the canvas outward, using an indirect approach rather than direct.” The result is mesmerizing. He presents eight of these new works, as well as pieces from other series that compel the viewer to stand before the canvas, studying the suggestions of shadows, the implications of shapes. “The unique thing about these pieces is that because they don’t have a direct translation, the interpretation is absolutely up to the viewer,” Spooner says.
Taken as a whole, the show presents paintings that go beyond the mere representation of subjects. The artists’ efforts to push their techniques to the next level reward each individual viewer and invite him or her to uniquely define each work. —Anne Hopper Vickstrom
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