Phil Berkman, Elke Claus, Bonita McLaughlin, Heidi O,Neill, Phil Petrie, and Ben Whitehouse.
Usually artworks are presented to audiences in galleries and museums, or illustrated in books, as isolated objects. The creative process that generates a piece, and which the finished artwork is part of remains a mystery to the audience. Acts of Creation, curated by Eileen Murray, presented art making as an activity and each artist involved approached their work in very different ways. The show challenged uncertainties and questions of the art making process such as How do artists make visual choices? What are the sources for their images? What do they do if they feel ideas are running dry, when they feel “uncreative”? Do they draw upon their surroundings for ideas? What role does the history of a place or of their art form play in their work? How does each decide when a piece is finished? What difficulties do these artists encounter in the process of art making?
The six artists in the exhibition answered these questions with different approaches that ranged from sketchbooks, journals, photographs, art books and collected images that they used in their studio work. The packets included statements by each artist, slides of selected work in the exhibition and a series of questions that helped to guide the audience through each artist’s piece and working process. Artist Heidi O’Neill’s work explored subjects of touch and time. In varying permutations ideas of touch and time were presented as mixed media pieces in this exhibition. Elke Claus explored materials such as metal, wood, plaster, non-art papers, and found objects assembled in decorative frames. These constructions had decorative motifs, non-silver photo-printing, chemical stains, and gold/silver leafing. The aesthetic of each piece exemplified the mood of the images. Presented on an intimate scale the images depicted a post-industrial or “post-utopian” world. Although the images portrayed a theme of nostalgia there was simultaneously a concern for the treatment and transformation of basic fine art materials. Intuition and subjectivity drove the conceptual framework for Phil Berkman’s piece. Berkman was influenced by the cultural identity of the Art Center and the flocks of Argentinian parrots in the 53rd Street Park. Ben Whitehouse used the genre of landscape painting in his works as a structure within which to explore the psychology of the interpretation of a set of observable circumstances. Personal experience, natural phenomena, the act of observing, and the history of painting influenced these “observable circumstances” in Whitehouse’s work. Philip Petrie presented a series of small works on paper, primarily ink and gouache with touches of colored pencil and watercolor that straddled the line between abstraction and representation. These works on paper created a symbolic world inhabited by beings that were human, but were not strictly human in appearance. These creations embodied a sense of complexity for existence of our psyches, our culture, our spiritual yearnings and passages. Artist Bonnie McLaughlin work incorporated found objects to explore geometric configurations,- crosses, circles, rows and grids and formal concerns for color, form and light.