Tag Archives: exhibition

Two Perspectives

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Nancy Lepo and Corey Broman are expert draftsmen. Both use the tools of their medium to create precise markings which address color, the movement of light, a sense of direction and shape, and the nuance of mystery, depth, and genesis. She carries her tools in a canvas lunch sack; his require a studio. Lepo uses traditional pen and ink on paper; Broman draws with a diamond wheel on glass.

Both artists’ work will be on view in a dual exhibition at the Nebraska Arts Council’s Fred Simon Gallery this summer. NAC staff, who determine the exhibition schedule, found the work of both applicants compelling and promising interplay.

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Broman has been blowing glass for about 15 years, following a spark lit when he was a child on vacation, “watching an old man crafting a glowing ball of molten glass.” That spark was reignited by an exhibition of Chihuly glass at Joslyn Art Museum. Finding a glass studio in the phone book, he went immediately to Crystal Forge (hotshopsartcenter.com/crystal) and knew with certainty that “that’s what I want to do.” For months he watched, took classes, and assisted. Owner Ed Fennell encouraged him. “He referred me to Hastings College,” says Broman. “He gave me hope.”

Today, Broman is a full-time glassblower with a growing online business, Corey Broman Glass. In contrast to most studios, where a master works with a team of specialized assistants, he works solo, adapting and improvising his unique system of handling glass heated to 2,000°F. Molten glass is a thick, viscous material, constantly changing temperature and plasticity. This calls for a calculated choreography of gathering, blowing, rolling, and swinging a blob of hot glass on a 7- to 10-pound rod. He also does all his own cold work—the design and finishing of cooled glass—switching the emphasis from the physicality of sculpture to the precision of surface detail.

Lepo’s attention seems always to be on a small scale, but one can find infinity in her intimate landscapes. There is the expanse of a Southwest sky, opening over the canyon to our view just as surprisingly as it did to hers. Or sensing in the density of a spinning planet the cold vacuum of the surrounding void. “Drawing,” she says, “is a means of looking at something again for the first time.” And how better to really see than to map a landscape with tiny dots of ink, to define a tree branch or the trace of wind across sand by the proximity of one dot to another?

Lepo’s unconscious apprenticeship as a pen and ink artist began with her exposure to a variety of cultures during her childhood, her curiosity, her wondering. Later, as an engineering technology student, she understood the power of a drawing to convey information. “Looking again” is her impetus to move such utilitarian drawing to a deeper level of engagement. With the simplest of equipment—sketchbook, India ink, pens (the nibs rattling around in a small tea tin), water dish, pencils, an eraser—the self-described “nature-centric” artist can create a sketch whenever her wandering says “pay attention.”20130507_bs_4431-Copy_web

Finishing, then inking the drawing in her studio, Lepo employs pointillist techniques to describe form, light, and movement in detail, using only black ink and the white of the paper. The tonal gradation she achieves via stippling, hatching and cross-hatching, and layering is extraordinary—a picture may take up to 100 hours to complete. Working in her spacious north-facing studio at Hot Shops, her attention articulates the relationship betweenherself and a particular moment and place (whether real or imaginary). Surrounding that focal point, the world expands in scale and scope: Wind and falcon’s cry become the voice of the North Rim, the persona of the Grand Canyon, the panorama of the Southwest. Lepo’s anchor is a tree silhouetted by sunset.

Broman’s studio is an efficiently organized cubicle in a busy industrial plant. In just a few steps, he can reach his three furnaces (furnace, for melting glass; glory hole, for reheating; annealer, for controlled cooling to room temperature), his workstation/bench, a cupboard of supplies, and wall of notes, sketches, and recipes. There’s also a sandblaster, which he can use to create surface effects of layered color or a frosted appearance. Glassblowing is a sequential process, and running three furnaces is expensive, so time in the studio is carefully planned.20130507_bs_4464-Copy_Web

Vista embodies several techniques. Three blown glass pieces are assembled in a custom-welded stand. The diamond wheel was used to make thousands of light-reflecting cuts in the stem, and to engrave the disc with its delicate scene. The graceful leaf was treated with an acid bath for a matte finish.

Like Lepo, Broman appreciates the outdoors. He finds peace in moments of stillness and challenge in the variability of light. Both artists use the language of art to express a unique response that, in turn, informs and enriches viewers and bids us to pay attention. Finding the affinities and distinctions between their work, we learn to see again for the first time.

Nancy Lepo, Drawings/Corey Broman, Glass will be on display at the Fred Simon Gallery, Nebraska Arts Council in the Burlington Building (1004 Farnam St.) from June 24 – July 26, 2013. For more information, visit nebraskaartscouncil.org.

Courtney Kenny

March 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Courtney Kenny

Courtney Kenny’s favorite piece, currently, is a self-portrait in charcoal. Tousled pale hair is set off by a careless smirk. And a huge, red, acrylic “F” circled over her face and checkmarked for emphasis. The unforgiving letter is the epitome of every student’s nightmares.

“When I was doing Failure,” Kenny says, “I was stressed and frustrated. I’d just got declined from some gallery, so I was stressed about that and kind of feeling like a failure.”

Her friends couldn’t understand it. “They’d say, ‘Why do you feel like a failure?’” Kenny recalls. After all, she of all her peers from Bethany College (she graduated last December) had been in juried shows as a sophomore and had her first solo exhibition as a freshman. She’s what you might call driven.IMG_4256 copy

The reaction she gets when applying to galleries and shows is usually along the lines of “You’re how old? What, 23?”

“It leads me to believe more artists wait till they’re older to show,” Kenny says, adding that most students aren’t even thinking about shows in college, just making art. “I was doing things my peers weren’t,” she says. Determined to get her work seen, she felt her way along with “lots of research, lots of trial and error, lots of rejection, lots of failure.” And even if she doesn’t sell as many pieces as she wants at the shows she does get into, she knows each show is an addition to her résumé. “It’s always better to be able to say, ‘Hey, I currently have a show here,’” Kenny points out. “That alone, other galleries perk up a little bit.”

All the while, she’s amassed a body of work in what she calls “unrealistic realism.” The style is realistic, with people and animals portrayed in fine detail with graphite, charcoal, acrylic, or oil, but the subject matter is unrealistic. Elements are drawn in such a way as to make viewers look twice. Is that…real? Could it be real?IMG_7354 copy

Consider, for example, the Nude Bitch. At first glance, the charcoal and acrylic piece is a study of a tired beagle sacked out on a couch. But upon closer inspection, a viewer might notice the rose petals. And are those draped sheets? “That one’s making fun of the nude model,” Kenny says. “No one gets it at first.”

She’s always looking for the quirk, the sense of humor, the hint of tongue-in-cheek. Artists such as Banksy, Chuck Close, and Francoise Nielly encourage her to embrace a subtle wit in her own work. And, perhaps, a tendency to poke fun at art itself. “I’ve always respected artists more who, if they do a piece that’s just three stripes on a canvas, and then I see another piece of theirs that does show they have the technical skills, I can accept the first piece,” Kenny says. “Then you know it’s intentional, not a cover-up for the fact that they can’t draw.”

For Kenny, drawing is where it all began, and she’s taken certain elements from drawing into her painting. For example, nearly all of her work is in black and white. Drawing in black and white is typical, but a black-and-white oil painting raises eyebrows. “It’s more honed in,” she says. “Minimalist. That’s also why most of my pieces don’t have a ton in the background.” A good example of this stark minimalism would be Unravel, a mixed media work with yarn and acrylic.IMG_3961 copy

Kenny does reserve splashes of color to draw focus, such as the In Bloom series. “Too much color,” she says, “and you’re almost noticing the color over the medium.” But she lets her viewers be the judges, saying she wants to provide a direction but not specific answers as to what her art has to say.

Kenny recently wrapped up a month-long show at the Crossroads Art District in Kansas City in March. Her next show will be at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska City in July. For more information, visit courtneykennyart.com.

Gallery 72…Anew!

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As a new year emerges from the old, so do a renowned art gallery and a historic South Omaha building. Artists and afficianados, community activists and preservationists, business owners and curious neighbors are all watching the goings-on at Gallery 72’s new location, 1806 Vinton Street. Perhaps even Janus (the ancient Roman gatekeeper who is remembered by the word “January,”), the god of beginnings and transitions, is curious. It’s an exciting moment, a time to look, as Janus does, both back and forward. And it’s a time to celebrate.

Mary Zicafoose: Tapestries, Prints, and Carpets is the exhibition marking the Grand Opening of this new space. “The launch of the new Gallery 72 is a bold and exciting ‘YES’ for the arts in Omaha,” says Zicafoose, an internationally known artist. “I am very, very pleased to have my work selected for the inaugural show.”

For Gallery 72, a longtime art landmark in Midtown Omaha, the move underscores its transition from fabled owners, the late Bob and Roberta Rogers, to their son, John. The gallery first opened in 1972 at an address on 72nd Street. When it moved to 27th and Leavenworth, the gallery retained its name and became a hub for contemporary art. Everyone was welcome.

“Bob and Roberta” became a watchword for a warm welcome, and newbies could count on a user-friendly introduction to art. In fact, Bob and Roberta have been credited with educating Omaha about contemporary art, and in 1990, were honored with the Partner in the Arts, Governor’s Arts Award. Bob’s passion continued after Roberta’s death in 1999, and in 2007, Bob was honored with the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Board’s Lifetime Achievement Award. His response to the audience’s cheers and standing ovation was, “Keep it going. Keep this high energy moving forward.”Gallery72_20130131_bs_4500

Bob died this past December at age 94. Now, it’s John who intends to keep the energy going. Since retiring from teaching physics, he has taken on full-time management of the gallery. If physics is the study of movement, energy, space, and time, then his background is a perfect fit. “I’ve always been interested in the commonality between the sciences and culture,” he says. In his classroom, he hung John Himmelfarb prints, Barbara Morgan photographs, and fine quality posters of Calder and Miro.

Gallery 72 moves to a neighborhood that is seeing fresh interest and investment. The single-story building, which dates to 1922, is an integral component of the Vinton Street Commercial Historic District. Photographer Larry Ferguson, who has a history of service on Omaha art boards, bids a warm welcome from his studio in the next block, saying, “Gallery 72 is an amazing addition to the district.” Visitors will notice the red brick building, with its twin at 1808, framed by taller buildings on either side. This draws attention to the crenellated parapet roof and the facade’s decorative brickwork with stone accents. Wide southeast-facing windows entice us inside.

The L-shaped gallery is open and inviting. With more than 1,750 sq. ft., the showroom allows uncluttered display of two- and three-dimensional work. Careful planning directed a total renovation and resulted in efficient support space for office, specialized galleries, and storage. Gallery 72 exhibits and sells work by recognized regional and national artists in a range of media. Rogers also offers consultation and installation and hopes to develop a secondary art market. “I enjoy the art atmosphere and working with artists and clients,” he says.

Gallery 72 begins this new year with new life. Rogers looks forward to “revitalizing Gallery 72 and its importance to the arts of Omaha and Nebraska.” He has some innovations in mind but plans to retain its most-valuable traditions, such as the gallery’s name and well-earned reputation, and fosterage of a welcoming art environment (including potluck suppers and chocolate chip cookies). Upcoming solo exhibitions feature Deborah Masuoka, Carol Summers, and John Himmelfarb. A highlight of the spring schedule is An Evening of Art (May 11), the annual fundraiser for Friends of Art, a volunteer support group for UNO’s Department of Art and Art History.

Gallery 72
1806 Vinton Street
402-496-4797
gallery72.com

Surreal in Omaha

October 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“I’m into surrealism, as you can probably tell,” says artist Conrad Hinz with a laugh. That may be the one thing all viewers will agree on about his collection, showing at Hot Shops Art Center in November. Dream-like paintings with titles like Spirit Pope, Going for a Ride on the Other Side, and The Minotaur all but guarantee each visitor will walk away with a unique interpretation of Hinz’s work.

A Journey Through Surrealism and the Experimental contains 27 original pieces, the work of two to five years for the Nebraska artist. “I use a lot of Nebraska imagery,” Hinz says, “but I pull a lot from dreams, too. They show irrationality. It makes things more fun.” His laugh is always at the ready. “I like to have fun with things.”

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Though Hinz is following in the footsteps of the surrealist greats by studying Freud (as did his inspiration, Salvador Dalí) and using the glazing technique of the old masters, he has his own ideas about what makes great art. “If someone doesn’t stop and look at art, I’m not sure if that’s a successful painting.”

For Hinz, the true tell of a great painting is the passing of the thrift store test. “Fifty years from now,” he says, “would someone pick up my art in a thrift store so they can have the frame, or would they want to hang my own painting on their wall?”

He’s picked up more than a few pieces himself that way. For example, two paintings hanging in his living room reflect identical scenes at Cadaqués, a small fishing town where Dalí lived in his adulthood. One painting is circa 1898 and from a thrift store, and the other was buried in Hinz’s mother’s closet and dated 1925.

 “I use a lot of Nebraska imagery. I pull a lot from dreams, too. They show irrationality. It makes things more fun.”

Speaking of Hinz’s mother, the influence from her half-Lakota heritage can be seen throughout his artwork and specifically in his Sundance piece. “The spiritualists, the healers. They were the celebrities in that age.” Hinz says he tries not to “hit people over the head” with his spirituality in his art. “There’s no agenda. I just want to make people aware that God is there. We’re more than our body.”

Spiritualism and Hinz’s sense of fun come together in Radio Spirit. “My grandpa was a ham radio operator,” he says, “and I just thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could talk to him through one of those things?” The Norman Rockwell-esque painting depicts a young man with headphones watching in awe as a ghostly figure emerges from his radio. “I think I like to tell a story,” Hinz says of the piece.

Radio Spirit is a painting inspired by Hinz's grandfather and the works of Norman Rockwell.

Radio Spirit is a painting inspired by Hinz’s grandfather and the works of Norman Rockwell.

As with his art, Hinz has a specific feel that he wants his Hot Shops show to generate. “I want people to have a bit of fun,” he says. “Laugh, joke—I want it to be like going to see your favorite musician. I hate things that are stuffy and too quiet.” He adds that he’s tossed around the thought of hiring a mariachi band or maybe riding in on a bike with tin cans.

Hinz says he’s always exploring, whether it’s deconstructing the traditional gallery show or testing a new perspective in art. “Why would I not explore? Sometimes you get nowhere, but at least you tried something. It doesn’t matter if fame is there or not.”

You can see more of Hinz’ works at Hot Shops Nov. 2-25, 2012. For more information, visit hotshopsartscenter.com.