November 15, 2014

The Modern Atelier in Modern Times

When I completed my study at the Grand Central Atelier, I experienced what most artists experience after leaving a place where the enthusiasm for practicing their craft was verily supported by a community of like-minded artists.  I discovered, or perhaps re-discovered, a broader art community that is at best, unaware, and at worst, apathetic to the kind of art I and others in my school were driven to produce.  Worse still, perhaps, I discovered a breadth of technical facility that only contrived to stymie my creative ambition in a world that doesn’t permit much time to contemplate details.  

Alas, this is not an entry to criticize the atelier system on a blog meant to tout its aims, but rather an acknowledgement of its incompleteness or perhaps more precisely, it’s disconnectedness in the modern era.  

The Modern Atelier exhibit was formed, under the premise of a student work show, to educate the art-going public about the process and aesthetic of our unique training.  Moreover, this exhibit hopes to re-connect the estranged classical realist to his community of peers who share the same narrow interests and deeply embedded passion to pursue those interests.  In its travels across three states, the exhibition has received steady interest, as more and more people seem to be fascinated with academic art training. 

Modern Atelier Fort Myers Exhibition 2014
In addition to the growing popularity of atelier style training, there are many more finely rendered representational painting in the contemporary art world now--much more than when I began my formal study 8 years ago, which speaks to the shift both in popular taste and the growing numbers of artists who desire an organized method of study (more about this in a future post). 

Still few of these now more abundant modern ‘classical realist’ works, however, I think, gracefully sync centuries old traditional arts theory to the sensibilities and aesthetic of the modern era. They seem to be both struggling to escape their rigid historical context and yet returning to it’s conventions as a way to evoke meaning.  

Modern Atelier Fort Myers Exhibition 2014
This contradiction exists, I think, because we are, as a culture, still wrestling with this idea of sincerity and how perhaps too much ‘rhapsodizing’ is perceived as deception or coercion in a society that favors transparency and an unbiased delivery of facts.  The truth, by many, is considered an objective thing, that everyone can observe and recognize when they happen upon it. But  truth, as defined by the artist, I think, is something only derivable by way of an untruth or distortion.  That is to say, the artist, delivers ‘facts’ via his own lens of experience through the art of story telling, which is, in essence, a lie because the story didn’t happen literally as it was told. 

And then there is the philosophical problem of art in the modern era. Much of modern art seems to be about making us feel bad about ourselves, mocking our earthly pleasures and desires with some kind of humorous, intellectual disdain.  I think there is this perception in the art world that art should not vainly stare at itself too long, or become too preoccupied in its methods, that raw expression is paramount and any attempt to understand the language of that expression somehow diminishes the expressive act.  In contrast, we look to the old Masters paintings to feel some sense of optimism for ourselves and our future, for connective, spiritual engagement. We don’t notice the art, noticing itself, because it is conscripted to fulfill a purpose that is borne in the method of its expression.  

One of the many grandiose presumptions of this blog, is to shed light on this incongruity or incompleteness in an attempt to find relevance and meaning in a contemporary society that has in many respects ‘moved on’ from painted pictures to film and technological miracles.

I promise my subsequent posts will not all be so heady and wistful...but I do hope to elaborate more on these ideas, and relate my own personal journey trying to reconcile the philosophy of slow, intentional art making as defined by the Modern Atelier with the frenetic irreverence of modern life.

For now, this is just me philosophizing too much. And while there is no greater joy for me than to sit before a subject and try to describe the feeling of that subject, and the world could go out in a dim light around my easel, understanding how my creative obsession might be relevant to the larger world of which I am a part--well, that would just be cool.  


and yes, I am a delight at parties. (if I were invited to any.)

Carla Crawford "Maria" Oil on Linen

Angela Cunningham "The Boxer" Oil on Linen

Todd Casey "Apollo" Graphite on Paper