Blue Sky’s Artists Push the Limits

Megan Manni, NY Arts Magazine, November/December, 2004

Blue Sky Emerging Arts works to expose the innovations of raw creativity in its latest opening, “The Sky’s the Limit.” The artists featured use wildly different styles, and are invited from wildly different locations– Japan, Tosca’s Italy, Baltimore, Trinidad, Houston Street and beyond. But these featured artists are united in the practice of mining, applying their perceptions of their ordinary surroundings. They involve the viewer in their discourse about perception.

The world — ordinary observations, geography, music, architecture, nature, shape and form —enters the artists’ eyes, filters through their minds and is transformed and reconstituted through their hands. Joshua A. Thissel, originally a sculptor of glass and clay, paints on old discarded windows. He articulates in his paintings what art can be for the soul: a literal window into another plane or dimension where forms and color seem fluid, but strike you as, perhaps, having a their own, hidden agenda. Thissel draws your eye further and further within to follow the mystical movement of color.

Anna Socha Van Martre’s “Metamorphoses: Water 1-7” is astounding in its presentation. While the medium of graphite and pastel on paper seems simplistic, the result is a humble, human portrait of the most magnificent force of nature: the ocean. The seven-panel piece is mesmerizing in its illustration of the ferocity, and turbulence of the sea. Take from it what you will – for these artists remind us of the diversity of perspective- I perceived it as a visual representation of the changing of the seasons.

Fulbright Scholar Wyatt Gallery portrays aspects of the Caribbean, foreign to the Americans tourist. Revealing more than just palm trees and beaches, his intention is to communicate the parallel between religious and secular structures. Spirituality is infused into every aspect of life for the people of Trinidad. The houses of worship on the island are not austere cathedrals or shrines; the same amount of energy put into the home is put into the place of worship. Conversely, a native living room, decorated with warm mauves and white lace, seems to Gallery to be a type of holy altar. In his photograph the concepts of worship and tranquility become three-dimensional. His use of the medium is even more striking: Gallery did not arrange one single item in his photographs, not the chair in the white “Mosque” image, nor the benches in the surreal-looking “Highway Benches”. Rather, he coordinates the technology of photography, of exposure and shutter speed, to let film capture what the eye cannot see. Gallery’s images are suspended between the real and the imagined.

Eric LoPresti is another marvel of “The Sky is the Limit”. His work is Andy-Warhol-meets-Home-Depot. His color study paintings of extension cords bring a scientific examination of light and shade, of contorted form and line, to life in 12 vibrant examinations. Each work originated from a different black and white photo of a wrapped extension cord. Each painting combines colors and shades of colors with white light that is painstakingly re-mastered onto the canvas. The result is a captivating exhibit of one of the most mundane objects.

Amy Cohen Banker creates many different types of pieces depending on the inspiration she feels. Her work is reminiscent of Miro in its mixture of abstract line and color. The death of her daughter from Hodgkin’s disease brought an oil, ink and watercolor creation. Operas like Fidelio, Tosca, and Electra brought on ink, gold leaf and bronze paintings on handmade paper. Observations of activity on the Lower East Side of Manhattan brought interpretive oil paintings on linen, much the same way Picasso would take in a scene and reproduce it from his mind’s eye back in his studio.

Sachiko Akama’s “Scrutiny of Home #2” is a panoramic view of what would otherwise be your everyday suburban house, but here viewed through a patchwork of woven strips of photo images. One is stunned and left to wonder how she did it, while being drawn in by the images one wouldn’t ordinarily see in a chimney side or within a shrub… images created by her weaving. Akama was trained in traditional photography by her parents’ example, and went against the grain entirely by expressing herself through the medium by altering it. Eickholt calls her technique “photographic de-reconstructivism”. Akama has encountered cultural opposition to her work, but she intends to continue to break down the superficiality of the image to communicate what she sees through the lens. Her Baltimore cityscape, “Saudade #2”, is also a woven photographic work and is stunning in its resuscitation of an otherwise drab-looking city into an explosion of crimson, lavender, pink, navy and turquoise.

One of the gems of this opening is Chanda Hopkins. The full-of-life artist creates works that explode with meaning and color. Her futuristic interpretations of culturally iconic figures are a result of both her emotional experience and identification with that icon during that time in her life. Lenny Kravitz, Audrey Hepburn, the late Aliyaah, Aretha Franklin, and Jim Morrison are just some of the figures brought to life with vibrancy and texture. The frames of these pieces are every bit as much of the art as the piece itself, and many use beads and costume jewelry to accent the energy radiating from the subject.

Quite literally, “The Sky’s the Limit” runs the gamut of varying artistic talent. These are only a select few of the featured artists; the show also includes jewelry designs for consumption and for art’s sake by the likes of Lucho Medina, whose sterling silver creations are temptation and beauty all in one. If you seek the true New York outbreak experience of today’s top talent, all from personable, relatable people who are simply recording life as it comes to them but in the most astounding way, this opening from Blue Sky is not to be missed.