Big Nature

Big Nature: Steve Snell’s Boat Show

Steve Snell is an artist interested in history, myth, and what he refers to as big nature. And though Snell hasn’t officially defined the term, a look at his art practice will give you the gist: living within, communing with, and drawing inspiration from the experience of adventure within nature. Snell has lived in a small house boat in Alaska, he’s hiked across the state of Massachusetts in search of inspiration (finding Alec Baldwin along the way), he’s trekked with his own art students in Nebraska, and he’s floated a couch boat down miles of the Connecticut River in nothing more than denim cutoffs and a coon skin cap. Simply put, Steve Snell is brother nature and we’re lucky he is also an artist. His exhibition Boat Show is a love letter of sorts to the big wild that has inspired his professional practice and his body of adventure-art

Float Couch , wood, styrofoam & epoxy resin, 36x108 inches —  Daunting Courage , cardboard, styrofoam, epoxy resin & wood, 32x34x144 inches —  Pretzel Boat , cedar, styrofoam & epoxy resin, 77x125 inches

Float Couch, wood, styrofoam & epoxy resin, 36x108 inches — Daunting Courage, cardboard, styrofoam, epoxy resin & wood, 32x34x144 inches — Pretzel Boat, cedar, styrofoam & epoxy resin, 77x125 inches

Adventure-art feels like the best way to describe Snell’s multifaceted approach to art making. Through his interdisciplinary practice, Snell reflects upon tropes of self-sufficiency and rugged masculinity, the exploration of North America, and the reality that for most of us, big wild is something we experience in an indirect and heavily mediated way. Snell describes his style of art making as a two part process, “The first part of adventure-art is all about creating an exciting and unusual life experience.  The second part of adventure-art is the image of that experience.” Boat Show is the confluence of each of Snell’s various tributaries of creation.

Entering the space, viewers are immediately pulled into the majesty and comedy of Snell’s boats. His wooden couch boat and cardboard replica of Lewis and Clark’s keelboat join a giant, seaworthy pretzel. Each boat is fit for the water but embraces a certain level of humor, a levity that bridges the gap between water vessel and object: each piece holds its own simply as sculpture. Encircling the boats are Snell’s two-dimensional works (and one impossibly cute wooden pretzel fit for the mantle of a home or the walls of a brewery) that cover the adventure-art spectrum. Meticulously painted pixelated portraits of Lewis and Clark meet dreamy watercolors of Snell’s “Snacks on the River,” a series born from his observations of the found objects, natural ephemera, and snacks experienced on river adventures. In one of the pieces, Snacks on the River: Gummi Bears at Sunset, a delightful line of gummy bears hover in the center of a hazy minimal sunset. This series expresses well the levity inherent to Snell's work: where breathtaking sunsets meet unfettered skylines so too there are whimsical gummy bears, pretzels, and crushed beer cans. 

(left) Snacks on the River: Gummi Bears at Sunset   (right)Snacks on the River: Amazonia  — both watercolor and acrylic on paper, 11x15

(left) Snacks on the River: Gummi Bears at Sunset (right)Snacks on the River: Amazonia — both watercolor and acrylic on paper, 11x15

Another stand out piece in this show is Snell’s life size bear. Rendered in ink, Magenta Bear #2 is overwhelming in scale and realism, but again there is a lightheartedness. Where viewers meet a life size bear they also meet the humor of monochrome magenta whipped into tactile wisps with glints of teeny metallic bits embedded in the ink. This bear dominates, but he also makes you smile. 

Magenta Bear #2 , ink on paper, 48x60

Magenta Bear #2, ink on paper, 48x60

Throughout the show the space is tied together with different plays on Snell’s dizzy pixelations. Taking images from history and the American west, Snell fractures and shatters the images and reassembles them in different ways. Ranging from the checkerboard composition of Jolly Flat Boatman On Fire to the cleverly distorted Two Clarks, viewers embark on their own journey of deciphering and discovering what they’re truly looking at. 

Jolly Flat Boatman On Fire , watercolor on paper, 22x30                 Two Clarks , watercolor on paper, 22x30

Jolly Flat Boatman On Fire, watercolor on paper, 22x30 Two Clarks, watercolor on paper, 22x30

Boat Show provides an opportunity to briefly escape into the wilderness and to journey with Snell all over North America. Alongside his trio of boats, we as viewers become part of his fleet setting off together and disseminating from the confluence down his varying creative streams. So strap on your boots, gather your oars, and join him in The Drawing Room because as Snell says, “There are enough snacks on the river for anyone who wants them.” 

Reinventing the Line

Reinventing the Line: Post-Digital Artworks by Mike Lyon

“Reinventing the Line,” an exhibition of works by Mike Lyon on display in Weinberger Fine Art’s Drawing Room, is a phantasmagoric experience. Lyon, a post-digital artist, creates prints and paintings using automated machinery and digital technologies. The results are expansive; Lyon’s exhibited artworks range from geometric spirals of paint on canvas to photorealistic monochrome prints on paper. Although the works featured in “Reinventing the Line” showcase a broad range of style and form, they are all markedly process-forward and technologically advanced masterpieces.  

“Sinjun,” Acrylic on paper, 30 x 42 inches

“Sinjun,” Acrylic on paper, 30 x 42 inches

Many of the artworks currently on display in the Drawing Room are composed of vibrantly colored lines forming hundreds of overlapping squares. The artist uses a CNC (computer numeric control) router to build repetitive, spiraling patterns of acrylic paint that rely on gradient and contrast to convey figures. Up close, the many squares appear tile-like, causing the artworks to resemble patchwork quilts. As viewers step further back from the paintings, the lines of color and geometric shapes give way to images of faces and figures. A mesmerizing video of Lyon’s process accompanies his painted masterpieces, inviting viewers to contemplate Lyon’s artistic and technological practice alongside his finished works. Process is thus central and transparently visible in the exhibition.  

Portraits comprise the majority of Lyon’s square spiral paintings. Partially obfuscated, heavily shadowed faces peer out of kaleidoscopes of shapes and lines. In some paintings, the image is clear enough to identify the subject’s facial expressions; others are so abstracted that the figure is barely identifiable. The geometrical precision of Lyon’s spiraling lines affords the artworks a matrix-like quality. The repetitive square layers function as a mediation of the images that they simultaneously construct and obstruct. In these portraits, technology both creates and obscures imagery.

“Miguel,” Acrylic on paper, 30 x 42 inches

“Miguel,” Acrylic on paper, 30 x 42 inches

In addition to the mediating power of technology, Lyon’s portraits pose the question of recognition. The artist explores the possibilities of conveying faces and bodies with geometrical shapes and starkly contrasting colors rather than traditional representative techniques. The result is both highly conceptual and strikingly visceral: it poses an optical anomaly and encourages contemplation of the technological landscape that has drastically influenced the production and consumption of art.

“Sara Reclining” deviates drastically from Lyon’s signature square spiral portraits. The artwork, a Japanese woodcut print on rice paper, represents a woman turned away from the viewer, lying nude among the ruffled sheets and blankets that adorn her bed. The print is a blue monochrome, ranging from gentle robin’s egg cerulean to deep midnight navy. The woman is posed so casually, so innocuously, that she seems to be as much a natural part of the bed as the sheets that surround her. The scene emanates a deeply personal atmosphere, as if viewers are glimpsing a profoundly intimate and delicate moment in the woman’s quotidian life.  

“Sara Reclining,” Japanese woodcut, 42 x 77 inches

“Sara Reclining,” Japanese woodcut, 42 x 77 inches

“Reinventing the Line” is homage to the expanding possibilities of technology’s influence on art. Lyon creates a visual reality in which automated machinery acts as mediator between imagery, subject, and viewership. The exhibition spotlights the complex relationships between representative experimentation, technological innovation, and contemporary portraiture.

Observe and Reflect

Observe and Reflect: Paintings by Richard Mattsson

Richard Mattsson creates art as a reflective practice. Like a meditation, his paintings exist without subliminal concept or conscious messaging. They convey the unfettered experience of the Loose Park landscape, of a Kansas City neighborhood engulfed in the yellow-red blanket of autumn leaves, or of a garden in the golden glow of late summer. There is a quiet, unassuming magic in these works. It is the magic of every day beauty, of a clear and open mind, of getting lost looking at the trees on your own street. 

Mattsson’s artistic process revolves around observation and spontaneity. Rather than attempt to control the development of his artwork, Mattsson allows intuition to guide the evolution of his paintings. This liberating, self-trusting practice lends itself to a delicately ephemeral body of work. The finished products capture fleeting moments, such as the aura of pink haze in the last seconds before the sun sinks below the horizon or the shimmering reflection of trees in a pond on a cloudless summer day. Mattsson’s solo exhibition in Weinberger Fine Art’s Drawing Room is a melodic gentle reminder to viewers to slow down long enough to experience Kansas City’s subtle, constantly changing beauty. 

“Anna in the Garden” is a captivating example of Mattsson’s seamlessly serene representative style. A nude woman stands unselfconsciously in an exterior garden, her hand delicately outstretched to caress the leaves of a tree. She exudes an effortless grace, appearing at once alert and at ease. It is as if she blends in with the foliage around her – as if she herself is a natural and expected part of the floral landscape. The juxtaposition of the tree’s red-gold leaves against the lush greens and blooming flowers in the rest of the garden tell us that it is early fall, and the trees have just begun to change color. Everything is elegantly precise – the season, the golden afternoon light, the bloom of the garden, the gentle touch of the woman’s finger to the leaves. The scene emanates a quiet, verdant tranquility.

“Anna in the Garden,” oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches

“Anna in the Garden,” oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches

Although “Studio with Crotons” is an interior painting, it is almost as rich with flora as Mattsson’s landscape and garden pictures. Potted houseplants with thick, red and green leaves adorn small tables scattered around the foreground of the painting. A geometric rug covers a stretch of the honey-colored hardwood floors. A mirror expands across the entirety of the wall on the right edge of the painting, reflecting a second perspective of the room. A third perspective is found in a smaller mirror on the left side of the painting. In this mirror, the artist and his easel are visible. Paintbrush in hand, Mattsson peers calmly but intently at the room before him. He is a self-effacing figure in the artwork; like the woman in “Anna in the Garden,” he is both at ease and fully engrossed in his serene surroundings. The artist’s presence in “Studio with Crotons” alludes to his signature meditative, observation-based process.

“Studio with Crotons,” oil on canvas, 48 x 55 inches

“Studio with Crotons,” oil on canvas, 48 x 55 inches

Richard Mattsson’s paintings are the stunning product of being present in one’s own quotidian surroundings. They are the art of meditation, introspection, and observation. Of his artistic process, Mattsson comments, “My visual perception is the sum of me looking outward and simultaneously looking inward.” As he works, delicately mediating his surroundings and his emotional response to them, Mattsson strives to return to the authentic state of pure observation experienced almost exclusively by children. His paintings invite us to do the same.   

Vantage Point

Vantage Point: Works by Antonio Marra by Shoshi Rosen

Italian-born painter Antonio Marra’s artworks are a stunning display of color and geometry. Deep, meticulous streaks of vibrant blues, purples, yellows, and greens slash across his canvases to form phantasmagorias of shape and color. With a unique multi-perspective technique, Marra carves layers of vibrant, animated patterns into his abstracted paintings. 

Marra’s paintings are instantly striking, but they grow increasingly more enchanting with prolonged visual engagement. As viewers peer at the canvases from different angles, the images begin to shift and change. In fact, the paintings each display a triptych of perspectives, which unfold and alternate as viewers circle the paintings. Standing before Marra’s artworks, a beautiful, endlessly spiraling kaleidoscope comes to mind – and the longer one looks, the harder it becomes to look away. 

In order to fully experience Marra’s paintings, movement is obligatory. Access to the many overlaid colors and patterns embedded in the artworks is contingent on the path of the viewer as they pace before the paintings. Certainly, no two sets of eyes will experience these masterpieces the same way. As viewers map their paths in front of the artworks, they concurrently map a unique pattern of dynamic, morphing colors and shapes. The effect is both mesmerizing and playful, not unlike a handheld kaleidoscope. 

Left;  Alexa, Be Quiet,  acrylic on canvas, 39.4 x 39.4 inches  Right  The Lust and the Burden of the Painter , acrylic on canvas, 47.2 x 39.4 inches

Left; Alexa, Be Quiet, acrylic on canvas, 39.4 x 39.4 inches

Right The Lust and the Burden of the Painter, acrylic on canvas, 47.2 x 39.4 inches

Marra’s two paintings in Weinberger Fine Art, “Alexa, be Quiet” and “The Lust and Burden of the Painter” are thus highly individualized artworks. They are as much characterized by streaks of color on canvas as they are by the unique movements of their viewers. The artist does not fashion a singular visual experience, but rather encourages viewers to forge their own. For Marra, reality is subjective, multi-dimensional, and in a state of constant fluctuation. 

Circling “Alexa, be Quiet,” a drastic contrast in color and pattern materializes. From the left, the painting appears to be composed of many interlaced triangles of vibrant neon yellows, reds, purples, and greens. Straight on, the bright colors pale to an array of pastel sherbets, teals, and periwinkles. From the far right perspective, the colors give way almost entirely; only white, black, and pale blue are visible, and the complex pattern of interlaced triangles simplifies to a few large shapes. The emergent difference between the three perspectives is captivating and extraordinary. 

Antonio Marra’s painted kaleidoscope concept fosters highly individual experiences and compels multiple, extended viewings. The paintings embrace orphism’s spiraling vortexes of color, optical art’s hypnotic illusions, and geometric abstraction’s mathematical precision. They are at once delightfully simple and beguilingly complex, brazenly forthright and mysteriously secretive. Marra’s artwork requires active, dynamic, and extensive viewership.