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Read about The Artists Among Us in today's Artvoice

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Artists Among Us by J. Tim Raymond in Today's Arvoice
Read the review at

So many people but so much art. There were 665 individual artworks presented to a public that seemingly came out of the woodwork filling to capacity the wide halls and spaces of the Burchfield Penney last month. Billed as a members show, The Artists Among Us had its opening on May 25; members of the Burchfield Penney were encouraged to submit one artwork, maximum size 28-by-34 inches, all of which were included in the show without jury in a group exhibition. The art-making public who were members or became members before the deadline for submission were guaranteed a place on the wall.

And so they were hung in a full-blown spectrum of rectangles alphabetically and handsomely displayed in the central gallery, a smorgasbord of every genre, five tiers high. People spruced up their presentation as a measure of respect for the museum’s prestige, but there were intentional exceptions such as the work representing a statement of the Occupy Movement, consisting of a blank white panel and shipping label stapled on wood. The stark contrast to the art around it brought the same kind of negative attention that human occupiers brought to the streets of finance. It was perhaps the only overtly political piece in the exhibit and enhanced by its anonymity.

Alternately crouching and craning one’s neck to catch the artists’ names, one affected a kind of bobbing and nodding movement while snaking through the throng of gallery-goers, some with strollers some in wheelchairs, walkers, canes…it was like an attendance of “once a year” parishioners at a religious service.

Alternately seeking friends and registering as many blank faces, I moved like a salmon weaving upstream, starting with the Zs, marveling as the proliferation of still-life, still the apparent choice of so many painters whose work rarely gets out of the house. There is a quotidian attitude about representational work that seems to demand local color, the actual familiar color of known things. There were landscapes in profusion; storm-tossed seas without apology, open, verdant fields with and without figuration, here and there a nude, babies, teens, and elderly in smiling portraits. Fine art photography in sepia, C-prints, and images in the acid glazen hues of ink-jet printers were visible among the slathered oils and acrylics…patchwork collage and assemblage and the irrepressible amalgams of mixed media kept one’s eyes dashing from one work to another. Floor-mounted sculptural exhibitions made passage uncertain as the crowd ebbed and flowed, circuiting pedestals and partitions looking for their favorites. Formalist jewelry and whimsical ceramic ornamentation was given a separate area, spaciously arrayed in glass cases.

The exhibition, initially sorted by theme, was apparently determined by the amount of work submitted and the limited time constraint to make the default curatorial position alphabetical. It works very well. Certainly an at-large public, unfamiliar with art museum presentation format, could certainly find artwork of family and friends more easily working A-Z. The evening was parsed in incremental fascination. I made round after round of the exhibition, by now touring with friends through the galleries, all of us making a note to come back over the summer and gaze unbidden by the press of first-night patrons. Consider doing the same; the show is up through August 26.