A microcosm of the artistic character of Athens was created by juror Susan Krane at the Lyndon House 42nd Juried Exhibition, which opened this past Sunday. The works ranged from paintings to sculptures to fiber to a TV screen playing a video loop. Each piece provoked quiet consideration, some leaning towards deeper themes. The show encompassed everything from abstraction to photography, each piece caused me to think, and I left the Lyndon House feeling lighter and more thoughtful than when I entered.
The pieces I found the most intriguing fit the Athens narrative of quirky, humorous, and a little envelope-pushing. I was impressed with Krane’s ability to hone in on the spirit of Athens even though she comes from San Francisco, clear across the country. Perhaps the spirit of the art we create remains constant, as a uniting force across our many states. These were the types of things the pieces made me contemplate.
My list of favorite pieces, however, did not align with the Merit Awards in the slightest. Sam Cherof’s “Study of Color and Texture”, an American flag covered in the blackest paint so that only the texture was recognizable, was by far my favorite. It made me contemplate the individual fibers of our country as I stood and stared at it for several minutes. I am always in favor of a piece that makes me think about politics without telling me what to think about them, a feat achieved by few.
Helen Kuykendall’s “Cabbage” also gained a lingering ovation from me. While many would critique its simplicity, the absurdity of the cabbage’s placement right in the center of the frame made me laugh out loud in the empty gallery. The borrowed beauty of the cabbage in its natural habitat made this painting particularly effective. In comparison to many of the other pieces, its simplicity almost seemed to poke fun at the pretentiousness of it all. The lack of message was screaming from the canvas.
As a photojournalist, I am never particularly impressed by artistic photographs and find them either too simple or too pretentious. Most of the photographs, albeit beautiful, fit one of these two. Ginger Goekjian’s “Untitled 2 from Sand Series” was the exception here. I spent several minutes just trying to figure out the scale of the photograph. It could have been a square inch of sand on the beach or a square mile from a drone just as easily. This concept fascinated me, and I remained perplexed until I finally spotted a set of bird footprints in the bottom corner and realized it was just about life-size. The sinewy trails left by water cutting through the sand captured my attention for longer than I care to admit. This photograph makes you think like a painting.
The final piece I will bring attention to is Rusty Wallace’s “Artists are like Clouds.” This piece caught my attention for a single reason, which was that I imagined it comically hanging on a wall in my house. At first glance, it appears to be a beautifully framed completely blank, white, canvas. Upon closer investigation, I realized the words “Artists are like Clouds” were printed as tiny and as spaced out as possible across the canvas. While I wish it said something better, the idea of hanging a seemingly blank canvas in my house is appealing to my sense of humor. Were the price less than $1200, I would have seriously considered buying it.
I felt that each of these pieces as well as the others included in the show, held both universal and local appeal simultaneously. The show as a whole felt like Athens, but it also felt like much more than Athens. And therein lies the purpose of art. Bravo, Lyndon House.