Archive | May, 2013

Huffington Post interview with VONN SUMNER : ‘Somewhere Else’

28 May

Huffington Post, Posted 5/16/2013

by John Seed, Professor of Art and Art History, Mt. San Jacinto College

Vonn Sumner: ‘Somewhere Else’ (PHOTOS/INTERVIEW)

There is a silence about the works of painter Vonn Sumner. His canvases ask his viewers a question that takes a moment to consider: do you want to laugh, or cry, or both?

Vonn Sumner, "Defense," 2013, oil on panel, 18 x 18 inches

Vonn Sumner, “Defense,” 2013, oil on panel, 18 x 18 inches

Vonn’s upcoming show “Somewhere Else” features a suite of paintings that form a kind of personal Commedia dell’Arte, whose main actor has a tragic, muted air. Sumner is wise enough to know how to engage you in his theater and also smart enough to stand back and let you react on your own terms. The paintings are generous, funny and just a bit opaque.

Sumner, whose father Richard ran a Palo Alto frame store and gallery grew up looking at art and thinking it over very carefully. Echoes of Bay Area painting, flavors gleaned from Morandi, Guston and Magritte and a hint of Buster Keaton come together in his recent works through the filter of a sly, discerning intelligence.
John Seed Interviews Vonn Sumner

Vonn Sumner -- Photo: Eric Minh Swenson

Vonn Sumner — Photo: Eric Minh Swenson

Vonn, you grew up in the Bay Area and got your MA at UC Davis. How have the traditions of Bay Area painting stayed alive in your work?

In many ways: There was a David Park show at the Palo Alto Cultural Center when I was in high school that was a life changing event. I went to see it every weekend, it had a physical effect on me. Also, those painters had a love of art history, of the traditions of painting, but also could not ignore the new artistic developments and anxieties of their time. With the “Bay Area Figurative” painters especially, there was a desire to bring the processes and premises of non-objective painting together with the timeless project of representing the human form. That same question is something I try to grapple with every day in my own way.

Your images often manage to mix humor and commentary. Is it important for you to have both of these elements in everything you do?

Well, they need each other, don’t they? Lisa Simpson needs Homer; Chuck D needs Flavor Flav; Karl Marx needs Groucho. Social commentary alone can become didactic, orthodox, simplistic and boring. Pure silliness and absurdity can become nihilistic and trivial. I am for the complexity and contradictions that come when both of those elements are simultaneous — I think that is more honest, more fully human, and therefore more subversive.

Vonn Sumner, "Reliquary," 2012, oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches

Vonn Sumner, “Reliquary,” 2012, oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches

Your painting “Reliquary” includes a shrouded figure decorated with roses. What are some of the ideas behind that image?

For me, the decisions in making a painting are largely intuitive. There is no literal idea or narrative I am trying to execute or illustrate. I can say generally that I work with materials and imagery that feel “right,” and that I work toward an image that resonates with me at the time. I’m also interested in breathing new life into old conventions, like portraiture. With “Reliquary” in particular, it felt both ridiculous/absurd and also somehow melancholic or mournful.

Vonn Sumner, "Neo-Byzantine," 2013, oil on canvas, 20 x 18 inches

Vonn Sumner, “Neo-Byzantine,” 2013, oil on canvas, 20 x 18 inches

Many of your recent works appear to be self-portraits: are they?

I actually don’t think of them as self-portraits, even though I am often using my own body/face as the figure. Instead, I think of them as just “heads” or “figures” in a generic sense.

An analogy might be that a filmmaker can write a script and then act in a particular part because he knows what he wants for the role more than the role is autobiographical or about “self.” Also, since I am often putting the figures in a state of potential humiliation, I think on some level I feel more comfortable doing that to myself than to other people.

Since we don’t — as far as I know — choose our bodies when we are born, I think of it almost as a kind of “readymade” or a given; like Jasper Johns using the stencil letters and numbers you get from a hardware store, a kind of neutral decision in some way. Bruce Nauman’s work was influential in this regard, as was Joseph Beuys, though he was more overtly “autobiographical”– if perhaps fictional. I do take photos, but don’t stay too faithful to them and throw them out as soon as possible so as to let memory and invention take over and just be present to the painting.

Can you tell me the names of artists who have influenced you? What have you borrowed from them?

That is a dangerous question, I could talk all day… First, I will say that I give myself permission to steal from anyone and anything. My job is to make it my own. But some of the main influences: Philip Guston, Balthus, Giacometti, de Chirico, Morandi, Goya, Piero, Giotto, and the Italian “Primitives” — especially the Siennese like Sassetta, Duccio, etc.

Among current painters, I like Peter Doig as well as the “New Leipzig School” painters from Germany, I feel a certain kindred spirit with some of them. But I also love abstract painters like Sean Scully, Terry Winters, Brice Marden, Nozkowsky. I loved Amy Silman’s last show in New York, I think she has found an exciting way to address the question of how to combine abstract painting and figuration.

I have to add that many of my main influences are from cartoonists and filmmakers. People like Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware, Art Spiegelman, R. Crumb. The Marvel comics of the ’80s had a profound effect on me growing up.

At Davis, my teacher/ mentor Wayne Thiebaud introduced me to George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat.” And Wayne made it clear that he took that very seriously: that cartoonists and “commercial artists” like that were not to be condescended to but to be seen as artistic equals. That had a huge impact on me and validated how much comic books and even children’s book illustrations had influenced my wanting to draw in the first place. Some of the earliest and most impactful pictures that anyone sees are the drawings and paintings in children’s books.

Similarly, I think Alfred Hitchcock and the old film noir movies are probably a major influence on my work, as is Buster Keaton. I worship Buster Keaton.

Vonn Sumner, "Action," 2013, oil on panel, 18 x 17 inches

Vonn Sumner, “Action,” 2013, oil on panel, 18 x 17 inches

You have explained that your work “attempts to reconcile the exterior objective world with my subjective experience of it.” Can you expand on that?

It’s hard to talk about. I remember since childhood being struck by the distance between what was going on in the “objective” /observable world and what I was feeling and experiencing in my “subjective” inner world. I think that is one of the main reasons that artists make art: to bridge that gap and communicate, to bring what is inside and show it to the outside, to make the invisible visible. And this is not only an intellectual or an emotional thing; this is also about the physical experience of being in a body. Painting is uniquely equipped for addressing the body, for projecting the physical experience of the painter and producing an empathy in the body of the viewer.

Vonn Sumner, "Parlance," 2013, oil on panel, 24 x 20 inches

Vonn Sumner, “Parlance,” 2013, oil on panel, 24 x 20 inches

What direction do you expect your work to take in the future?

Of course, I don’t know, and the not-knowing is part of the point. In general, though, I hope to grow and push my work into a place that I can’t yet envision. More specifically, one thing I can say is that I have always really been interested in the territory where painting and drawing overlap and the boundaries between the two disciplines are blurred. That is part of my interest in Giacometti, and I think late Guston addresses that. Picasso’s black and white paintings deal with that directly. And I am increasingly interested in the ink painting traditions of China and Japan. The directness and simplicity of that painting is amazing. So there is something there that I have yet to fully explore and I hope to find a way to invent my own version of that painted-drawing or drawn-painting thing. That is very exciting territory to me.

To view available work by VONN SUMNER please visit



Images from Beyond Yesterday: A Collection of Landscape Memories

19 May

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Now on view at Morton Fine Art through June 4th, 2013.  Please contact the gallery for availability and pricing details.

(202) 628-2787

Scattered to the Wind by MAYA FREELON ASANTE

16 May

A one-of-a-kind kinetic art performance by artist MAYA FREELON ASANTE which boasts free-falling art for all.

Accompanied by the natural environment of Baltimore City, ‘Scattered to the Wind’ took place on Saturday, April 27th, 2013 at the Bromo Selzter Arts Tower in Baltimore, MD.

Let go with me
Make room for Joy!
The weightlessness
of forgiveness
Seeks peace
With love

– Maya Freelon Asante

Artwork by Victor Ekpuk- Live painting in Amsterdam

15 May

Artwork by Victor Ekpuk, made during the presentation of ZAM Africa Magazine in 2009.

Artist Spotlight: Julia Fernandez-Pol’s Paintings Inspired by Science, Beauty and the Grotesque

14 May

Bethesda’s “Fair Focus” Art Exhibition artist discusses the inspirations behind her work and what her life would be like without paint

By Breyana Kelly

Potomac Patch, 14 May 2013

Julia at work

Plum Blossom Night web

As part of Bethesda’s Art Walk festivities, the “Fair Focus” Art Exhibition was an event for the community to enjoy unique masterpieces by reputable artists from all over the world, including Julia Fernandez-Pol.

The Argentinian-American artist grew up looking either under a microscope or through a telescope. Over time, Fernandez-Pol used those same observation techniques to create her paintings. After moving across the country to Los Angeles, Fernandez-Pol is establishing herself on a new coast and her work is just getting started.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase Patch: Who is Julia Fernandez-Pol?

Julia Fernandez-Pol: I think Julia the artist is allowing my eccentricity to be my important feature. One of the things for me is that I love the quirkiness and subtleties that come from nature. A lot of the experimentation comes from trying to find those unique characteristics in nature through a parallel world in paint.

Patch: What inspires your paintings?

Fernandez-Pol: Science, research and the idea of beauty and grotesque. I like when I start to get a little bit grossed out by my paintings, because then I know that I have gotten somewhere.

Patch: What do you like about your paintings shown at the “Fair Focus” Art Exhibition?

Fernandez-Pol: What I like about the work there is the idea of color and light coming from darkness. As much as I like the really intense, heavy and dense fields of paint, I think it is nice to see some space, especially in a world of digital culture.

Patch: Out of all of your paintings, which one did you have the most fun creating, and why?

Fernandez-Pol: I like to work on a lot of paintings at once, because if I am struggling with one painting then I can usually find the answer in another painting. I do a body of work in terms of using the dark fields and bioluminescent neon colors.

Patch: What do you love the most about painting?

Fernandez-Pol: I love when it is unexpected. There are so many ways to use paint and it’s like this never-ending exploration.

Patch: What could you see yourself doing if you were never introduced to painting?

Fernandez-Pol: I would want to be a neuroscientist. I love to know about the brain and I think that it is really important in my work.

Patch: What’s next for you?

Fernandez-Pol: I am out in Los Angeles; I moved here about three months ago. I am trying to work on more sculptures and develop other projects.

NATHANIEL DONNETT’s artist in residency exhibition “You Are The One” at RedLine Milwaukee reviewed

8 May
Monday, May 6, 2013, Express Milwaukee

‘You Are The One’

Life and art at RedLine Milwaukee

Exploring the connections between art and everyday life has been a concern of artists since Marcel Duchamp at the beginning of the 20th century and Andy Warhol in mid-century. But neither of these artists envisioned how far the challenge to the separation of life from art might be carried.Visitors to RedLine Milwaukee (422 N. Fourth St.) before June 29 may see firsthand how items of clothing such as T-shirts, jeans, hats and other items gathered from everyday life might be transformed into art. With the support of a National Endowment for the Arts grant, Houston-based artist Nathaniel Donnett collaborated with Milwaukee children, teens and elderly citizens in a venture involving multi-media art experiments. The project is a part of RedLine Milwaukee’s artists residency program. As part of the creation process, Donnett interviewed participants, asking them to reflect on their personal experiences of alienation and marginalization. Among the questions that emerged was the role of media in creating or reinforcing racial stereotypes.

Donnett’s exhibition, “You Are The One,” has a department store theme. Display cases, shopping bags, mannequins and clothing racks full of hanging T-shirts become symbols that help us explore the community environment. One sculpture portrays a male teenage mannequin wearing sagging jeans. Given the importance of clothes and shopping for personal identity in contemporary cultures, the theme seems most fitting.

Drawings, printmaking, collage, sculpture, video, paintings and photographs of the neighborhood—some by Donnett and others by participants—forge a link between the artists and the community. The materials employed, including a prom dress made by a participant’s great-grandmother, were collected from local sources as a part of the creative process. The exhibition was developed on site during the artist’s three-week residency.

Tribal African sculptures appear throughout the exhibition, used perhaps to tag the cultural heritage of the artist and broaden the cultural references. Exercising a whimsical twist, Donnett reverses conventional gallery presentation style by placing African sculptures on the tops of display cases instead of securely inside. Clothing normally accessible to customers on racks or tables is sequestered within the plastic display cases where art normally resides.

How did Donnett become an artist? Actually, he grew up practicing drums and enjoying hip-hop dancing on the streets of Houston before studying art in college. He came to the visual arts almost by accident when he was kicked out of music class and sent to art class over a disagreement with the band director. His first loves of music and dance still remain a part of his performance art. Donnett’s interest in community-based arts as reflected in works shown in galleries in New York and Chicago brought him to the attention of RedLine, which subsequently invited him to Milwaukee.

RedLine Milwaukee makes studio space accessible to artists and hosts classes for painting, sculpture, printing, photography and experimentation with the latest media arts. It is arguably one of the Milwaukee arts community’s best-kept secrets. Artists Lori Bauman and Steve Vande Zande founded RedLine in 2009 to provide professional career development support to artists and to offer educational and community outreach with a focus on the arts and social issues. Donnett’s residency serves these aims very well.

To view the story online please visit: