1. AUBUCHON VS. AUDUBON (Audubon no longer running)
Lady on the move: Kimberly Aubuchon, artist, archivist at Artpace, and founder/curator/gallerist of Unit B (http://www.unitbgallery.com).
On November 13, Kimberly was the featured artist in the McNay's “Artists Looking at Art” series, in which local art-makers talk about their own work and works in the McNay's collection and exhibitions; it's cosponsored by the McNay Contemporary Collectors Forum and the Education department, and happens on the second Thursday evening of every monthâ??see http://www.mcnayart.org for more info.
Kimberly Aubuchon opted to address the McNay's current exhibition, “Prints Gone Wild,” a superb collection of Audubon prints, several of which have not been exhibited in many years. In a brilliant nod to edutainment, Kimberly printed up handouts to go along with her discussion. This nifty 4-pager, entitled (and emblazoned with nifty nineteeth-century style typeface) “Audubon, Aubuchon, and the Birds of America,” featured some handy side-by-side images: John Syme's 1826 oil portrait John James Audubon alongside a photo of Aubuchon posing with man-sized Sylvester and Tweety Bird at (presumably) a theme park; and Audubon's 1830 print “Wild Turkey” (subtitled, enjoyably, “Great American Cock”) next to Aubuchon's 2001 digital sketch “Hand Jive Turkey,” which references the iconic “hand turkeys” universally executed by grade-schoolers across our nation at this time of year.
Aubuchon and Audubon share French ancestry, a deep fondness for birds and close observation of the natural world, and a tight technical focus. Presenting “Wild Turkey” and “Hand Jive Turkey” together is a smart move. Though Audubon's meticulous cross-hatching and compositional formalism are painstaking as they are harmonious, it's really instructive to see Aubuchon's work next to it and recognize her own brand of loopy rigor; the deceptively jerky outline rendered by her computer-assisted drawing is always sure-footed (even when interpreted in the painting stage), and her saturated color palette is likewise harmonious and thoughtful. Aubuchon's not selling herself short, and embraces without apology cartoonlike themes and gestures; she refers to her own style as being preoccupied with notions both of the “cute” and the “pathetic.”
After discussing her work and Audubon's, we got to see her felt sculpture installation, "The Gathering", mounted in the space between the sculpture gallery in the old building and the Tobin library until 11/30. It's a funny and visually poetic felt branch redolent with green felt leaves, upon which perchâ??and around which flyâ??iridescent black felt birds (pigeons and grackles) .She's been working a lot with felt, lately, a medium that fits her homespun aesthetic and outsized imaginationâ??she recently worked on a series of fantastical felt figures based on Mr. Potato Head while at recent Ox-Bow artist residency in Michigan.
As if that weren't enough, Kimberly ran the Rock n' Roll half marathon on the 17th. IN the photo, she's the fast-as-a-flash figure on the right, in the red t-shirt, smiling. Whew.
2. DAN SUTTIN: TRULY KINETIC SCULPTOR
I also salute Dan Suttin, a local sculptor/ teacher/ designer/ grandpa/ polymath/ polygonal enthusiast (note: into polygons, not polygamyâ??hi Mrs. Suttin!), who in addition to making art is a retired math and Montessori teacher, a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, and the creator of “Uncle Dan's Algebra,” a video algebra course targeted to homeschoolersâ?¦ and, hell, anybody interested in algebra.
He wrote me a charming e-mail after reading my article about the McNay's George Rickey kinetic exhibition; turns out, Dan was a student of Rickey's at the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, about which he said, “I was not one of his more outstanding students, but I sure learned a lot there.”
Dan Suttin was exhibiting an algebraically-infused artwork he referred to as OCTA-TETRA (yes, in all-caps), which he said “is in part an outgrowth of one of the assignments we had in Mr. Rickey's "Visual Fundamentals" course,” and invited me to come take a look. I dragged on down to the Guardian Angels School of Performance Art space at Blue Star on the First Friday in November to check out this unexpectedly fabulous, trippily beautiful polygonal marvel, further-entitled “Variation on the Truncated Icosahedron” . Suttin painstakingly constructs it, on-site, of special brightly-colored cardstock (ordered, intriguingly, from Mexico), paper clips, and glue — it's made of 3600 pieces, and takes 55400 paper clips, and many, many hours to construct.
IN-person, it recalls Buckminster Fuller and Louise Nevelson, if they had collaborated on a ginormous origami project concretizing the music of the spheres--or octagons, as the case may be. Sadly, I'm fairly unadvanced in my knowledge of polygonal mathematics (I should probably order his educational DVD), but even so, I recognized a transcendent (and fun!) piece of work, here.
THEN I ALMOST KNOCKED IT DOWN. Had I succeeded in doing so, I probably would have suffered an aneurysm.
Rickey would no doubt be amazed at Dan's amassed collection of photographs, descriptions, and media concerning math and arts education (which, in Dan Suttin's world, frequently coincide), his passion for making mathematics beautiful, and his painstaking, workmanlike approach. Looking over his copious personal records, I noted that he's also constructed a treehouse out of repurposed materials for his grandkids (Dan and Joy Suttin have eight children and six grandchildren, which I'm sure has tremendous algebraic significance to those who, um, know more about math).
IMPORTANT NOTE: Dan Suttin is looking for a place to permanently house his sculpture! A school, library, lab, gallery, geodesic dome, mathematician's club, planetarium, museum, art spaceâ?¦know of a place? Get in touch with me, and I”ll get you in touch with Dan.
Or go check out Dan Suttin's website at http://www.homespun4homeschoolers.com for more info about him and what he's up to. There's an e-mail link at the site.
During his off-time, like Kimberly Aubuchon, Dan Suttin runs like the wind, and also participated in the Rock n' Roll half-marathon.
Whoa. It's almost like exercise is good for creativity, or something.
NOTE: Please forgive the unruly layout of the images, here--I'm no ace at our vexing Current blog program. I'll bet you can figure out who's who and what's what though. Aubuchon photos courtesy of Rick Frederick, Suttin photos courtesy of Dan Suttin.
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