Voices of the Delta: Dusty Mitchell

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 60, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta


Dusty Mitchell, Pressure, 2017, digital scales, 1 x 192 x 120 inches

I make work out of ordinary things that have been manufactured to perform specific functions in our society. People have a relationship with the materials I use prior to seeing my work, therefore they immediately identify with the materials when they do. My intention is to manipulate this pre-existing relationship by presenting familiar objects and images in unfamiliar ways.  I prompt viewers to reconsider the role of the objects I use by extracting the conceptual value out of the ordinary. The work is accessible. You are allowed in. You are invited in. It’s not intended to keep you at a safe distance or impress you with some undefined mysterious vagueness. It’s intended to be accepted (or not) for what it is. I’ve been accused of being “clever”, and the work has been labeled as “novelty” at times, which I have no quarrel with. However you choose to label it, count me in. Mark me down for a thumbs up. This is the way I think and the language I speak. I see the work as smart, relevant, right on time, and appropriately sarcastic for our current cultural climate. You may not see it that way.

IMPORTANT TO ME: Ideas, Materials, Craftsmanship, Presentation, Relevance, Relatability, Impact

NOT IMPORTANT TO ME:  Whether or not “you could have made it,” Pretending I know things you don’t, Impressing people with my (non-existent) natural ability to draw or paint, Buyability (made-up word)

The work is excessively deliberate. I don’t have OCD, but I do think about art in a mathematical way. My ideas are strategic, not spontaneous. I am not a person that has whimsical, fleeting inspirations for beautiful artworks that contain evidence of a master painter’s individual touch. My individual touch is that of a robotic arm. I have pre-programmed every idea and have carefully considered the ramifications of every decision made throughout the process of creating the work. It’s quite possible that some of the meat on my artwork’s bone has been sacrificed during the cooking process, but you can be sure that the recipe has been followed exactly. And that taste you are tasting now as you view it? That’s exactly how I wanted it to taste.

–Dusty Mitchell

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Arkansas Arts Center presents the jewelry of Robert Baines

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Exhibitions, Museum

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The exquisite and beguiling creations of Australian National Living Treasure Robert Baines will be on view at the Arkansas Arts Center July 20 through October 7, 2018. Robert Baines: Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies celebrates the dazzling and witty work of the master goldsmith, craftsman and scholar.

A leading scholar in the field of archaeometallurgy, Baines has studied and revived Bronze Age goldsmith techniques in service of international jewelry scholarship. His study of the ancient techniques also has informed his artistic practice for more than 40 years. In Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies, Baines assembles a fictitious jewelry narrative, captivating not only in the creativity and craftsmanship evident in the works, but also in the artist’s fascination with the enigma of jewelry as material evidence of authentic history.

Baines’ jewelry references the design vocabulary of historic European metalworking techniques in a completely distinct aesthetic. By using ancient techniques in playful new ways, Baines challenges the mythology present in contemporary culture. By combining precious metals and contemporary materials, he pushes the boundaries of what wearable art can be.

Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies features 76 works organized into three narrative arcs – ArmbanditsCollecting, and The Official History of the Compact Disc – each presenting jewelry as material evidence. The jewelry, however, should be viewed with caution – the artist’s linear “histories” are rife with myth, riddle, puzzle and possible subversions of their origin. In Armbandits, Baines explores how an 11th century Islamic armlet in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art may have been “misunderstood, misinterpreted and become a fantasy of influence of further design,” ranging from armbands, bracelets, and finger rings to a hair clip and buttons. He even posits that the design of the popular Australian VoVo® marshmallow biscuit is “a result of a series of misinterpretations” of the armlet.

In Collecting, Baines curates “the smallest collection of large jewelry in the world.” Assembled both for the significance of their scale – large and small – the works are fabricated in complex detail and contain multiple, intricate components. In The Official History of the Compact Disc, Baines argues how the “B.C. and the A.D. of the C.D. is a fractured historical narrative of the evolution of the now common compact disc (CD)” as seen through “its repetitive manifestations in a linear jewelry history.” The section contains a variety of disc-shaped brooches, including an early and very complex Etruscan gold disc said to be from the fifth century B.C. and concludes with the most technically complex work, Brooch, Meaner Than Yellow. Between them is a variety of brooches featuring a menagerie of animals, including felines, giraffes, and rabbits.

One of the most prominent contemporary goldsmiths in the world, Baines is the recipient of numerous international awards, including the Bayerischer State Prize (2005) and Friedrich Becker Prize (2008) in Germany; and the Cicely and Colin Rigg Craft Award (1997), the richest craft prize in Australia. He holds a Ph.D. from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), where he is a professor of gold and silversmithing. In 2010, he was designated a Living Treasure: Master of Australian Craft. Baines’s astonishingly detailed metalwork, which reflects his studies in archaeometallurgy, embodies ancient techniques such as linear wirework and granulation but with the scale, grandeur, and irony of current practice. His jewelry is contained in countless international museum collections, including: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Powerhouse Museum, Sidney; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Schmuckmuseum, Pforzheim, Germany; Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg; and Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; among others.

Robert Baines: Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies is organized by Gallery Loupe for Contemporary Art Jewelry, Montclair, New Jersey, in collaboration with the Arkansas Arts Center. Its American tour is generously supported by the Australian government through the Australia Council for the Arts. Its presentation in Arkansas is supported by: Marion W. Fulk; Alan DuBois Contemporary Craft Fund; and Ginanne Graves Long.

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Meet the Speaker: Leonard Choo

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Art of Fashion, Events, Meet the Speaker

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Leonard Choo

Art of Fashion: Leonard Choo
An Exquisite Pursuit: Shopping and Design in Ballet Costuming
5:30 p.m. Wine Reception | 6 p.m. Lecture

Barbara Streisand once sang, “Everything is beautiful at the ballet”…and it has to be. The quest for beauty in ballet extends beyond the sweeping grace of its dancers – to the complex, fascinating, and often intricately specialized costumes that contribute to the wonder of its mise-en-scène. How do these dimensional garments begin their lives? What are the various components, and how do they make their way to the stage?Leonard Choo, principal Shopper for the New York City Ballet, will discuss all this and more in his upcoming Art of Fashion lecture. We caught up with Leonard before his visit to learn a little more his work.

What is your current role at the New York City Ballet?

I am the principal Shopper for the costume department of the New York City Ballet. I am responsible for swatching, sourcing, and purchasing all the fabric, trims, stones, accessories, and even tools that go into the making or refurbishment of the costumes that go on stage at NYCB.

How did you first become interested in fashion?

I have always been somewhat interested clothing, but really developed a keenness for fashion when I was pursuing my MFA in costume design. I particularly love the craft and art of clothing construction, and of couture…it reminds me of a childhood obsession with origami, actually. Well-made and thought out clothing design is so exciting to me that I am that person who will watch shows purely for the joy of watching the costumes’ design and details.

How does art influence your work?

Art influences my work is such a multitude of ways that to be honest, so it’s quite difficult to pinpoint one primary motivation! Aesthetically, I often turn to art for color and mood (such as the impressionists and Henri Rousseau), for line, movement and figure (renaissance sculpture and Rodin), and for general love and celebration of intricate detail (16th-18th century European portraiture). I also find it very useful to observe how artists visually addressed social/political/economic contexts and messages in their art – particularly useful when creating designs that can effectively respond to the context of a performance. It is a nebulous, constantly evolving pool of inspiration.

How does fabric shopping or designing for the stage differ from shopping or designing for the runway?

Designing, shopping, and building clothing for the stage and performance is such a wildly different job from designing for the runway — it is something I feel quite passionately about. Our process must take into account an entire context (character, plot, movement, space, time, mise-en-scène), exist within it, and work semiotically and pragmatically with the requirements of actual performance. For the the stage, I prioritize scale, repetition, contrast, and movement — especially the way a fabric hangs or relates to a body. It is all often bigger, more heightened, or more prominent than on the runway.

Do you have a favorite look that’s appeared on stage at the New York City Ballet?

I wish I could pick just one, but in fact I have several because they are all wonderful in their separate ways.

Most recently, for a group of 1940’s style dresses for a Something to Dance About designed by Toni-Leslie James, I worked with a French textile company to create a selection of flocked nets from scratch – watching fabric you have helped create come to life on stage is thrilling.

I also really love watching rebuilds on stage because the process of remaking these costumes is always such an exercise in balancing creativity and fidelity. For example, the fabrics for the ladies in Serenade and the snowflake corps in The Nutcracker are all new, specially developed fabrics that bring life back to Karinska’s iconic designs.

Lastly, I would say one of the most wonderful costumes I’ve seen move about on stage was our rebuild of Carabosse, the evil fairy in Patricia Zipprodt’s design for The Sleeping Beauty. It was an incredibly elaborate costume that required weeks of work, and when it finally hit the stage and the light, it came to breathtaking life and truly embodied and extended the dancer and character.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I try and find inspiration in the visual or aesthetic context of the work I’m doing. It might be furniture and décor from certain period, clothing from a certain place, or paintings by a certain person.

I also tend to find a lot of great visual inspiration in nature… in colors, or shapes, or even moods. For a recent dance design that featured dock workers, for example, I drew the color palette from algae and lichen growths on the underside of docks.

Do you have any advice for aspiring young costume designers?

Analytically see and experience as much design as you can, to learn from great artists and designers. A curatorial eye is extremely beneficial to learning what works and what does not, and why. I really believe that learning the form and craft provides a strong foundation for meaningful, innovative, exciting design.

Tickets for Art of Fashion are available at arkansasartscenter.org/tickets.

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60th Annual Delta Exhibition awards announced

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 60, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum

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Lisa Krannichfeld, New Skin, 2018, Chinese ink, watercolor, acrylic, paper collage, and toned cyanotype on paper mounted on board covered with resin, 36 x 36 x 2 inches

The Arkansas Arts Center announces the award-winning works of the 60th Annual Delta Exhibition, on view May 25 through August 26, 2018.

A panel of guest jurors, Bradbury Art Museum director Les Christensen, conceptual artist Shea Hembrey, and Baum Gallery director Brian K. Young, selected 52 works by 46 artists to be featured out of 1,424 entries by 618 artists. From the selected works, the jurors named a Grand Award winner, two Delta Award winners and three Honorable Mentions. A Contemporaries Award winner was selected by the Contemporaries, an auxiliary membership group of the Arkansas Arts Center.

Louis Watts, Carbon Alphabets (The Ship Minerva Series), 2015–2018, graphite on paper, 60 x 42 1/2 inches

Grand Award – $2,500 prize

Lisa Krannichfeld of Little Rock, Ark., for New Skin

Delta Awards – $750 prize

Anais Dasse of Little Rock, Ark., for Sticks and Stones

Louis Watts of Burlington, N.C., for Carbon Alphabets (The Ship Minerva Series)

Honorable Mentions

Aaron Calvert of Arkadelphia, Ark., for Always Facing South Bear

Tim Hursley of Little Rock, Ark., for Pine Bluff Mortuary

James Matthews of Little Rock, Ark., for Eviction Quilt #3 (Green Medallion)

Contemporaries Award – $250 prize

Ray Allen Parker of Fayetteville, Ark., for Post Punk

Showcasing artists living and working in Arkansas and its border states, the Annual Delta Exhibition presents a vision of contemporary art in the American South. Founded in 1958, the exhibition provides a unique snapshot of the Delta region and features work in all media. The Delta Exhibition reflects the region’s strong traditions of craftsmanship and observation, combined with an innovative use of materials and an experimental approach to subject matter.

“We selected work with faux fur, coffee, cold wax, ziatype, video, yucca, fluorescent tubing, resin, found objects, copper point, and of course the traditional materials,” Young said. “Despite this seemingly endless list of media, there is a thoughtfulness and subtlety in nearly all of the works. These traits come in the manner in which these Delta artists have captured the essence of the region. People, place and nature remain strong unifiers.”

Anais Dasse, Sticks and Stones, 2017, oil, ink, charcoal, pencil on gessoed paper, 48 x 80 inches

The 60th Annual Delta Exhibition is sponsored by Isabel and John Ed Anthony; The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston; Mrs. Lisenne Rockefeller; Terri and Chuck Erwin; Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP; the AAC Contemporaries; East Harding Construction; and Barbara House. The Grand Award is supported by The John William Linn Endowment Fund. The exhibition is supported by the Andre Simon Memorial Trust in memory of everyone who has died of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

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Voices of the Delta: Les Christensen, Brian Young and Shea Hembrey

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 60, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

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Jurors of the 60th Annual Delta Exhibition Les Christensen, Brian Young and Shea Hembrey

The Delta Exhibition has long been a southern standard.  Now in its 60th year, it continues its lasting tradition of a much-anticipated annual event for artists and art appreciators alike.  The quantity, 1424 works by 618 artists, and diversity submitted speaks to the dynamic state of contemporary art in the Mississippi Delta. Of note was the surprisingly large number of figurative works entered in both two and three dimensions.

It has been an honor to be a part of the selection committee. My colleagues, Shea Hembrey and Brian Young, were tremendous throughout the entire process. With so many quality submissions, narrowing them down was an arduous task surpassed only by the difficulty of the awards selection. I thank everyone at the Arkansas Arts Center for making this such a pleasurable experience. I also offer my sincere appreciation to all of the artists in the region. They make our lives richer, more vibrant and remind us of how powerful the arts can be.

– Les Christensen

Most remarkable in the juror process, for me, is what you are not seeing here: the large pool of all submitted works that together evoked an overwhelming presence of nature. Markedly green and brimmingly alive, our region’s landscape exerts itself both subtly and overtly into the works created with a palpable, deep understanding of the seasons and cycles of life. It is not nature pristine, wild, and idyllic portrayed, but instead, our familiar, yet still-mysterious backyards, woods, and fields. Here we encounter the extremes of fanged wolves and snakes opposite works of docile, cute, rotund bears. These images present a full range of human nature through still, deliberating faces staring back to battling, wee heroines in Darger-esque epic struggles. Ponder these artworks – offered up like opalescent flowers for your consideration. What do they say about us, our region, our values, our future?

– Shea Hembrey

I have known the Delta exhibition from the time when I first began my tenure as a curator at the Arkansas Arts Center in 1997. When I began jurying this 2018 Delta, I was anxious to see if the internet’s influence would somehow strip away some of the Southerness of the Delta submissions. In other words, with artists able to so readily view material from their colleagues in other regions, would the whole of contemporary art grow more and more homogeneous? For me, the answer became unexpectedly “no.” Certainly, we are seeing a rising sophistication in the handling of materials. We selected work with faux fur, coffee, cold wax, ziatype, video, yucca, fluorescent tubing, resin, found objects, copper point, and of course the traditional materials. Despite this seemingly endless list of media, there is a thoughtfulness and subtlety in nearly all of the works. These traits come in the manner in which these Delta artists have captured the essence of the region. People, place and nature remain strong unifiers. My colleagues Shea Hembrey and Les Christensen have thoughtfully recalled how this plays out in the group of works that the three of us, collectively, have chosen to reveal as a cross-section of the best that the Delta offers to its audience.

– Brian Young

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Voices of the Delta: Jason McCann

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 60, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

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Jason McCann, The American Student: Montre with Two Lamps, 2018, watercolor and pastel on paper, 66 x 42 inches

For the last 17 years I’ve spent nearly every day teaching art classes to teenagers either at Little Rock Central High School or at Arkansas Governor’s School. Dual careers as artist and art teacher at times can be very similar and at other times seem completely unrelated. Over the last few years, however, I’ve begun to have a better understanding of how these two sides of my life are connected. My interactions and experiences with these students have had a huge impact on the things I do in my artwork. As I remind them about compositional balance or the correct way to handle color and value to create emphasis, I’m reminded to do it in my own work. As I teach them the importance of the concept or the story they wish to tell in their work, it makes me think about what I’m communicating in my paintings and drawings. In short, these students are as much an influence on me as I am on them.

Recently, there has been a great deal of debate over how our children should be educated with traditional public schools coming under fire. In some cases, school systems have folded due to funding being distributed to charter systems or tax waivers for private schools. The only way I’ve found to deal with my frustration with this situation is to focus on what I can directly affect: the students I see on a daily basis.  I simply work with the kids assigned to my classes and give to them as much as I can. These drawings and paintings are intended to remind us who these kids are in a way that is not idealized or over dramatized. Meanwhile, the technique of mixing wet and dry media creates a surface that is somewhat chaotic, unpredictable, and perhaps out of control which serves as visual representation of the political and social upheaval surrounding the institutions they attend. These students, who are black, white, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight, special needs and gifted, are the ones who are most deeply affected by these debates and legislative decisions. I’ve shown them in an ordinary classroom during what is a regular day. In this setting and in these images, their standardized test scores or where their families fall on the median income line are forgotten; they are just kids in class that deserve to have their educational needs fulfilled, no matter their zip-code.

– Jason McCann

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