Vesuvius Goes Pop

Dat Ass DoLast month I saw a fascinating exhibit about Pompeii at OMSI. The attraction was packed with artifacts on loan from Naples, including the famous plaster casts of people who died in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

I snagged some pics of the great ancient artwork on display, including the sexy athletic statue at the right. Talk about buns of bronze!

While subjects like Jupiter and Bacchus wouldn’t have been owned by a corporation, I think of them as the Mickey Mouses of their day: pop icons that decorated everything from wine jars to wall frescoes.

Odds ‘N’ Ends 6

Art Institute Chicago

DegasThe Art Institute has a wonderful Degas exhibit, which combines two subjects the artist explored extensively: horse races and ballet. Titled At the Track, On the Stage, we see action-oriented paintings of equestrian events and stage performances. There are also a couple odd-ball paintings, such as an imagined scene from Greek history, which the curators mean for us to contrast with the artist’s definitive work.

Another fascinating exhibit is Dionysos Unmaksed: Ancient Sculpture and Early Prints. Appropriately for a deity so much associated with contradictions, the sum of the work on display doesn’t so much define Dionysos as present his mysteries. Artists render him sometimes as a bearded adult, other times as a sloppy old glutton, still other times as an androgynous youth, and even other times as a playful infant. Each of these guises reveals something about the god of wine, theater and madness, and they reveal something about our own secret selves.

Dionysos Unmasked

horse with rider 2Although I’ve already written about the Charles Ray show, I want to mention that he also has a piece displayed outside for all to see. I didn’t know this piece existed until I stumbled upon it when I was out taking pictures for an upcoming art project. The Charles Ray show closes October 4, so see it soon if you get the chance!

charles ray ad

Interestingly, this piece had its own assigned security guard when I saw it. By default, the guard also had the job of explaining the sculpture to interested onlookers. There are no guards posted by any of the Art Institute’s other outdoor pieces, so I can only assume there are concerns about vandalism. As I explained in my first review, Ray is a divisive figure. I for one love his unflinching approach to nudity, but not everyone agrees with me. (In case you can’t tell, the outdoor piece depicts a clothed rider.)

Upcoming Art Show

Dean cutting mapsAs for the reason I was out taking pictures, I am collaging together recognizable Chicago structures with maps of Chicago. The photos serve as reference for drawings, and I turn the drawings into cut-outs.

I will be showing the final pieces at Natural Elements Salon, beginning with an opening on September 19. This is the show I mentioned ages ago, and it has been slowly gestating over the past 8 months. The date of the opening coincides with the salon’s 20th anniversary celebration.

Art on Ashland

map graphic 2I am also thrilled to announce that an art walk proposal I submitted to the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events has been accepted! They will help us promote the event as part of their specially-designated Chicago Artists Month.

Titled Art on Ashland, the art walk will take patrons up and down Ashland Ave between Chicago Ave and Milwaukee Ave. The neighborhood, East Village, includes ChiPRC. We will be showing artwork in our space along with other local businesses. I will also be one of the exhibiting artists.Chicago Artists Month vertical

Art on Ashland is different from our previous art shows in that it is a true collaboration between many minds. I look forward to working with and learning from the other participants.

I will have much more to say about this event in the months to come. For now, please mark November 7th on your calendar! Art on Ashland is one day only.

Framing Commission Update

Steadman piece on the wallFor my final update, I want to let you know that a poster I was recently commissioned to frame has found its home — and it looks great up on the wall!

If you have an idea for a commission, send me a request by writing to dean@deanjohnsonartstudio.com.

Updating “About”

Immaculate Conception framed

Firstly, I want to post a couple more pieces I have completed using the cut-out technique for the upcoming Art of the Solstice show.  At right is The Immaculate Conception.  The blue section is based on my original drawing; it is machine-cut from sky blue vinyl pasted on white cold press paper.  There is a slightly larger piece of star-patterned blue paper serving as a backing.  The text is laser-printed on the same white cold press paper.  It is the Douay-Rheims translation of The Apocalypse of St. John, 12:1-5.

I also completed Holy Family Revering, which you see below.  The darker shapes are again based on my original drawing.  For this image, I wanted to capture believable body language.  I combined multiple public domain reference photos with my own illustrative sensibility.  The drawing was then machine-cut out of a blue-brown mottled stationary and mounted on paper with old architectural designs.

Holy Family Revering framed

Holy Family detail

I should also mention that I’m making t-shirts for the show!  The company that makes my cutting machine also manufactures heat-transfer material, which can be cut out and adhered to fabric.

Immaculate Conception tshirt

About

To coincide with my new title at ChiPRC, I have streamlined my “About” page.  I want it to be a quick and comprehensible read for potential students as well as future workshop leaders.  My previous About page was a poetic description of my art process — definitely accurate information, but also a little esoteric.  The new text gets right to the point and should be understandable to anyone.

I don’t want the poetry to be completely absent from this blog, however, so here, for the archives, is all the text I removed from the About page:

I am a barefoot artist and born dreamer.  I work with the mythic forces of the inner realms and bring back communications from the depths.  I speak in the language of dream.

Greek theatre and Greek pottery — especially pre-Classical pieces from ancient Athens and Corinth — sing to me of the hidden side.  Picasso heard the tune.  His minotaurs and harlequins were avatars in the Dreaming.

My aesthetic is deeply informed by a childhood love of comic books.  Comic book illustrations resonate not only with Greek pottery decoration, but also with the formal characteristics of Synthetic Cubism, Constructivism and other fine art institutions.  I draw on all these visual idioms in my art.

Comic book tropes themselves are serious artistic statements, because they draw on a powerful wellspring of rituals and archetypes.  Take, for instance, the preponderance of superheroes who have suffered death only to come back to life.  Does this cliché not represent the same “death and rebirth” motif that is deeply rooted in the human psyche?

To the extent that comic book art has influenced my style, I have something in common with Pop artists.  However, I don’t pay much attention to popular culture, the major source of inspiration for Pop Art.  Instead, I look inwards for inspiration — to a realm of dreams that is informed by childhood fantasies but has also grown beyond it.  The artists who have most in common with my approach are Symbolists, those great dream-astronauts and art-shamans….

I use the humanoid figure to convey my ideas.  I am, however, curiously disinterested in depicting specific environments for these figures.  My subjects seem to float in or against a blank or ambiguous ground.  Likewise, they rarely wear garments that would connect them to a specific time or place.  There is something eternal and transpersonal in their non-specificity.  They can resonate with any viewer anywhere.  My pieces will connect with a viewer’s private dreams, because private dreams are also universal.