Drawings and Collages
It goes without saying that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a tragedy of epic proportions and has affected us all to a greater or lesser extent. With the shelter-in-place order for the state of California, we were forced to shut down our college facility and the Haldan Art Gallery. Instead of staging our normal face-to-face exhibitions we have created a series of virtual exhibitions for our visitors to enjoy. There is, of course, no substitute for viewing art first-hand in an actual space but it is precisely because of the current situation that we have been able to introduce this particular exhibition.
Due to the prohibitive cost of shipping, it would normally have been out of the question to stage an exhibition of two artists who live in Brooklyn, NY. The pandemic, however, opened that window of opportunity for us to invite two working artists who live and work in the New York Metropolitan Area (now sheltering in Columbia County north of New York) to exhibit some recent works in our virtual Haldan Art Gallery.
This exhibition is particularly special to me because I have known these two artists for over 40 years. We all moved to New York City as young artists at about the same time. Joanne and I moved to New York right out of undergraduate school at SUNY Potsdam in upstate NY and Leonard (aka Lenny) moved to the city from Minneapolis, MN (originally from Evansville, IN). While I did not remain in NYC, my two friends who also happen to be husband and wife, stayed in New York and built a life for themselves. To remain a working artist in New York, without inherited financial assistance, is no easy feat. They, like many artists, moved to Brooklyn in order to find larger and less expensive live/workspaces. Through hard work and determination, they bought their first building in Fort Green, Brooklyn. Since that time, they have bought and fixed up two successive buildings in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn. They also raised two sons, Marshall and Austin, who are now 27 and 24 respectively. And throughout it all they have remained working artists.
Both artists have typically worked in the medium of sculpture until relatively recently. This current work, much smaller in scale compared to earlier works, is composed of drawings and collages. We hope you will enjoy this exhibition and join us on Thursday, January 21, 6pm Pacific Time, for a synchronous Zoom artist’s talk with these two, very interesting artists.
New York-based artist, Joanne Brockley, has exhibited her work in many New York galleries and museums including the Brooklyn Museum, The Drawing Center, and PS1. She has received artist grants from the Pollack-Krasner Foundation and the NY State Foundation for the Arts and been a guest artist at the Yaddo Artist Residency.
The title for this exhibition: Superimposed: Drawings and Collages, refers to my eclectic use of artistic techniques and materials in combination with found photographic and illustrative images from the world around us, both visible and imagined.
My artwork has always involved combinations of seemingly disparate parts melded together to create a new experience. When I first moved to New York City in the early 1980s I had a studio at Westbeth Artists’ Housing in the West Village and took classes at Empire State college. While living in a series of sublets and walking the streets of New York I became infatuated with materials left out on the streets. Each living space I occupied contained visible evidence of a life lived in the layers of paint and wallpaper left behind. These discarded materials became my palette which I cut and combined into sculptural, often anthropomorphic, structures. Later, when I moved to Brooklyn, I created a series of larger, site-specific sculptural installations using a combination of construction materials and industrial refuse that I constantly saw around me. During this time, I created drawings that informed and sometimes documented my sculptural works. I became progressively more interested in the immediacy and freedom to invent imaginary spaces for which two-dimensional collage and mixed media allowed. Despite the shift in the working medium, my interests remained the same; combing photographs of Brooklyn’s industrial landscape with images of nature and decay continued to fascinate me.
Since my move to the Hudson River Valley just a few years ago my two-dimensional work has continued to respond to the images that surround me both real and imaginary. The pristine beauty of the woods and mountain views contrasted with the insidious and destructive forces of man on nature continue to provide fodder for my artistic investigations. This dichotomy manifests itself into collages that are windows to an invisible and chaotic world. The visual result at times appear as surrealistic landscapes while others offer glimpses of an underground imaginary world.
The following is a list of words that conjure thoughts and associations with my working process:
Microbiology, viruses, cells, veins, circulation systems, rivers, maps, charts, nests, bubbles, crystals, lava, rocks, space, roots, oceans, informative illustrations, disruption, invasive species, The World without us!
Several years ago, I read a book by Alan Weisman titled, “The World Without Us”. This book is a scientific discussion about our earth today if humans simply disappeared. It discussed the ways our structures would slowly decay and how nature would reclaim our earth. Although somewhat unconscious of this at the time, the book stuck with me conceptually. Our collective human footprint will be here for many years to come, even without us.
Born in Evansville, IN in 1951, Leonard Titzer received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Washington University. After moving to NYC in 1982, Titzer exhibited his artwork in several galleries including 55 Mercer St. Gallery, A.C. Project Room, and The Drawing Center. He also did performances in conjunction with his sculptures at such places as the New Museum and the Jack Tilton Gallery.
“A little off the trail there was a cave. From the darkness came a noise. Across the clearing the sound pushed at the boy’s chest. As he approached the opening he could see where the light ended inside the cave. So, he knew the distance of the light but not how far the darkness went.
Just as he stepped into the dim the loud sucking noise pulled the boy further into the blackness.
Moral A: A loud voice can be effectively heard at a distance.
Moral B: He got a good look at what ate him.”
That quote, something I wrote when I was 32 years old living in Minniapolis MN, was my way of describing the call to be an artist. 35 years hence, it still speaks to me.
I suffered a stroke in the form of a major brain bleed on Aug 15, 2019. Luckily, I was able to get medical attention relatively quickly and it most likely saved my life. I was almost totally incapacitated for two months, but with the help of lots of TLC and physical therapy I have regained the majority of my faculties. Just as I was recovering from that life-threatening incident, along came Covid-19. Now I had two good reasons to quarantine.
In this period of isolation and healing, I developed an unspoken fear that I had lost my ability to draw. Drawing has always been at the heart of my artistic process and something that I hold most dear. To test whether or not the stroke had affected me I decided to start with self-portraits. I have always enjoyed drawing life-size figures, and my face, of course, is always available. To say my first drawings were shaky is an understatement. I continued to draw portraits of family and friends and, eventually, this process of rendering faces became part of my long, strange trip to recovery.
Around this same time, one of my favorite artist friends sent me a package. It included some weird, plastic, quasi-transparent drawing paper. After I got over my paper prejudices, I found that the transparency of the “Yupo” paper allowed me to superimpose one drawing over another thus creating a third, uncontrived image. The top layer tends to be a more realistic pencil drawing of parts of the face while the bottom layer is created in the spirit of the blind-contour using bold, black, marker pens. A blind-contour drawing is one that is drawn without looking at the paper and keeping your eyes solely on the subject that you are drawing. It is this combination of the two drawings that most interests me. Over 100 drawings later I had a small body of work that has helped me get back into real life. The end products are not intended to be flattering portraits but rather mysterious facial landscapes.