Monday, August 11, 2008

Everything that you think is you.

This simple statement can be found in Dan Attoe’s “Accretion Drawing XVIII,” which is in the exhibit of his work as part of the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards show at the Portland Art Museum.

I drove up to Portland today to see the CNAA exhibit and to check out a few galleries I’ll confess right up front that I wasn’t expecting much from this show, or from the galleries. I figured I’d be seeing landscape paintings, or paintings of buildings, or something equally uninteresting. Yes, I know, uninteresting to me, and not all Portland artists do landscapes.

Hell, I do landscapes, of sorts. In a way, it is almost impossible not to be inspired by Nature up here in the Northwest. The vistas are stunning, the sunsets delightful, and even the cloud formations beckon. The challenge, it seems to me, is to bring a different perspective, to find metaphors or create narratives in that arena. To my way of thinking, it is not enough to photograph or paint a scene in nature, for your shot or rendering will fall short of capturing the pre-existing beauty of what you are replicating. I feel the same way about people who do photographic studies of architectural elements: the building’s designer and builders did it first. At best, one is paying homage.

Five artists made the final cut for this exhibit: Dan Attoe, Cat Clifford, Jeffry Mitchell, Whiting Tennis and Marie Watt. The stated purpose of this show is to showcase emerging talent that has yet to garner a wider audience outside of the Northwest. The one determined to be the best in show receives a hefty stipend. The only one whose work I had seen before was Mitchell. He shows locally. Of the group, Attoe and Clifford engaged me the most, and one might say that they are both artists whom create their work via a relationship with Nature.

Me, You and the big old stupid world
"Me, You and the big old stupid world" Dan Attoe

Accretion Drawing XVIII
"Accretion Drawing XVIII" Dan Attoe

Dan Attoe grew up in Washington State. His father was a Forest Ranger and his life as a child living in the woods is a subject matter for his small paintings and drawings. Yet so are bars and strip clubs, for they are just as much part of the fabric of his inspirations.

Rock Springs, Dance
"Rock Springs, Dance" Cat Clifford

Two Chairs
"Two Chairs" Cat Clifford

While Attoes work is peopled with character studies, Cat Clifford is a solitary artist, alone in the snow, running with the tumbleweeds or exploring abandoned ranch houses. Attoe’s work is text-heavy; Clifford, while using some text, is listening to the sound of her footsteps on an old wooden porch or the winter wind through bare branches.

What makes their art speak to me is that both Attoe and Clifford are discovering something about themselves as they develop a sense of place in relation to the worlds they frequent, and they make it easy for someone else to come along. I would encourage my readers to google these two artists for a look at their work and to read other writers who can do them much more justice than I.

And go here for images from the other artists as well.

1 comment:

PAPro_SandMan said...

We understand two different worlds, my friend. I'll be completely honest in saying the work of these artists seems overly vague and ethereal to me. My mind and heart works more in gears and steam...