When artist Amanda Burnham first moved to Baltimore, Maryland, she didn’t know anyone. So, she spent a lot of time in her 7th floor apartment that had interesting views of the city. The time spent observing and recording her surroundings later informed her temporary, site-specific installations that are a patchwork representation of Baltimore. Burnham draws and paints street signs, fire hydrants, architecture, and store fronts, piecing them together in a manner that’s fractured yet cohesive. Taking elements of a neighborhood (or neighborhoods), she fashions her own view of the city, creating work large enough for a viewer to walk around and between. In an interview with Dwanye Butcher of Visual Baltimore, Burnham explains why she chooses to work this way (and why she reuses paper and boxes):
The idea of things being layered and pieced together is important to me. I see this city, and really all cities, as these giant ad-hoc organisms – collectively authored, chop-a-bloc, joints exposed – an ongoing melange of edits, adjustments, negotiations. I hope to suggest that with the deliberately collage-y, visually dense, maximalist aesthetic of my drawings. I also love paper and what it does when treated as an object – the shadows it casts, the way tears and cuts are line. Most of the paper I use is really cheap stuff – low grade drawing paper that comes in rolls, kraft paper, packing materials. Boxes. That’s important because I’m not rich, but also because I see it as conceptually significant – resourcefulness is an ethic I sometimes see evidenced in the forms of the city, and it’s one I really respond to.
Burnham not only takes the outdoors indoors, but creates a whole new environment in a matter of a few days to a week. Lighting, astro turf, and electrical tape craft an ambience that’s unique to the city.
Gaia (Brooklyn and Baltimore) pastes huge lino cut prints of animals and other naturally infused imagery onto walls. Massive in scale but not overly so, the works cause us to question our role in nature and our connection to animals. Gaia’s also referencing a lot of renaissance art lately, and the newer works bring a really calming element to the locations in which they’re installed. The artist recently took a degree from MICA — maybe production will be amped up now that the artist has more freetime?
Diggin’ Heads, an aptly titled series from Baltimore-based artist Aaron Dunn. From the artist:
Heads is a series of carved paint pour(traits). It’s my likening of artists to Doctor Frankensteins, and a contemplation of what we might owe our work if it lived and breathed. Heads began as a parody of macho chest-thumpers like Pollock and Koons, but grew into a joyful exploration/recontextualization of the possibilities of ‘traditional’ painting media: this includes the physical incorporation of paintbrush bristles/handles and other hardware into the work, as well as poured, dissected and dripping paint in all kinds of messy 3D applications.
Really creative process and it seems to be working out well too- the works are definitely bee’s knees material. See more after the jump, including Dunn’s take on Homer Simpson.
Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez, of Baltimore, produces sculpture, collage (see above), and illustration. But the majority of his fine arts output is done through digital media. His digital compositions aren’t really like any I’ve seen before. They combine a far out, cosmic sensibility with soft, colorful gradients and textures. I could meditate on these for a while. Some of Alvarez’ works are so simple, yet they maintain a lot of gravity, as though they hold something really important just beyond your grasp. And the creepy smiley faces he repeats throughout his work really get to me. Click past the jump for more collage, couches floating in space, and a workbench installation.
Until recently I was unfamiliar with the artist Alex Ebstein, but I am glad to have rectified my lack of awareness. There is an honesty to Ebstein’s work that I find readily engaging. The use of yarn or string in an artist’s practice can often shift the aesthetic towards a decidedly crafty end result, but Ebstein manages to use the material with such purpose that it might as well be a drawn line in an architectural blue print. The effectiveness of the work hinges on her ability to merge direct compositional tactics with a more playful approach to the selected materials. Ebstein’s use of string also elevates the intentionality of her mark marking, and then quickly reasserts itself as a method of creating illusory depth in what would otherwise be relatively flat pieces. Taught angular moments combined with purposefully relaxed textures start a visual conversation that I am more than happy to participate in.
I could have just included the ‘eye chart’ pieces because I found them extremely aesthetically pleasing, but the back-story provides a bit of insight that I think most would enjoy. Think of it as a ‘Director’s Commentary’ for the work. Courtesy of Miss Ebstein, “…then for the eye chart pieces. They are more of a weird reflection on (and obsession with) eyesight and my existing eye problems that force me to visit the doctor every month. I’ve had four eye surgeries in three years… I am always nervously checking my vision against things, one eye at a time, so these drawings were kind of my own dark humored joke about being an artist and constantly worrying about my vision.” I am of the belief that ‘going blind’ is one of (if not) the most terrifying things any artist could imagine, and I appreciate the candor with which she addresses what could be an immobilizing reality to those with a more pessimistic outlook on life. Ebstein will be starting grad school this fall, and I am eager to see how this focused environment will affect her work. I also encourage anyone interested in contemporary art to check out the consistently interesting programming at Nudashank – a gallery she co-runs with Seth Adelsberger in the Baltimore area.
Cam Floyd has a talent for producing dream-like images. He covers the canvas with detail, color, and washed out textures. Southern born and raised, Floyd attended the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. He now relocated to LA where he works as a studio assistant to prestigious illustrator James Jean.
Jen Mussari is a Pennsylvania native fine artist, illustrator, typographer, and maker of DIY handmade art. She is now at MICA in Baltimore working on her BFA. Check out her new series of hand printed poster series called Very Important Posters, which are a combination of hand-drawn typography and minimal illustration to communicate varied messages. These messages range from critical to welcoming, comical to concerned. You can collect all eight on her ETSY store!
Since I started Beautiful/Decay while attending the Maryland Institute College Of Art I have a soft spot for artists working in Baltimore. There’s something about living Baltimore (see “The Wire” for more on that) that changes you and your artwork forever. Baltimore is a giant pot of crazy that just seeps into your work and wont let go. Keep up the good work Suzanna and make us Alums proud!
Check out Suzanna’s Flickr account here and her portfolio over here.