Six art educators fill Gleason Library with stimulating eclecticism
by Priscilla Stevens
Each year, the Art at the Gleason program at Gleason Public Library exhibits the work of students at both Carlisle Public School (CPS) and Concord Carlisle High School (CCHS). It is always obvious from these shows that we have talented students, inspired by the world around them and by teachers who expect a high standard of work. What we don’t get to see in these exhibits is the art those teachers themselves can produce when they are not being teachers. From now until December 29, you will be able to view an eclectic and stimulating mix of painting, felt media, photography and sculpture created by four CCHS teachers and two CPS teachers at the library, and get a good insight into the source of the talent that inspires our students. As always, the works are for sale to the public.
Four artists from the CCHS teaching staff
|“Daughter of the Bodega Owner, West Philadelphia”
Photograph by Adam Gooder.
CCHS Photography teacher Adam Gooder has photographs in the Gleason exhibit that he has created over the 12-year period that spans the beginning of the 21st century. Gooder is trained in film, but took his first black and white photography course in high school. He says he likes “the challenge of communicating purely with visuals—no dialogue, no soundtrack. I also like that photographs, especially those produced in a darkroom, are not only images but beautiful objects… I like photographs that are tactile, emotional and use interesting materials.” Gooder’s photographs in the Gleason exhibit display a range of textures, light and composition that create a sense of movement one moment and target a still object for immediate emotional response in another. He describes his method of photographing people as finding “an odd moment or quirky character…If I’m not willing to go up and talk to a person, I don’t take their photo. …The looseness and sense of play [are] evident in the photographs, which are quickly and intuitively composed.” You can see more of Gooder’s photographic art at www.gooderfilm.com.
Also from CCHS is Art Department Head John Lindner, who teaches ceramics and sculpture, and who is exhibiting ten decorative Raku pots at the library. These represent a spectrum of color and a pleasing, smooth roundness of shape that make this viewer want to take the pots into my hands and hold them (but I must resist). There is in one pot a blend of soft shades, on another a burst of bright contrasts. The Raku process that creates this alluring result, as Lindner describes it, creates “interesting glaze effects on pottery. Basically, a pot is lifted from the kiln when it is red hot and transferred to a container with flammable materials, where it undergoes a process called post-firing reduction. As the oxygen is consumed by the fire in the closed container, the clay turns black and the glazes take on a metallic look.” Lindner says that he loves “the process of putting my ideas into a piece and then subjecting it to the variables of the kiln. When the results are good, the pot can turn out to be better than I had originally imagined.”
Henry Cataldo, also a photography teacher at CCHS, explores two vastly different subjects in his Gleason exhibit: elephants and walls. Black and white photographs of
“#2 Elephant Forms Series”
Photograph by Henry Cataldo.
elephants reveal the sensual shapes of the elephants’ bodies, as well as their deliberate, graceful and stately method of movement. There is no question that these earthly giants have always been a source of fascination to us, but Cataldo’s interpretation of them seems to bring out both their magnificence and their vulnerability. He seems to be evoking the character of the elephant through this study as much as he is the shape and textures of its body. His “Ecuador Walls series” photographs, on the other hand, are in color and are a method of storytelling rather than the evocation of a deeper, more primal study of the elephant. Walls, as he interprets them in his photographs, illustrate a stiff, structural blank slate on which human beings express themselves. They might vandalize them with graffiti, post political opinions or announcements on them, or advertise cultural or educational events. In addition, the walls might be somehow affected by climate or other natural events, eroding their paint, rotting timbers or rusting metal. The intense focus on the walls demands of the viewer the creation of a plot: what happened here? Who or what caused the change in the “slate?” And accordingly, the wall becomes a story. Cataldo, who trained at Yale University and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and also teaches at the latter, has a website on which you can view more of his work: www.hencat.com.
Joseph Pickman’s vivid paintings nearly jump off the walls of the library and create compelling patterns of color and line. He describes his art as having “moved through the centuries of sacred geometries into self-organizing visual systems depicting petrified structures of ideas, or parts of ideas.” There is an apparently deliberate two-dimensional quality about them that initially makes them seem decorative, but that also draws the viewer almost imperceptibly into puzzle-solving; each shape and pattern creates another, and that, another, until what initially seemed two-dimensional seems nearly endlessly intricate. Pickman says he “has been teaching visual arts for over 20 years. For the last 12 years, he has been teaching…painting, drawing and architecture at Concord-Carlisle High School.” Pickman’s website, www.JosephPickman.com, allows the viewer to explore more of the architectural and geometric qualities of his work, as well as more abstract and freer-style drawings that also suggest “petrified structures of ideas or parts of ideas.”
Two teachers from CPS exhibit their work
|All photos of artwork
by Ellen Huber
Courtney Longaker is a middle school art teacher at CPS. She describes herself as “inspired by nature and the relationship between man and nature. ... Art has given me multiple points of view about things I look at and experiences I have had.” She also says that several different media, favorites being charcoal, pastels, and acrylic paint, are particularly appropriate to the expression of a mood that conjures up this relationship. Longaker’s work in the Gleason exhibit creates a variety of moods that call to mind the relationship between man and nature; there is an instinctive feel to it that asks the viewer to relate what is on the canvas to some experience of his own. Longaker’s demonstration of this quality in her own work serves as a guidepost for viewers and students alike. “Art,” she says, “is a tool for my students to better understand and express themselves with confidence and to better relate to the world around them.”
| “Cracked Copper Pot”
Raku by John Lindner.
| Detail of “One Thousand Names”
by Joseph Pickman.
Finally, the work of Rachel Levy, elementary art teacher at CPS, provides a whimsical and yet intensely emotional complement to the works of the other five artists. Working in watercolor and gouache, Levy says “allows me to combine subtle transparencies and dark, rich opacities with delicate patterns.” It is just this sort of contrast, combined with Levy’s “inspiration stemming from vintage comics and illustrations,” that creates a fascinating combination of light (comic) and dark (dramatic, even tragic), not only images but also ideas and concepts. This construction is consistent with the fanciful felt art displayed on Levy’s blog, http://rachelsfelt.wordpress.com, where, as she says, “crafty” work (in the sense of felt craft) that has a childlike quirkiness is combined with the suggestion of deep and darker emotion, which “draws the viewer into the many complex and subtle layers I attempt with each painting.”
All of the artists in the new exhibit attempt, in their work, to ask the viewer to explore the ways in which visual art can elucidate concepts, emotions, specific ideas and instincts. This is what they do in the classroom when they ask their students to experiment with different media. Looseness and play, results better than originally imagined, storytelling, petrified ideas or parts of ideas, relationships between man and nature, complex and subtle layering let the students now see what the masters can do when they make art from their own philosophies. ∆
|“Snow Squall, Commonwealth Ave, Boston” painting by Courtney Longaker|
“A Gathering of Acquaintances” mixed media by Rachel Levy