The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 16, 2009


At the Gleason Library: building abstraction on solid structure

Most people have a love or hate relationship with modern art. Artist Joseph Pickman demonstrates the ability to meet both audiences with his show entitled “20th and 21st Century Works” currently at the Gleason Library through the end of February. Many of his

Joseph Pickman appears in front of his painting entitled “When the Soul Lies Down,” inspired by the poem written by Jelaluddin Rumi, the 13th-century mystic poet. (Photo by Anne Marie Brako)

works are based on underlying geometric foundation and even actual interpretive drawings of landscapes. Pickman has organized the show into eight series of works, each made up of several paintings created using the same materials and sharing a similar approach, thereby showing the artist’s affinity for lending order to chaos.

“I wanted to play with the notion of time and bring attention to this space between the two centuries,” says Pickman about the title of the exhibit which really spans less than 20 years rather than the implied two centuries. Some of the works exhibited were created in the 1990s, but most in the current decade.

Pickman has participated in local group shows at the Emerson Umbrella and the Concord Art Association. Although he has created a large amount of work, this marks the artist’s first solo show. He notes he almost titled the show “a pre-career retrospective!” Having a sense of humor comes in handy for Pickman as he works with teenage students during the day as a member of the Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) Art Department. He has been at the high school for eight years, where he primarily teaches “2-D” art courses including painting and drawing, as well as an architecture course.

Discovering art in college

Pickman grew up in New Haven where he appreciated abstract art at museums and studios, but not as a student. He attended the University of Vermont as an undergraduate, where he initially worked on a philosophy degree. Then he took an art course, which altered his direction to a degree in studio art. After graduation, he continued creating pieces while employed at a frame shop, before deciding to pursue a graduate degree in art education in a joint program run by Tufts University and the Museum of Fine Arts. He taught at Holliston High School for five years. Just as he was applying for a job at CCHS, he won the art prize for drawing at the Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven.

Pickman begins a piece with drawing. He explains, “It’s all about breaking down the fundamentals of drawing: point, line, plane, and then taking these elementary principles of drawing and making my own language out of that.” His favorite drawing subjects are based on music, literature, and architecture. He acknowledges applying a geometric base at times, but adds that the lines are “all hand-drawn” and with “no rulers.” He calls the result, “very loose and spontaneous so it has the freshness of handwriting.” Nonetheless, the underlying structure remains and he finds himself inspired to try out sculpture next.

While drawing provides the base for his work, Pickman considers himself a painter. “I’ve always seen painting as drawing as well….drawing with color,” he says. The artist notes, “All the master painters were great renderers.” Pickman, although skilled and capable of drawing portraits and landscapes, prefers “severe abstraction” to objectivity. He considers abstract art more creative and compares it to “a language that I’m inventing.” His goal is “to make a painting that you can look at forever.” He explains that while objective artwork never changes, one’s interpretation of the abstract changes with the viewer’s mood and ever-changing life experiences.

The 44 pieces in the exhibit are organized into series where each is a stand-alone work but the series shares similar size and mediums. There are five uniquely titled large works of acrylic on canvas. The largest ones range from 84” by 30.5” and 45” by 40.” The Object/Field series includes five paintings done in gouache and watercolor. The “Map” series includes six pieces in ink and graphite. “The Bottom of Things” series includes nine works made in ink on paper.

Having removed pieces from his studio for the exhibit, Pickman found that he enjoys having a larger work space. This has led him to conclude that he needs a bigger studio. Based on the success of this solo exhibit, however, he may find that space through exhibiting his work more often or in selling his pieces.∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito