Jann Haworth | March

We had the chance to sit down with Jann Haworth after her opening reception to talk more about her inspiration for March, her new and timely body of work investigating the conventions of representation of bodies, of materials, and inevitable dissent. March is now on display through October 14th, 2017. 

Can you talk about the bodies as mannequins in your work? They're at once completely individualistic, yet faceless and consumed by large groups and masses.

The idea of the mannequin as an archetype, a simplification, an abstraction, a substitute, a surrogate, and an objectification is of prime interest to me. I see the mannequin as the center point of a great many things that I want to talk about visually.

I like the idea of Plato's “forms,” and his thinking about archetypes that stand for the multiplicity of variants. Like the word 'dog' stands for all dogs, of which there are a myriad of types and individuals within types. I see in this the concept of the simplified human; the Brancusi version--smoothed and pared down to essential forms. I see my figures moving away from realism toward geometry and abstraction, like the trajectory of bodies in the art historical tradition.

Then is the idea of the substitute. The doppelganger, or the fake, really appeals to me, and this is straight-up Hollywood. On the sound-stages you would see a stand-in or a double for the “star” or a latex version of Kevin McCarthy, or Dana Winters...it’s them but not them. I love how that messes with reality. This too is the surrogate, or something that takes the action replacing another. And that surrogate is a point in psychology, as is “objectification,” where one person takes the place of another, or is de-personed all together and is only a fill-in for someone else's reality.

It’s all very complicated, but we have all been in that Alice in Wonderland-like position where, like Alice, we are insisting we are real and yet we are not being treated or really perceived as real, with respect, or focused understanding.

So, the mannequin for me is a very powerful nexus of a multitude of ideas.

You're known to utilize and repurpose unconventional materials. What was the inspiration behind using cardboard?

For me, form follows idea, not the other way round. Cardboard as a form arose out of the idea that this was a parade, protest, or a march. The signage of marches is often cardboard and the images and writing may well be chalk or things that are at home, hence the use of pastel -- a refined version of chalk. Further, most of my work involves cutting. I like exact edges and I am drawn to the cut line, the stencil, the collage, cut and sewn fabric. I don't like blurred edges like you might find in impressionism.

Were there any particular challenges you had or insights you gained with this new material?

I decided that I wanted to make the composition difficult. I did this by relocating the larger figures on the edge of the picture plane, or putting the smallest figure in the middle, or reversing my normal color pallet, or having a frieze of figures rather than one central *punch* figure.

I wanted, basically, to destroy pop art.

Knowing that this new body of work was inspired by your 2008 single page comic strip Mannequin Defectors and your experience at the 2017 DC Women's March, can you speak a little more to these concepts of "dissent" and "defecting" that appear in March?

I guess it is a continuing theme that, for me, began in the Girl Scout Brownies. The expectations of the Troop Mothers made me entirely rebellious. I started a mini-Brownie rebellion, which makes me laugh a lot now.

I also think artists have a compulsion to turn left when everyone else is turning right. If the general opinion is set on something, your reaction is, "Why that? Why not x, y, or z?” I think most, all my work is probably a dissent of some sort. There is a needle in the work somewhere.

The DC March was deeply moving, it can’t really be explained. The work is an homage to the event and an offering to all marches and protests. I kept the pieces generalized, and there are no pink hats for that reason.

Could you elaborate a bit on the titles of the individual works in March and of your broader title Mannequin Defectors in general?

Saffron (pictured above) gets its title from the saffron-yellow sky. And it is such a beautiful word.

The pair of 1 Robert, 1 Dennis, & Gabriel are referencing four men whose paths I crossed and had meaningful professional encounters with who helped me in my career. They reference Robert Fraser, my gallerist in the '60s, Dennis Hopper, actor and photographer I showed with at Robert’s and knew later in Sundance, my good friend Peter Gabriel, and Robert Redford.

The other titles pick up on the fact that March is a month (my birth month) as well as a physical march. The month is generic like the march depicted, not a particular march that took place in February, etc.

The idea of the mannequin defecting is, directly, the mannequin defecting from the male studio as an objectified thing. They are refusing to 'pose' anymore.

Please stop by the gallery to see March, by Jann Haworth before October 14th.

Native Voices

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Modern West Fine Art's Native Voices exhibition showcases work from our artists of American Indian descent including Shonto Begay, Nocona Burgess, Sheldon Harvey, Patrick Hubbell, Frank Buffalo Hyde, Petecia Le Fawnhawk, Courtney Leonard, Stanley Natchez, Ben Pease, and Kevin Red Star. While the artists showcased all have Native American ancestry, they come from vastly different tribes and explore distinct themes in their work.

Patrick Dean Hubbell, Spotted Tail, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30"

Patrick Dean Hubbell, Spotted Tail, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30"

Nocona Burgess, Atlanta, acrylic on canvas 48 x 36"

Nocona Burgess, Atlanta, acrylic on canvas 48 x 36"

Patrick Dean Hubbell is Diné  (Navajo), originally from Navajo, New Mexico.

My work is an investigation of identity. I am drawn to the subtle questioning of this examination. I find inspiration in everything and I use various themes rooted in the correlation and the conflict of both my Native American and Contemporary mindset.  I am equally interested in the abstract qualities of expression as well as representational imagery. Using nature, stories, philosophies, and abstract representations, I am able to depict this existence of identity. My work includes the use of bold and vibrant colors, combined with the integration of various elements of design, and a multitude of line quality and expressive mark making that often mimics what nature provides. These elements allow me to create my own aesthetic value in which reflect a personal experience of memory, physical, mental, and spiritual instances from life. The expressive personality of my work allows the viewer a momentary visual experience.

Nocona Burgess is from Lawton, Oklahoma, and is the great-great-grandson of Chief Quanah Parker.

Growing up, Nocona traveled and lived throughout the western United States including: Pennsylvania, Montana, Arizona and New Mexico. Taking after his father's love for the arts, he graduated with an Associate in Fine Arts from Institute of American Indian Arts. Nocona then furthered his education and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, and received a Master's in Education from the University of New Mexico.  Nocona is now internationally represented and continues to produce highly collectible works. 

Kevin Red Star, Big Hail Storm, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48"

Kevin Red Star, Big Hail Storm, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48"

Stanley Natchez, Homage to Warhol, oil on canvas, 40 x 46"

Stanley Natchez, Homage to Warhol, oil on canvas, 40 x 46"

Kevin Red Star was born on the Crow Indian Reservation in Lodge Grass, Montana.

Indian culture has in the past been ignored to a great extent. It is for me, as well as for many other Indian artists, a rich source of creative expression. An intertwining of my Indian culture with contemporary art expression has given me a greater insight concerning my art. I hope to accomplish something for the American Indian and at the same time achieve personal satisfaction in a creative statement through my art.

Stanley Natchez is a Shoshone/Paiute artist born in Los Angeles and currently living in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Natchez is known for beautifully crafting familiar objects with bold powerful colors that reflect onto traditional Native American culture.  In his pantings he includes figures that inspire the feel of the Old West, such as Cowboys, Native Americans and western wildlife. To amplify the depth and visual appeal of his pieces he includes beadwork, gold-leaf and additional textures to his works of art.

Though his Native roots he developed his passion for the arts.  Stan was trained in his cultures traditional dance which took him around the world.  His extensive travels honed his artistic abilities ever farther as he strives to bring together modern techniques and philosophies into a balanced and complex harmony.

Frank Buffalo Hyde, Food Pyramid, acrylic, 24x24"

Frank Buffalo Hyde, Food Pyramid, acrylic, 24x24"

Courtney Leonard, Abundance (Jade), ceramic,18x18x3"

Courtney Leonard, Abundance (Jade), ceramic,18x18x3"

Frank Buffalo Hyde traces his heritage to the Nez Perce and Onondaga people.

When working on a piece, I tap into the universal mind. The collective unconsciousness of the 21st century. Drawing images from advertisement, movies, television, music and politics. Expressing observation, as well as knowledge through experience. Overlapping imagery to mimic the way the mind holds information: non linear and without separation. I don't need permission to make what I make. Never have...no artist should.

Courtney Leonard is from the Shinnecock Nation of Long Island New York.

Leonard is an artist and filmmaker who has contributed to the Offshore Art movement. Her current work embodies the multiple definitions of "breach," an exploration and documentation of historical ties to water, whale and material sustainability. Her artwork explores the evolution of language, image, and culture through mixed media.

"The word “breach” can be used in many different ways. Legally, “breach of contract” is the failure to observe an agreement. It can also mean a gap in a wall or barrier. Breach can also be used as a verb — especially when it comes to the act of a whale breaking the surface of water."

Shonto Begay, Thirty Year-Old Trophy Buckle, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 12"

Shonto Begay, Thirty Year-Old Trophy Buckle, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 12"

Sheldon Harvey, Medium Wood Sculpture, mixed media on wood, 30 x 12 x 8"

Sheldon Harvey, Medium Wood Sculpture, mixed media on wood, 30 x 12 x 8"

Shonto Begay was born in a hogan and raised on Diné  land, known as the Navajo Nation. 

From a very young age, I found excitement in recreating facets of my universe in varying images. I was inspired and surrounded by Hozho (beauty), including the sounds of songs and healing chants accompanied with stories from elders. I survived boarding school partly because of my spiritual strength and retreat into my drawings. I was always drawing. "Arts Save Lives" is my mantra.  "Shonto" in Dine' translates to sunlight on water--a reflection of light on the canyon wall from the flowing water. My journey as an artist is to document my life and the world as I see through the lens I was born with through my Navajo experience while negotiating the modern. I have worn many hats in my life: shepherd, BIA Boarding School inmate, cowboy, National Park Service Ranger, Wildfire crew, professional boxing team support, film actor, author and artist.

Sheldon Harvey is a member of the Red Running Into Water Clan of the Diné Navajo Nation.

Sheldon Harvey's work depicts spirits from the Navajo creation myth and other ancient traditions in an effort to preserve his culture and the story of his people. His sculptures are made of wood, hand-stained and painted, with feather, yucca, and other natural material additions. Each signed piece embodies a piece of Navajo folklore and carries a piece of Sheldon’s creative essence.

Ben Pease, Chief Medicine Crow, mixed media, 14 x 11"

Ben Pease, Chief Medicine Crow, mixed media, 14 x 11"

Petecia Le Fawnhawk, Wise Old Medicine Woman, graphite on paper, 40 x 30"

Petecia Le Fawnhawk, Wise Old Medicine Woman, graphite on paper, 40 x 30"

Ben Pease was born and raised on the Crow Reservation.

Throughout my life, I've tried to soak up as much cultural, societal, and traditional aspects of what it means to be an aboriginal from North America in the whirlwind of today. I find my definition of being Native to this land as an interpersonal physical and spiritual relationship which is connected to all surrounding entities, beings, organisms, and geological features.

I have been practicing as a professional Native Artist for almost 4 years around the country. My work and process are currently evolving, for the more I learn, the less I know. I've recently crossed paths with self-appointed task of narrating the Aboriginal struggles and aesthetics through my personal interpretation. Whether my art focuses upon statements drawn from the aspect of an activist or based on cultural recording, I feel the need to educate and speak volumes. I will continue my transition from a so-called "Rez-Kid" to a culturally rich Contemporary Storyteller.

It is ridiculous to say Natives must abandon the assimilated lives we've grown used to living. What is plausible is that we must act with solidarity to recreate our migration away from traditional techniques and customs.  Charging forward wielding solidarity to combat and recompense our losses in the assimilation of our ancestors appears to be a great goal.  My journey as a storyteller stands as a continuation of my contribution to our contemporary cultures, as I will pass along the knowledge I earn. I am eager.

Petecia Le Fawnhawk is of Of Irish, German and Cherokee descent.

I have an overwhelming urge to pick up a certain stick, stone or bone because of some undefined beauty or unique character and take it home with me.  I want to understand what it is that I find beautiful about these natural objects. Why do they hold such a place of honor? If I studied them closely enough, analyzing their structure and anatomy of existence out of context, and draw them big enough, I might understand my spiritual connection and relationship to something beyond them.

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Stop by the gallery before September 12, 2017 to see Native Voices and our Contemporary Trading Post.

Eric Overton | Wild America: Process and Preservation

We were so happy with the reception for Eric Overton’s show, Wild America: Process and Preservation, with his stunning ambrotype landscapes of the American West. Overton is a photographer, sculptor, and physician who earned his medical degree in 2013, but has been perfecting his craft of photography for over twenty years. Overton has had impressive professional exposure ranging from his time working for photographic publications like Rolling Stone Magazine, debuting his photographic work in Malaga, Spain, and opening his own gallery.

Overton noted in a recent interview with LensWork magazine that his goal in photographing these landscapes was one of personal exposure and involvement. He wanted to "experience these places anew; to exist in space and...experience the natural world.”

For Overton, experiencing the land anew was achievable by slowing the photographic process and restoring it to a time before it was mediated by technology.

“One particular component to this work originated from a fundamental idea I felt is becoming less important in our modern world. That is, the value of touch; to physically connect.  As we go through our days, how necessary is it to actually touch things? For example, as photographers we no longer require the dexterity needed to load and process sheets of film in total darkness. Images are captured via methods few understand and stored as pixels on cards, clouds, and drives. Portfolios are often viewed on computer screens, blogs, websites, phones and on and on.."

This is why Overton feels such a connection to a nearly 200 year old photographic process that relies upon and materializes these concepts of tactility, patience, and exploration.

Overton starts by coating a viscous solution known as collodion onto a clean 8x10 inch plate of black glass. The plate is then sensitized in a bath of silver nitrate followed by transferring it into a plate holder, which fits into the back of the camera. The exposure is made without the use of light metering.  After the plate is exposed it is then taken back to the darkroom in the back of his truck for development with an iron-based solution. The resulting ambrotype is a positive image when captured on a black surface and is the original image.

Click to watch Overton talk more about his process.

Each ambrotype is unique and is reproduced by using a high-resolution flatbed scanner to then produce a large format pigment print. The Diasec mounting method permanently joins together transparent acrylic glass and print backed by an aluminum sheet. The result is a completely flat mounted image that visually speaks to the original ambrotype process. It is resistant to UV light and fading and the combined back mounting on aluminum maintains the integrity of the photograph. The truly archival work is then crated and shipped to MWFA from Scandinavia.

Overton sees this anachronistic process as an effort to reconnect himself physically to the world and the land itself.

Initially, Overton did not start this series with a specific environmental agenda. It was during the intimate process of exploring the landscape personally for four years while shooting that he says he “came alive with passion” and felt deeply connected to his own American heritage.

"It is majestic but it is also delicate. It is in this awe-inspiring magnificence of the American landscape I am most free.”

Ultimately, Overton found that this slowed process rejuvenates him and has inspired him to contribute to the fight for land preservation.

“I now believe that our land not only affords us the opportunity to connect with the earth — but to our nation, to each other, and to ourselves.”

Stop by the gallery to view the original ambrotypes and archival pigment prints in person, Tuesday - Saturday 11 - 6 p.m. 

J. Vehar-Evanoff Artist Interview

We took a minute to sit down with local artist, John Vehar-Evanoff, to talk about his new body of work, "Submerged Reflection," now on display in the front gallery through July 15, 2017. We are featuring his abstracted series of paintings that foreground texture and weight, making visible Vehar's intricate process of layering and removing paint with varying sizes of squeegees.

Can you explain the impetus behind this shift to a more abstracted, ethereal, and atmospheric body of work?

It's natural, I think, for artists to gravitate toward abstraction as time and career move forward. Early in your career it's all about not making mistakes, and later it's about allowing for the right ones. I'm forty-five, so I'm just now starting down the path of trusting my intuition fully. However, for me, my earlier work is not so disconnected from my current work. In both, I try to balance innovation, skill, and design, allowing for randomness and mistakes without abandoning all foundation. I think the earlier pieces are stepping stones to pure and free expression, free of "objects" and cumbersome ideas. I think that is the goal, and it's why abstract painting will always be, for me, the highest form of expression, much like poetry will always be the purest form of writing. It's a progression I'm getting comfortable and familiar with. I'm not the type of person to repeat the same work over and over again. That being said, I think you can see the "Vehar" in a "Vehar," even if the subjects are different. Only time will tell.

These pieces have a fascinating layering and textured effect in the horizontal bands across the canvas. Can you explain your process of applying and removing the paint?

Very thin paint is applied to a very weak size, maybe only one or two coats, allowing for an absorption of a certain amount of paint into the canvas, and a certain amount on the surface. This creates a very "dry" looking surface, much flatter than it appears. This took years of experimentation to know what paint does in various situations, and on various surfaces. 

Squeegees are used to push, rags used to blend, and additional layers are applied as needed until a balance is achieved. Drips are allowed in the composition and not wiped off. The hardest part is knowing when to intuitively stop and let go. Working with a difficult surface forces you to deal with what you have created and make it work. 

What was the transition for you in painting your darker pieces, arguably the most abstracted of the works in your show? Light, shadow, and line seem to be the primary compositional elements. Can you also speak to the use of mixed media in these works?

I've been searching for a long time to find a way to incorporate simple line and form into my work. This was the first time I achieved it in a way that was satisfactory to me. Half-way through them I realized that what I really wanted to do here is express rhythm, and I got very excited about that. All these marks and scribbles come down to is the rhythm of my hand across the surface, like light bouncing off moving water. But you've seen a "scribble" many, many times before, and I knew I had to find a way to get the viewer to accept my version of what humans have been doing for centuries. I had to ask the viewer to see an old thing as new again. So, in order to achieve that, I had to reverse an age-old artistic process. Normally we go charcoal, then paint. I simply went paint, then charcoal.

For you, what is it about the landscape of red rock and water that inspires these abstracted vistas?

I spent a lot of time at lakes and reservoirs as a child, and I think those memories just came through my body onto the canvas. For me, it's the soft-hard-soft that make these environments work. The jagged, solid surface of a stone merged with the softness of a cloud is fascinating to me, as is how theses elements interact with or touch each other. Also, the reflection of the stone or solid material in water seems to soften and cool the body.

The show's title sparked a lot of interest at your opening. Can you explain the vocabulary and compositional choices for Submerged Reflection?

Honestly, the title came about near the end of the show, and was a collaborative effort between gallery and artist, but seemed very appropriate and matched the overall goal of the work. The darker abstractions are very purposefully designed to get the viewer to accept the simplest and purest form of self expression; the simple "mark."

Often a complex, well-constructed ground, especially if it contains a sense of mystery, will hold a person’s attention long enough to get them to recognize the true expression, the movement of the primitive hand, so to say, on top of that ground. It's the combination of informed and uninformed that makes these compositions work.

Please stop by the gallery to view "Submerged Reflection," by J. Vehar Evanoff through July 15, 2017.

Petecia Le Fawnhawk | Desert Elements

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We are so thrilled to be featuring newly represented artist Petecia Le Fawnhawk's Desert Elements in our front gallery from May 17 - June 10th, 2017.  Le Fawnhawk is a multimedia artist whose body of work consists of sculptural and video installation, land art and drawings.  We are featuring a series of graphite drawings on paper that are dense with skilled detailed and leave the viewer inspired and surprised that she is completely self taught. 

Divine Doe Skull Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFA.jpg
Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFA.jpg
Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFAjpg

Le Fawnhawk comes from Irish, German and Cherokee descent, her work is deeply informed by her roots.  Her interest in nature stems from her early childhood where she would often explore abandoned spaces and would polish scavenged rocks and stones. She found inspiration in discarded relics that left an imprint early on and continues to influence her work.  

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Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFA

"I have an overwhelming urge to pick up a certain stick, stone or bone because of some undefined beauty or unique character and take it home with me. I want to understand what it is that I find beautiful about these natural objects. Why do they hold such a place of honor? If I studied them closely enough, analyzing their structure and anatomy of existence out of context, and draw them big enough, I might understand my spiritual connection and relationship to something beyond them."

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Le Fawnhawk's ability to portray her subjects stripped from their inessential elements with such microscopic detail on a macroscopic scale leaves you wanting more. In fact when we received her 40 x 30 inch drawings we asked if she had ever worked in a larger format. When she said that she had thought about it but, had not approached a larger scale yet we asked her to consider premiering her largest piece yet in her first solo show with us at Modern West Fine Art.

Fibonacci's Flower Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFA.jpg
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Twisting Juniper Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFA.jpg

Petecia Le Fawnhawk delivered Old Coyote Spirit, 64 x 44 inches. We were completely blown away and honored that she took upon herself the challenge to work larger. Desert Elements will be on view through June 10th and is an exhibition you will not want to miss, a must see in person.

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Old Coyote SpiritPetecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFA.jpg