By Lou Perron
The Artwalk last weekend sure looked like a success, judging by the number of people who roamed from station to station. On Saturday people came out in spite of the cool weather. Sunday was just the perfect weather for this event.
It’s fitting that Urban Durham was a site for the walk, not only because of our commitment to Durham and local artists, but also because our new space was once a gallery.
This season our larger office was able to feature 3 artists: Rachel Campbell, Ross Ford and Wendy Kowalski. Rachel was in New Zealand, but Ross and Wendy were there to meet people and talk about their work.
Rachel Campbell’s work is luscious, filled with still lives of corn dogs, Krispy Kremes, and other treats. Then there are the “trailers.” Scenes of mobile homes are laid out and brilliantly colored so that they might be sweets as well. All of these are done in oil paint on canvas, which gives them such a richness of color. Then they were coated with varnish so that they actually glisten. You can view her work at her website: www.rachelcampbellpainting.com
Ross Ford does large, colorful, lyrical pieces: gestures frozen on canvas in bright acrylics. But to me his most facscinating work is in the tiny pieces penned on paper; those reveal the source of the large pieces. His sheets of paper, all with a date and time at the top, have a grid of many, many “figures,” and each one is different. Yet each of them is at the same scale and ordered by a grid. Each is controlled by a general movement that begins at the upper left, moves through the center, and ends at the lower right. There is incredible order in these pieces, which at first glance seem random.
In seeking a formal vocabulary he has created a process in which he has purposely limited the variables, as if he were a scientist looking for patterns in a noisy universe. He has books and books full of his figures, which he generates by this iterative process. Then he edits- with the same control, choosing one from each page to make into a larger figure -- to see what he can distill from his subconscious mind.
Ross’s website is: www.rossfordart.com
Wendy Kowalski’s pieces hit an emotional chord in many viewers. It’s hard not to be entranced by her paintings/drawings/sculpture.
Though our center conference room is brightly lit, Wendy preferred to turn the lights down, telling me that it was under low light that she painted the pieces. An underwater scene stretches among numerous and varied sized panels, painted with endearing figures and large leafed plants, fruit, and jellyfish. Some are on large panels, some on bocks that spin, some in frames of boxes that have popped out of another part of the scene. Nothing is static. Lift a cover and discover a seed pod that generates life all around it. In the dimmer light you can feel that you might be in an aquarium, glimpsing a different, yet familiar world. And this is only a small part of what she has displayed.
And Wendy is prolific, filling rooms with paper mache plants coming out of the wall, ready to grab you, beautifully rendered figures that float in their world, and even a whole wall devoted to small paintings of trees that ooze and melt. The display is like being at carnival, with colorful objects all about you seeking your attention.
Urban Durham is fortunate that these artists have shared their work with us. If you missed the spring artwalk, we invite you to come by our office and check out these artists while there work is still here.