six ways of worldmaking

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The Mythopians Artist Group

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  • Six Ways of Worldmaking

    The Mythopians Artist Group

    September 8 October 23, 2004

  • Worldmaking as we know it always starts from worldsalready on hand; the making is a remaking. ...(It) begins

    with one version and ends with another.

    Nelson Goodman (1906-1998), American Philosopher

  • Cobbled together from bits and pieces

    borrowed from the worlds of others,

    the worlds we remake as our own

    come from those old and new, distant

    and near, imperfect and ideal. We

    embellish our versions freely and

    edit them judiciously. In doing so,

    each one becomes a rich, densely

    woven fabric of symbols with multiple

    intertwined meanings from which

    we fashion stories that may impart

    a moral, recount a history, or simply

    entertain.

    Storytelling is integral to worldmaking.

    It is the center from which we build.

    It is also essential to the unique work

    created by The Mythopians Artist

    Group, a coalition of six stylistically

    distinct artists - Nancy Jean Carrigan,

    Robert Kameczura, Diane Levesque,

    James McNeill Mesple, Christine

    OConnor and Steve Sherrell - who

    exhibit their work collectively out of a

    mutual love of figurative and narrative

    art and a fondness for the Romantic

    tradition.

    The Mythopians are accomplished

    artists and storytellers who move

    easily between ancient mythologies,

    daily newspaper headlines and

    fanciful invention. The worlds they

    create are beautiful, complex and

    diverse. In them, we are as likely

    to encounter Eros dreaming of a

    love triangle, Penelope weaving her

    tapestry, or satyrs playing their pipes,

    as we are likely to meet Jack Kerouac

    sipping a drink, Sigmund Freud sitting

    in a swamp, or Victorian ladies in

    distress. Theirs are extraordinary

    worlds where the logic of time,

    place, subject and action does not

    hold - worlds that have been remade

    wondrous and sublime.

    Six Ways of Worldmaking, the

    Mythopians current exhibition at the

    H.F. Johnson Art Gallery, Carthage

    College, Kenosha, takes its title from

    Nelson Goodmans influential book,

    Ways of Worldmaking(1978). It

    is an engaging mix of varied and

    sometimes contradictory styles.

    Despite the affinities that have brought

    these six artists together, they remain

    caretakers of their own dissimilar, yet

    intermingled worlds.

    Six Ways of Worldmaking

  • Carrigans painting, Il Cigno e

    La Sirena (2003), depicts an intimate

    embrace between a mermaid and a

    swan. In it, the same sensual curve

    used to delineate the contour of the

    mermaids golden hair is repeated in the

    mermaids curled tail and arm, as well

    as in the neck of the swan, (which joins

    the mermaids arm to complete a heart-

    like shape). Spiral forms comprising the

    mermaids breast, her scales and the

    pictures roiling nebulous background

    reinforce the pictures curve motif.

    While Carrigan does not offer

    any clues to assist in the interpretation

    of the image, the story of Zeus taking

    the form of a swan as Ledas lover

    comes to mind. Since Leda was not a

    mermaid, however, this explanation

    provides only vague associations.

    Carrigan, who enjoys the ambiguity

    of the image, invites the viewer to

    fill in the blanks with any number of

    fascinating scenarios.

    Not so in The Burden of the

    Phoenix (9/11) (2002), for which

    the artist has chosen the legend of the

    fabulous giant bird who is reborn from

    its own ashes, as her response to the

    destruction of the World Trade Center.

    Carrigan has given the Phoenix a

    stylish female face with almond-

    shaped eyes that cry blood-red tears,

    whose shape and color are restated

    in flames issuing from the Twin Towers

    tucked beneath the Phoenix brilliant

    red wings, wings which also enfold a

    child within its womb. Here there is no

    ambiguity as Carrigan deftly retools

    the age-old myth of rebirthof life

    from deathinto a message of hope

    for today.

    NANCY JEAN CARRIGAN

    A playful and inventive line, fantastical shapes and deep vivid colors obtained by painting on

    sheets of layered acrylic film are the hallmarks of Nancy Jean Carrigans art. Her images, with

    their graceful sweeping curves, intricate spatial fills and other complex and delicate patterns,

    possess a bold graphic look.

  • Some of the worlds Kameczura

    creates are complete inventions.

    Others, such asPluto and Persephone

    in the Underworld (2004), with

    its phosphorescent glimpse into the

    domain of the dead, are drawn from

    classical literature and myth. The

    painting What We Are, What We

    Think We Are, What Other People

    Think We Are (2004) comes by its title

    through a simplification of a phrase by

    Voltaire. It is an ambitious discourse on

    how people see themselves and others

    and how they are seen and perceived

    by others in turn.

    As in much of his work,

    Kameczura packs this imaginative

    diptych, edge to edgeforeground

    to background, with images and

    events, leaving no empty space,

    or any place in the painting where

    something is not happening. Featured

    among the many vignettes he stages

    is a woman holding a mask up to her

    face, as if confronting her false and

    true selves. Another woman primps

    in a mirror even though her face is

    partially veiled. There is a couple

    wearing sunglasses embracing before

    a fire, a woman carrying a torch and

    a painter working on a picture.

    Every figure in Kameczuras

    painting has a role to play. There are

    artists, actors, dancers and lovers,

    each representing a variation/degree

    of seeing, or being seen. Every

    objectevery action has a meaning

    that enhances the believability of his

    strange and beautiful worlds.

    ROBERT KAMECZURA

    There is an atmosphere of enchantment that permeates Robert Kameczuras acrylic paintings,

    as if he opens windows into timeless worlds where the mundane assumes the aura of magic

    and theater. Like characters in a costume play, the men in his paintings have full beards and

    wear robes or tunics. The women are dressed in diaphanous gowns. His lighting, which exudes

    an otherworldly glow, is dramatic and stage-like, accentuated by a kind of broken color that is

    alternately warm and cool.

  • Levesques art is heady and

    evocative. It allows the artist to

    transform Beat poet Jack Kerouac into

    Oedipus of Thebes and herself into

    Oedipus/Kerouacs mother/wife in

    All Things Being Equal: Oedipus and

    Jocasta (2003), a cautionary tale of

    incest. Her art is often inspired by a

    line of poetry or a phrase in a book,

    as is the painting In the Country of

    the Marvelous (2003), whose title

    was gleaned from a book by Pierre

    Mabille. The canvas, which was

    begun the day after war with Iraq

    began, is a poignant indictment of

    religious extremism and the grasping

    for political prizes.

    In James Joyce: He Domesticated

    His Metaphysics (2004), one in a

    series of portraits focusing on writers and

    painters whom she considers influential

    to her own work, Levesque ingeniously

    recasts Joyces retelling of Homers epic

    poem The Odyssey into a board game

    with playing spaces that wind around

    the pictures surface like Joyces stream-

    of-consciousness prose winds around

    the page of a book.

    In Levesques version the

    viewer encounters a profusion of

    images, including a doll in a jar,

    a rooster pitcher filled with roses,

    a figure falling from a stone tower,

    Greek sirens and a large button.

    Each encapsulates an emotion or

    experience Joyces main character

    undergoes as he wanders through

    the city of Dublin. An extremely

    articulate painter, Levesque imbues

    the seeming chaos and irrationality

    of Joyces art with her own arresting

    form and artistry.

    DIANE LEVESQUE

    A great deal of psychological complexity is packed into the shallow, rather claustrophobic spaces

    of Diane Levesques provocative acrylic portrait paintings. Her subjects, whether of friends or

    strangers, are characterized as much by her faithful likenesses, as they are by the surreal-like

    accumulations of objects she brings into their orbit - objects which retain the residue of memory

    and which hold the clues to her subjects identity and place in time.

  • But Mesples paintings, executed

    in egg tempera and oil glazes made

    from pigments he prepares himself

    according to formulas rooted in the

    Middle Ages, are always a surprise.

    Marvelously inventive and seamless in

    their melding of ancient and modern

    imagery, the genuineness of the

    worlds he creates is never in doubt.

    The disparate images in Dune

    Music (2004), for instance, should

    not make sense, but in Mesples world

    they do. In it a pair of reed flutes is

    played by the slender green fingers

    of an unseen musician, two classical

    heads litter the ground and a couple of

    exotically dressed figures play alongside