StudiosInc:2015 Exhibition featured in KC Star

Blue Sky V 13, mixed-media piece by Colby K SmithGroup exhibition showcases new art from Studio Inc’s underwriting programBy Hallie Smith - Special to the StarKansas City StarIn today’s fiscally challenged world, an artist’s prospects of finding a benefactor often remain a dream. Fortunately, there are exceptions.One example is Studios Inc, a nonprofit organization that provides studio space, professional development, networking and exhibitions for mid-career artists in the Kansas City area. Those selected are matched with a patron, whose fully tax-deductible donation underwrites a studio for one year.A group exhibit now on view in the Studios Inc exhibition space showcases new works by the group’s current beneficiaries.As viewers enter the show, a floor installation in the center of the room grabs the attention.   Dust and Distance II by Jill Downen mesmerizes, in part because of its sheer magnitude. The gypsum and mixed media piece resembles an arctic mass, a Siberia at the viewer’s feet. Strewn across its barren landscape are fossil-like objects, along with a tangled piece of blue string attached to a metal weight.Downen notes that her installation “evolves from the characteristics of the gallery space and the concepts it inspires.” Standing in the midst of the massive, grayish-concrete environment, one feels she has succeeded.Colby K Smith’s Blue Sky V 13 embodies its own somber tone of cool contemplation, mixed with a sad beauty. Though it appears to be a painting, it is more, composed of gypsum, graphite, fiberglass, foam, rubber, butyl and paper. The work’s landscape aesthetic tends toward the abstract, and it draws forth an almost unspeakable emotional truth. Its imagery evokes not just nature’s layers of sky and earth, but the ever-changing layers within the self.While the show claims no specific theme, the works by Smith and Downen induce meditation on the wintry aspects of life. Elsewhere, viewers will find a hint of summer.In Hermit Reflecting on the Ten Thousand Things, Jarrett Mellenbruch uses plants, a hermit crab, wood, mirror and grow lights to create a world of lush, living green. Standing over this microcosm of fertile flora (encased in a large, unfinished wooden crate) and breathing in the moist, pungent scent of plants, one feels a sense of renewal on several sensory levels.Another striking piece is Brett Reif’s Cloudy. True to its name, the work of mixed media and tile appears as a cluster of clouds. From a closer angle, however, it becomes more amusing as one notices the rubber stoppers, complete with chains, inserted within its sculptural curves.Virginia Woolf’s manifesto A Room of One’s Own emphasizes the creative benefits of a private space for a writer to focus on her work. Judging from this show, which also includes works by Miles Neidinger, Debra Smith, Ricky Allman, Gerry Trilling, Tanya Hartman and Robert Josiah Bingaman, a visual artist who is granted a studio of his or her own enjoys the same benefits.Studios Inc:2015 continues at Studios Inc Exhibition Space, 1708 Campbell St., through 04.17.15. Hours are 10:00-12:00 PM and 1:00-4:00 PM Tuesday through Friday, 12:00-4:00 PM on Saturday, and 6:00-9:00 PM on First Friday. For more information, call 816-994-7134.Read more here:

Xhingyu Chen, contemporary art specialist from China, tours Studios Inc

Director Colby K Smith had the privilege of showing Xhingyu Chen, a published author, independent art critic, and contemporary art specialist from China, around Studios Inc. He introduced her to several of our resident artists and gave her a quick tour of the Crossroads and a extensive tour of the Studios Inc. building where she was able to meet about 7 of our current resident artists. Below is an expert from her blog post about her experience with Colby and our resident artists."We arrived in Kansas City a day later to record temperatures (over 100 degrees F!) so our first day in KC was spent in our air conditioned hotel room. I needed to rest up for my big day of visiting artists' studios. My friend Christina had put me in touch with her friend Jill Downen, who had just started a residency in KC. Jill was kind enough to arrange and put me in touch with the director of Studios Inc., even though she herself wasn't available to meet me.I thought I was going to visit just two or three artists but my day turned out to be more of an adventure that I had planned for. The director, Colby Smith, picked me up at my hotel in a big white van; he informed me that the truck was purchased from an old P.I. agency that went under in the nineties. Colby is a wild-eyed man who is never at a loss for words, making him the perfect guide for my whirlwind tour of the city's art scene. We sped through the Crossroads art district, which was vast, much bigger than anything we have in Shanghai or even in Beijing. Crossroads is an integrated part of the city located downtown and not separated into an art ghetto like M50 or 798 is. There were hundreds of galleries (of which I visited none of) and lots of boutiques and cafes.Studios Inc. is located just at the edge of Crossroads in what used to be a tannery. Christina had mentioned that Jill had it the jackpot with her studio and she was right. It's a pretty amazing space. Unfortunately for all you artists out there, the residency is open only to Kansas City residents.  It would take too long to describe all the artists that I visited so in the interest of time, I've given very brief descriptions of the work I saw with a link to their website wherever possible; there are also several images in the slideshow at the top of this page.98660[1]First up was Barry Anderson. I was fortunate to catch his show,The Janus Restraint, in the exhibition space at Studios Inc., as he was actually preparing to take it down. The show consisted mainly of video installations and sound pieces; I was especially drawn to his kaleidoscope pieces, which reminded me of fractals in nature. 5300893[1]Next up was Garry Noland, whose recent works were textile-like tapestries and "drawings" made from tape and contact paper. He was the longest resident at Studios Inc. (5 years I believe), although I believe they are finally setting time limits on the residency program. He talked at length about the Midwestern art scene and about his children; his daughter, Peggy, is also an artist and fashion designer.5270196[1]Jill Downen wasn't around but I was still able to see her pristine studio. She works mainly in plaster and wood but in her hands, these common materials possess an uncommon beauty. Colby was excited about her filing cabinet, as was I. Each drawer revealed little vignettes; some were abstract while others, like the one in the image above, had a tangible narrative. This particular drawer actually reminded me of Huang Kui's work from a couple of years ago, when he chronicled his debilitating accident from a fall through a wooden floor.400701[1]Before lunch,Colby showed me his own studio, which was a maze of just STUFF. Pack rat isn't exactly the word I would use, although most people would call him that. He just seems to find every object in the universe amazing and that energy is contagious; I wanted to explore every nook and cranny of his studio to see what treasures abound. His graphic "canvases" of found objects were my favorites (shown in the slideshow) but really, his studio itself was a thing to behold.We had a quick lunch at an artist-run café (I think everything in the Crossroads area is "artist-run"), where we met Peregrine Honig. Colby described her as the most established artists in the KC area; I found out later that she was on the first season of that Bravo show Work of Art. I've only seen two episodes on a plane from season 2 but cannot find the DVD set in Shanghai. Amazing, since most DVD shops in China have EVERYTHING.1373470874[1]Her studio was just around the corner from the café (and from her lingerie boutique, which I didn't have time to visit). It was modest compared to the cavernous spaces at Studios Inc. but still filled with treasures! Here she's shown holding up a limited edition silk scarf she designed; the writing isn't clear but it says "sucker". Not exactly a G-rated item. She has these amazing little taxidermied fawns (that I wasn't allowed to photograph but I've linked to) placed under glass, that were actually actual unborn fetuses. Morbid but sweet at the same time, which I guess describes the artist and her work.1373471433[1]Next door was David Ford's studio, where we were greeted enthusiastically by his adorable dog Romeo (here he is at left in an absolutely picture perfect moment). His projects have taken him around the world; the doll heads in the slideshow were sourced from a village in Guatemala. 2825487_orig[1]His work reminds of MadeIn Company/ Xu Zhen, especially this piece that's featured on his website:   6294376[1]We headed back to Studios Inc. to meet more artists. Matthew Dehaemers is an unassuming, modest guy, the complete opposite of his elaborate installations.  Most striking was a large-scale tire shaped lantern structure made of Japanese paper (shown in slideshow). His studio was strewn with models of previous and upcoming works, many of which would be public installations. Here he is above demonstrating the movements of one such piece.3978684[1]Next up was Dylan Mortimer, a clean-cut guy who explored the intersection of religion and popular culture, especially hip-hop culture. If I remember correctly, he wanted to be a priest when he was younger but became interested in public expressions of faith and how art could add to that dialogue. He had many pieces in his studio that I loved; I was particularly drawn to his prayer booth, which was installed on the streets of New York City, and  his blingy hip-hop medallions with slogans like "Amen bitch" and "Who created your ass?". Above he is demonstrating the mechanisms of his portable church pews and lecterns painted to resemble those Caution signs that janitors use.6736806[1]My last stop at Studios Inc. (but not my last stop of the day) was the painting studio of Robert Josiah, which, as you can see from the image at left, was the neatest I've ever seen for an artist! He was one of the few artists I met that day who worked in a more traditional medium. He did not have many large paintings up but he had many lovely sketches, some of which were part of a project he initiated with a friend to only draw with his left hand. It allowed him to be looser in his approach and get another perspective on his art. I think all artists should do something like this at some point in their practice, especially if they feel blocked.9090643[1]I was exhausted at this point but Colby had one last stop for me, his own home where he keeps his extensive collection. It was mainly made up of artists who had passed through Studios Inc. but he also had antiques like a dresser-sized radio from the 1950s and C.S. Lewis' piano (!). His energy levels throughout the day was impressive (thanks to many many cups of coffee) but that energy went up ten-fold when he showed me the works in his home. He was clearly a big fan of every single artist that graced his walls and it was impressive the amount of enthusiasm that he expressed talking about these works. I think that was the best part of the day, having someone who just absolutely LOVES his job and all artists take me around. It made for an amazing experience.1373901196[1]Plus, he had the sweetest dog (whose name eludes me now!) who was just the perfect ending to a great day.   My brief descriptions don't do justice to all the artists I visited but at least I can introduce you to new artworks. I encourage you to click on the links to each artists, there's so much more to them than what I've written here! I'm now in New York City and I'm sure there'll be many more posts to come this summer as I explore the never-ending art and culture options of my hometown. The Midwest was fantastic but it's always great to come back home. Stay tuned!”

Davin Watne’s ‘Consumer Foreplay’ critiques modern materialism

By ELISABETH KIRSCHSpecial to The StarPosted on Wed, Jun. 08, 2011In the ambitious exhibit “Consumer Foreplay,” Davin Watne’s paintings, installations and sculptures take the subject of over-consumption to a new level.  If Watne’s dark and theatrical paintings recall the dramatic, heroic painting styles of such 19th-century artists as J.M.W. Turner and Eugene Delacroix, his flamboyant and deliberately garish sculptures would be at home in the Folies Bergere. In this show, Watne wants to have his cake and eat it too — his work ranges from the glamorous to the deadly — and for the most part he succeeds.Watne’s art has often focused on the subject of collisions, especially the violence that occurs between the natural world and that of the technological.In “Consumer Foreplay,” he circles around the emotional and moral battles people wage as they are caught between a culture that demands immediate gratification and the resulting environmental and human rights costs.Using materials such as feathers, jewelry, sequins and stockings, he assembles gaudy objects to represent the seductive marketing strategies of contemporary advertising. In “Piston” and “Mt. Vernon Street Walker,” he spills these ultra-feminine accessories from opened purses in abstract displays of erotica. The messages sent by these works are too ambiguous; they resemble everything from feminist statements from the ’70s to the most gorgeous of party arrangements.The exhibit’s title piece, “Consumer Foreplay,” however, is a masterpiece of fetishism.For this glorious rococo sculpture, Watne cut and sewed elongated swaths of different colored leathers that simulate giant designer handbags, from which emerge hand-carved legs and arms groping themselves. Attached are beads, hosiery, hair and butterflies in a titillating tangle of the crassest of materialism.“The butterflies,” Watne says, “represent the pollination of consumer products that both attract and threaten to overcome us.”Across the room, in a yin-yang spin, are three paintings of nautical disasters in which airliners and tankers are sinking or have disappeared. With a nod to Theodore Gericault’s “Raft of the Medusa,” in “Fantasy, Reality, Bureaucracy” a tiny figure on a raft struggles to survive hurricane waves under which a ship’s goods have sunk to the bottom of the sea. “Transnational Interrupt” is a surrealist depiction of a floundering plane and boat at sea. As published in KC StarThe largest, most minimal and mysterious of the paintings is “The Only Thing to Hold on To,” in which a lone cooler or container floats in the darkest of waters. This work has a real sense of the tragic. One of the powers of these paintings is that they can be interpreted in a variety of ways, particularly given the current climate of ecological and man-made disasters.Separating these two distinct bodies of work are towers of hair extensions. Murder and theft are now associated with the huge demand for such products, but their function here is somewhat mute.In “Snow Mound,” a large corner installation in which a shopping cart has crashed into simulations of snow piles, Watne offers an ironic take on one of the most recent consumer catastrophe/collisions: a winter with so much cold and ice that shoppers were kept at bay.The activity of acquiring, Watne’s art insinuates, entails choices, and those choices entail costs, many of which we refuse to acknowledge.On exhibit:“Davin Watne: Consumer Foreplay” continues at Studios Inc. Exhibition Space, 1708 Campbell St., through June 24. Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and noon-4 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 816-994-7134.

Consumer Foreplay: An Exhibition by Davin Watne

May 13 through June 24, 2011 Gallery HoursTues – Friday 10 – 4 PMSaturday       12 – 4 PM Gallery Talk12 pm Saturday May 14, 2011 The Studios Inc Exhibition Space is pleased to present CONSUMER FOREPLAY, an exhibition by Davin Watne, on view from 5.13.11 to 6.24.11, with an opening reception, Friday May 13, 2011 6 – 9 pm. httpv:// Watne: Consumer ForeplayCONSUMER FOREPLAY is Davin Watne’s second solo show at The Studios Inc Exhibition Space. This exhibition will feature new work from 2010 and 2011, including paintings, sculptures and installations. Through his current work, Watne is exploring the idea of attraction and how it works in the marketplace.  He is interested in consumer products that are marketed to enhance our appearance. Watne uses these products as the raw material to create sculptures that mimic seduction, courtship and procreation as seen in our culture. This work creates a visual language to unpack the rituals of seduction, found in both the plant and animal world, to celebrate desire and find a deeper understanding of our biological yet at times, salacious behaviors.Davin Watne received his BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1994 and is currently working toward his MFA at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. He has been awarded several grants, awards and public commissions including The Charlotte Street Foundation Award, ArtsKC Inspiration Grant, Avenue of Arts Municipal Arts Grant, Art in the Loop Public Arts Grant and is a resident of The Studios Inc. Residency Program.Hours:

  • 10am-4pm Tuesday - Friday
  • 12pm-4pm Saturday
  • 6pm - 9pm First Friday of each month as well as Exhibition opening night
  • The Studios Inc exhibition is at 1708 Campbell, Kansas City, MO 64108.