Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013

Inspiration on Display Along With Art

Part I: Jeremy Popelka in "Color!"

By Peggy Sue
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Exhibitions around the downtown area opened on Gallery Night & Day, although these opportunities also present a chance to talk with artists, to uncover what inspires them to create their singular form of art. During Gallery weekend there is plenty of art to peruse and then discuss. But perhaps the most fascinating conversations come from the artists who choose to explain their beginnings, process and techniques along with the inspiration for their art.

Tory Folliard Gallery’s exhibition “Color!” hosted several artists, all equally interesting. However, Sturgeon Bay's award winning glass artist Jeremy Popelka discussed how the Univerisity of Madison’s Harvey Littleton influenced Popelka’s brilliant hued glass vessels. The vessels exemplify a classic Venetian glass blowing technique named Murani, after Italy's island of Murano with its rich history in this medium. Six or seven vessels in various sizes stand on pedestals in the front gallery, easily seen because their striking composition of color and pattern attracts the eye immediately.  

Vessels made developing skills in the ancient Murano process requires as a brochure available at the gallery says: “The colored glass to be heated and then encased over one another, after which the entire sheet will be stretched into a long cane. The canes are clipped into small tiles called murrini.”

After more heating, and clipped into the murrini tiles, the glass pieces fuse together and only then are blown into a vessel. Popelka mentions only approximately a half dozen artists have mastered this technique in the country. And while an extremely volatile process where many glass object fail before they succeed, the technique is the least of Popelka’s concerns. For this artist, the final object “must speak to the viewer,” transcend the final glass object,  "to talk on its own.” While the glass tiles also directly infer a process used by the Egyptians, Popelka believes “There’s a tension that these dynamic colors expand on, to vibrate visually [in the vessel]."

A similar technique resembles mosaics that were also used in the Roman Empire, which Popelka draws on from a historical perspective and then commented Modernist Paintings from the 20th century inspire his finished pieces. Perhaps this evokes the Fauves, taken from the word "wild beasts," a group of artists that believed color could be placed to evoke emotions and through non-realistic representation, hence, paintings with purple or blue faces. Popelka's work admirably fuses antiquity and contemporary elements together similar to fusing  the magnificent glass tiles and creates these affordable and sensuous vessels. The winter blues will immediately be dismissed when gazing on these complexly colored and crafted objects. With each tile visible from the vessel’s exterior, the viewer in awe and wonder considers the artwork's construction while being uplifted by the collision of color. 

Another artist, Mark Ottens also spoke to his two dimensional, patterned paintings, which reference clarity, precision and abstraction while illustrating the lyrical and poetic qualities of color. While each image features 20 to 60 layers of paint applied to the surface, Ottens mentioned that Matisse inspires these works. And where in his younger years, Ottens wished to confront people visually, he now strives to paint images “similar to a comfortable chair.”  

Tory Folliard Gallery presents “Color!” through March 9 and features ten artists who explore this design principle in unique and exciting ways. To view the art or for further information: www.toryfolliard.com.   



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