In case you haven’t noticed, figurative painting is alive and well and the absorbing interest of any number of young artists. Two such artists are recipients of the 2017/18 Manifest Artist Residency award and are currently established in their respective studios at the Cincinnati gallery. We talked with each of them for this issue of Aeqai, and found them busy, productive and pleased to be at work in that atmosphere.
Brianna Angelakis told me she is “a painter first and foremost” but she is a painter who finds drawing enlarges her vision. For two years at art school she focused on painting, she said, then turned to drawing when working for her master’s degree. “Drawing changes how you look at things. You can leave white space. . .positive and negative space. . .” Her painting has completely changed, she added. She is now doing very large works; a 72 inch by 51 inch canvas is the largest. “I have to turn it upside down to work on the top. It’s unreal.” She takes a picture of that upside down section with her cell phone and turns the phone around to see if what she wants is happening.
Many of these works show a person, a woman, recognizably herself, in a strangely shifting world of swirling fabrics and peculiar objects. She has said her state in the paintings and drawings following this pattern is as someone “transfixed by beauty. I remain stationary amid the nonsensical world. Through a metamorphosis, my past failures transform into elements of beauty, as I become a fantastical monument to my vexation, acting within the spectacle of the absurd.” Of some of her work she told me she is “staging childhood,” an idea interesting to think about.
This artist, who comes from a family she describes as “super supportive,” has a mother and sister who are singers. Angelakis herself likes teaching, sometimes combining teaching with performance. “Teaching makes you think about your own work,” she said. “Thinking conceptually was always hard for me, teaching opened it up for me. I love teaching. You learn how to look at things. Teaching brought me back to drawing.” Her next move she hopes will be to teach at the university level. “You can be part of the difference for students. I’m ready to go anywhere to teach.”
Artists who use themselves as models – so convenient, always available, no charge – are fortunate when they inhabit their work as appropriately as Brianna Angelakis does. She has very dark hair and eyes, a long and serious face, and a supple body that seems perfectly at home in her strangely imagined world. Her work is on view now through April 18 of next year at 21st Century Museum Hotel, 609 Walnut Street in downtown Cincinnati.
Angelakis, who gives her current home base as Gainesville, Florida, moved south from her New England birthplace and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida universities. Cincinnati is the biggest art scene she’s lived in, she says. “Art is happening here. It’s a beautiful city.” And as a Floridian added that she’s experiencing fall here for the first time in a decade.
Down the hall from Angelakis at Manifest now, in a similar generously proportioned studio, is Charlie Goering, the other Manifest Artist in Residence for 1017/18. Goering grew up in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, and is both a painter and sculptor. He first showed his art at an auspiciously young age, mid-teens, and knew even before then that his life would be in the arts. Not a difficult decision in his family; his father was a classical guitarist and the uncertainties that often accompany such choices were understood. He was dressed in what I consider a classic artist outfit: knit cap, long sleeved red tee shirt, glasses with dark rims.
Goering was still in grade school when he began studying with artist Keith Klein at Klein’s studio in Florence, Kentucky and his first public showing was in the Duveneck Memorial Art Show of 2009. He would continue to exhibit in that annual event for several years. Another early recognition was a scholarship to the Governors School for the Arts in 2010, leading to an exhibition at the Carnegie Center for the Arts in Covington, Kentucky while still in his teens. He would go on to the Art Academy of Cincinnati for a couple of years, then to the Laguna College of Art and Design in California and to have a classical input to his education by way of a scholarship to study at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy in the summer of 2014. He extended this experience for another semester.
Goering’s paintings and sculptures focus on the male body, a 21st century take with strong classical influence. He says, in an Artist’s Statement, “Through recontextualizing the story of art, and understanding figuration as a means of expression, as well as a practice, it is possible to re-energize the human figure with meaning. That is what excites me as an artist.”
Goering’s sculptures are quiet, still, often small enough to be held in the hand. He is sharply aware of the differences between sculpture and painting: “Painting allows things that sculpture doesn’t, sculpture is more quiet.” Then he added that sculpture itself “can say things about the body that paint cannot.” His point is that he wants, needs both art forms to complete his observation of the human male form.
It’s often interesting to ask artists, who can be close observers of what’s around them, to compare living in two unlike environments. I asked about Laguna, California, where a scholarship took him to the Laguna College of Art and Design, in contrast to Northern Kentucky, where he grew up. “They don’t have trees and woods,” he said instantly. “It’s a whole different thing.” Goering lives now in downtown Cincinnati with musician friends, where trees and woods aren’t very apparent either, but with his housemates there is “lots of creative energy, sharing of ideas.” He is trying “to feel out different ways of working” he told me, “or decide if I should stay the same?” He wants to let the work grow as he does, he added. It will be interesting to see what direction it will take.
Manifest’s Artist Residency program was inaugurated in early 2012, when the gallery itself had been in existence for about eight years. The program awards either one or two artists “free 24/7 use of a 500 sq.ft. north-lit studio adjacent to Manifest Gallery. . .for the period of one year at no cost. . . .free access to Manifest’s Drawing Center’s drawing sessions and darkroom, the opportunity to create and teach courses at the Center. . .the Residency space is open to the public during preview receptions and public openings. . .” In other words, it gives a working artist a welcome leg-up in becoming known and increasing personal skills. It also gives the public a look into how art careers can develop and grow. A tenet of the Gallery’s working philosophy, not surprising in view of these artists and their work, is that drawing is a key skill underlying every art field.
Manifest, located at 2727 Woodburn Avenue in Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills district, is open from noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is free.