so new, the paint's still wet

by madeleine peck
This April 3rd, the biennial Bright Young Things Show (2009) at Jane Gray Gallery takes another look at some of Jacksonville’s emerging and evolving local talent. Included in that pool is this writer.
Since it would be impossible for me to make an objective assessment of a show I am actually in, I thought it best to start with a quote from Gallery Director Missy Hager, who has said of the current crop of artists: “Featured artists are MactruQue, Heather Blanton, Christina Foard, Dustin Harewood, Madeleine Peck, and Sharla T. Valeski. This visually exciting exhibition will showcase a variety of media including painting, drawing, and manipulated photography and is not to be missed.”
Of course, for followers of the art scene here, most of the above names will probably be familiar. Hager says this is because her criteria not only looked at the work itself, but also the contribution of many of the above-mentioned artists to the vitality of the Jacksonville community.
As with any group of people, the artists have a variety of techniques, goals, and ideas they are wrestling with. So, in their own words, here are what these artists have to say:
Christina Foard comments that her works are “Process mixed with play and with intuitive correction. I begin with something representational and move into abstraction by pushing past my comfort zone. I detach from known outcome and leave a trail of decision changes in paint. Risk, decision-making, and influence is actually my subject matter as well as my process.”
All of Foard’s pieces have been completed in the last six months, and the artist says her goal is: “[To] intrigue the viewer enough to want to see another painting, thus allowing the visual conversation to begin. Solo painting in my studio has its limits in excitement.”
Sharla T. Valeski’s current works share an aesthetic sympathy with Beatrice Mandelman (1912-1998) whose piece, “Winter Birds #2,” though different in palette, is similar in reductive process.
Of her approach, Valeski reflects: “I like repetition and feel that by painting or drawing the same subject matter or repeating a scenario over and over… something sublime will emerge. I enjoy creating systems or a group of processes. Once I have a system in place, I will repeat the process many times until I can’t do it anymore.”
She goes on, explaining: “I begin by creating a huge mess with paint and then I slowly eliminate areas by adding white. It’s like chipping away at the color until some kind of form emerges. This type of painting feels more natural to me than anything I’ve ever done in the past.”
Dustin Harewood is also presenting new works, works that are so new, that he jokes, “Some of the paint might still be wet at the show.”
Harewood moves between complex abstract compositions and portraits of reggae and hip hop artists. He explores the roots of these music forms seeing them both as extraordinary creative efforts and as a system whereby men of the African Diaspora can define their own trajectory.
Of these new pieces (portrait and abstract), Harewood remarks, “My approach (mind state) is that of a designer more than a fine artist. Arranging and re-arranging visual elements…I have no goal other than to make cool and beautiful things. Hopefully my art will make the world a slightly more interesting place to live in.”
Heather Blanton’s work is less informed by a painterly approach; rather, hers is one that explores the implications of archaic technology fused with new methods. “I use out dated Polaroid sx-70 film for my images; I try to take photos of ordinary things and transform the perception of the viewer in a more softer, surreal state,” she says.
Currently working on cultivating corporate clients, Blanton is especially excited about a panoramic shot of Jacksonville, “I am excited about it, I am using a Dutch process called diasec that entails printing the image and then archivally fusing it to plexi-glass for a very contemporary feel.”
The artist MactruQue, who will also be showing was unfortunately unavailable for comment for this article.
And as for myself, suffice to say that the new works–though using the iconic form of the horse–are really about the intimacy of drawing and making marks. The equine forms are merely a vestige of childhood, and a method by which to convey these marks. About my process it might be best to say that if one that relies upon deliberate and happenstance marks, that are themselves evidence of my ongoing internal dialogue, one that is rife with petty grievances and vainglorious imaginings.


april, 2022