Friday, August 31, 2012

Staff Pick- Susan Jaworski Stranc

We picked up a new artist, Susan Stranc in May. Her medium is linoleum block prints and more specifically reduction linoleum block prints. That means for each color in the print she carves a bit more of the linoleum away to create the final image. This requires a lot of planning as once the linoleum has been altered (carved away) there is no turning back. It also means that there are usually prints that don't make it all the way to the final color as mistakes happen. Technically quite challenging and a different way of the artist interacting with the paper.

It isn't the technical aspects of Susan's work that engage me though. Her color choices are absolutely seductive. She has an ability to combine  vivid colors without creating visual mayhem. That is not as easy as it sounds- especially as each cell of color can be quite small. There is a risk that it will be read as a pattern rather than light, shadow or volume.

Susan also uses inks which are quite viscous and glossy. That means that there is a certain amount of dimension to the ink- it stands up off the paper. The glossiness only enhances the textile-like feeling. This interplay of pattern, surface, tactility and image is very appealing to me. I stare in amazement each time I look at her prints. Come in and see for yourself.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Prey & Predator

McGowan Fine Art announces the opening of “Prey and Predator" featuring the paintings of Adelaide Murphy Tyrol. The show will run from September 4 through October 5, with an artist’s reception on September 7 from 5 to 7 PM. This is free and open to the public.

Painting quietly in Northern Vermont, artist and naturalist Adelaide Murphy Tyrol has always sought inspiration from landscape and animals. Her most recent fascination resulted from a birthday gift from her husband - attending the British School of Falconry. The school is the oldest on the East Coast but the sport is even older, reaching its zenith in 17th century Europe before being supplanted by firearms. It is a sport associated with prestige, wealth and much mystery. ‘The heraldry and mythology of it are appealing to me,” says Tyrol. “The hoods are used to cover their eyes to help calm down these high anxiety birds but they are also extremely decorative, rivaling the birds’ beauty.” 

While exploring the world of falcons Adelaide is also exploring new techniques. She is using a manmade paper called Yupo, created for commercial packaging. It  has been co-opted by artists for its ability to resist paint and create very crisp edges. Using sumi ink as her paint Adelaide takes advantage of these properties. In “Jessed” which refers to the tethers on a falcon’s ankles, crisp lines define the bird’s powerful silhouette and steely eyes engage the viewer with hard detail. Adelaide then uses muddled ink and soft washes to give the illusion of feathers or the motion of the jesses dangling beneath the bird. The whole painting is a study in contrasts. It is exquisitely rendered but leaves the viewer unsettled- compelled to look at this half tamed creature. It is a confrontation of our own limits over the natural world.

Ms Tyrol has turned her attention to other animals also. In “Pray” a small mouse fills the space with its apprehensive, wide eyed stare while being shadowed by the ominous wings of a raptor. It is a portrait of beauty and terror. “I tried to capture the hyper vigilant state of prey animals,” referring to a portrait with an ermine sitting upright, its white fur set off by a feathery background pattern. In “Blue Eyed Raven” she created a classic three quarter portrait of a Corvid from a singular colony of whiteravens in British Columbia. All of the birds have blue eyes. “It is the only color I included in the whole show. Those blue eyes are so arresting.”

People will be drawn in by the bold imagery but mesmerized by Ms. Tyrol’s technique.

This exhibit will be on display at McGowanFine Art, 10 Hills Avenue, Concord, NH. Hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 to 6 PM; Saturday 10-2 or by appointment. Please call Sarah Chaffee at 603-225-2515 for more information or visit our website at

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Arts, Culture and the Law Conference

It has been over a month since I attended the Arts, Culture and the Law Conference which was hosted at the UNH School of Law. This is the 2cnd annual conference organized by the NHBCA, Department of Justice, Department of Cultural Resources, the Center for Non-Profits and UNH School ofLaw. And it was better attended and just as exciting as last year, but that might be the wonky side of me coming out.

The morning started off with a humorous presentation by Doug Verge and Dan Fink of Sheehan Phinney, Bass & Green on copyright. In a half hour they were able to convey a lot of information on copyright, trademark, and patents all while poking fun at lawyers, copyright interlopers and artists trying to find the cheapest possible route. They pointed out that while an artist automatically owns the copyright to all works but if it isn’t registered at the US Copyright Office  it becomes much more expensive to ensure legal rights to a work. This blew a hole through the time honored method of copyrighting by sending a letter to oneself with the images/titles/descriptions of artworks enclosed and leaving unopened until a suit arises. My experience in the past when ownership of an idea arises for an artist is that being unprepared leaves the artist no avenue except abandoning a signature style or idea. This can be financial disaster for someone who has spent a lot of time and effort building up a reputation around this signature idea. Some other little tidbits gleaned from this mini-presentation are that titles cannot be copyrighted, and trademarks are absolutely inviolable (think logos or catch phrases such as “America Runs on Dunkins”)

Because I am a glutton for punishment and it is a question that comes up frequently in my line of business the first seminar I attended was on Copyright and the performing arts. The presenters were Andrea Hirst, in-house counsel for Brookstones and Todd Sullivan of Hayes, Soloway PC. This was an in depth review of much of the information we received in the morning session with a real focus on publishing. It is good to know the difference between writing and an idea and which can be copyrighted. It is also very good to be clear on what plagiarism is.

During lunch there was an opportunity to sit down and informally chat with some presenters. I chose to sit with Ricardo St. Hilaire, a legal counselor specializing in cultural property and museum law. His topic was disaster planning. Most of the attendees were museums or cultural organizations which is a different perspective from a commercial art gallery. I learned that there is a specific document that cultural organizations have to draw up outlining their disaster plan. It runs several hundred pages. Mr. St. Hilaire put a lot of emphasis on short documents that are more readable and practical. He also talked a lot about employee safety. I felt relieved that I have addressed many of the items he said are key in ensuring employee and art safety. You can read his blog here.

For the early afternoon session I attended “How to Handle Legal Claims” with Joan Goshgarian of NHBCA, Connie Boyles Lane of  Orr and Reno and Bob Larsen of Sulloway & Hollis. They all stressed the importance of finding a lawyer that you like and trust before you REALLY need one. They talked about the process of interviewing several lawyers to find the one that you connect with personally- sharing that most lawyers will have informational meetings at no cost. As UNH School of Law ramps up its entertainment law focus I expect there will be more lawyers who are sympathetic to artists and there particular needs.

In the afternoon I served on a panel with Peter McGovern, faculty at UNH School of Law and Cathy Sununu, president of Portsmouth Museum of Art. We talked about artists and institutional relationships- basically covering the ins and outs of contracts for artists. While the audience did not join in the conversation, the feedback suggests they thought the panel was very informative but were overwhelmed with all the information we presented.

To wrap up this little review of the Arts, Culture and the Law conference I want to say how much I learned in one day. I cannot recommend this event enough. Last year I attended seminars on dispute resolution and estate planning for artists... and before you say you do not need to know about this stuff. I want to remind you that sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. For the $50 registration fee this conference packs a wallop.