A small bustling art gallery, with everyone talking, but all are keeping a somewhat quiet composure like they would in a museum. Then, the volume starts to pick up as everyone realizes that they are in an alternative art gallery in the Whiteaker neighborhood, during the Last Friday Artwalk. Also, everyone may wonder why in one of the paintings a person with a television for a head, and why the hell he/it is sniffing a flower. The head is an old-school style TV even having knobs to change the channel. The artist who painted it smokes a cigarette outside and looks in as people wander about the gallery pondering his art. He is easy to spot, as several of his paintings are self-portraits and he wears distinctive glasses–a fact he does not shy away from in his self-portraits.
The TV in the painting is outside smelling a lone flower, or watching it, as the TV does not have a nose or the antenna’s are sniffing. The painting is a comment on the viewing habits of the American public and how we see the world. The acrylic painting exhibits a vast range of natural colors in the foreground, yet the colors are washed out in the background. Certainly, not the most aesthetically pleasing picture, but works well for what it is trying to do because it makes you think about what the content is and what that content means past the literal interpretation.
The TV head is a painting of Drew Bardana’s, whose show during the Artwalk in January occurred on his 21st birthday.. It was one of the few galleries to feel like a gallery during an art show–I thought this would happen way more, which made the stop at The Voyeur clearly the best exhibit of the night. His show also did not have much to compete with because the lack of strong work on the Artwalk and the venues did not hang that much art–or any at all for that matter. It appeared that many of the stops on the Artwalk just want the publicity of being a stop on the Artwalk and don’t care about art. Clearly, Mo Bowen, the curator and owner of The Voyeur, put the most time and effort into hanging and displaying the show. I hope that her care for her gallery will attract other prominent artists. While Bardana’s art raises such questions as why would a TV sniff a flower? Why are those children on a leash and why the hell is that bug drilling into your head? (this is referring to a charcoal self-portrait of the artist).
Bardana’s success with art could also be due to his constant process of creating:
My art is a practice, a constant work always in flux. I’ll finish one painting and be onto the next, trying to learn from the mistakes I may have made in the previous paintings. For me, it is an outlet to put my thoughts and emotions into visual context, Documentation is how I think of it. I am documenting my life and progress through my drawings and paintings.
That documentation starts with his sketchbook; his sketchbook is constantly updated with writing and drawings. He takes ideas from his sketchbook and starts a composition from those ideas. His paintings take multiple days to complete and he relies on spontaneity. Once he has moved on from his sketchbook to canvas he will use “splattered gestural marks with paint” to see where it takes him. He says this process slows him down a bit, forcing him to think about his paintings.
Another painting of Bardana’s at The Voyeur are postmodern paintings that include children being walked on a leash and another canvas with people whose heads are replaced with telephones. The children in the painting have collars on their neck, not harnesses like the ones kids wear when parents actually walk their children. On Bardana’s Facebook page (where I conducted this interview) he proudly displays a charcoal self-portrait with a coned bug drilling into his forehead drawing blood. He got the idea for the portrait while staying in a run-down house in the Jefferson Westside neighborhood and was getting bitten on all over his body at the time and was convinced it was bed bugs. It turned out to be scabies, but Bardana found the experience more traumatic than just the itchiness. Traumatic enough to create a charcoal drawing about it.
For his show at the voyeur, Bardana says his materials consisted of acrylic paint, charcoal, chalk pastel, and watercolor. He added that he uses any material that he can get his hands on. He also used the back of skateboard decks for canvases, which is not the first time I have seen skateboards used for art, but the first time I have ever seen them hung in a gallery. Also, he found the skateboards while dumpster diving. All off of the canvases he used were stretched from a roll of outdoor canvass instead of bought artist canvas.
Another of Bardaana’s paintings is a canvas painting with two people in conversation but their heads are replaced with wired telephones human heads and the telephone cords stand in for their arms. Bardana’s art often comments on the way humans communicate with each other as technology changes in the world. Maybe the old style phones are just easier to paint than using cell phones–I mean what would the arms be made of then?.
While not naming any artists that inspire him he says, “What inspires me is watching people and also reflecting on the social structures of my life. I’ve always been rather quiet and somewhat of a recluse so this lends an interesting view into everyday life.”
Some people might think having a 21st being stuck at an art gallery would be disappointing because you couldn’t get drunk at the bars, a concern the artist did not share. He was grateful to have his birthday coincide with the opening of his show because, “It felt more like a celebration of who I am and the people I know rather than the celebration of the date of my birth. I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” he says.
Bardana recently enrolled at the Pacific Northwest College of Art to further his art studies. His first college classes in art were at a couple of northwest community colleges. Bardana didn’t take any art courses until he was a senior year in high school, then was quickly placed in advanced art section because of his natural talent. Moving on from Lane to study at PNC his last blog post before transferring says, “ . . . No more angst-driven posts about being bored and unchallenged at Lane Community College,”1; however, he does say that “taking multiple art courses from countless art instructors I have learned that the instructor can only open doors for the students. It is up to the student to take that idea and practice it on their own time and efforts.” Proving this as every painting displayed at The Voyeur was created outside of class and more impressive than his work created inside class.
The other show I went to last term was an opening at the Jordan Shnitzer where I wrote a piece focussing on the band that played next term.
Here is what happened at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of art for the winter term opening. Next term is a show of Cuban art curated by graduate student Ashley Gibson. The show is about cultural taboos in Cuba and Gibson says, “This exhibition will contribute to current debates about racismin contemporary Cuba and elsewhere in the world, while raising larger questions of cultural heritage, gender, identity, and diaspora.” The show runs from March 22 – June 26, 2011
Currently on display at The Voyeur is a show titled “Bathroom Art” by Ben Rood use your imagination to whatever bathroom art is or go there yourself.