Bob McNally's handmade string instruments are beautiful to look at as well as to listen to. McNally's Strumsticks, an instrument he invented himself, are long and thin. He says that he designed them for people who don't play instruments, since there are no wrong notes. He designed them in the spirit of having fun with music. Strumsticks are great for children, but all ages can enjoy them, as can more experienced musicians. The Strumstick plays in only one key, opposed to the more common twelve.
A variety of different woods are used: spruce, maple, padouk, koa, rosewood, and more. Some of the designs are fairly straight-forward, but McNally likes to add flair. A Strumstick with no designs and a plain soundhole (the soundhole is the round hole underneath the strings) is available, but there are also options for an inlaid rosette design such as stars or lightening. For something really unique, McNally also uses laser cut designs. Some of the designs are surface designs--roiling waves cover the body of one Strumstick--while others take a different design to soundholes. These different soundholes mostly do not change the sound the instrument makes, because the area is the same as the typical round soundhole. McNally notes that there is an exception to this, with the Scattered Stars design, "which gives a brighter tone" because of its larger soundhole area.
McNally is another new artist coming to the 2014 Armonk Outdoor Art Show, joining us from New Jersey.
Denis Leblanc paints watercolors of his home state Maine. He is a native son, and continues to live and work in the Pine Tree State. Subjects include sunsets, houses covered in snow, woods, mountaintops, marshes, and lots and lots of boats. Leblanc renders Maine as the Arcadia that it is, but without sentimentalizing it. With his water paintings, Leblanc creates a lushness in ripples and reflections. Winter scenes give off chills, and the cloudy skies are foreboding. And in other paintings, mist floats above a river, tendrils reaching towards dark trees. His clear eye for mood won him the Honorable Mention in watercolors at the 2013 Art Show. Leblanc paints a diversity of scenes, not just with setting and season, he also explores different angles, a close up of a sailboat with its sails down as poignant as silhouetted boats and rocks viewed from a distance. Humans and animals rarely make appearances. A lot of the paintings explore stillness, but there is also a series of waves crashing into rock.
Leblanc began painting as a young boy, originally favoring oil painting. He switched to watercolor when he began his career as a professional artist in the early nineties. He is self-taught, and cites Andrew Wyeth as an inspiration. For his scenes, Leblanc works off of photographs he takes. He starts with a detailed pencil sketch, then uses a combination of transparent and opaque paint for the final product. Leblanc mostly shows in New England, and we are lucky that he's made Armonk one of his stops.
Photographer Arnold Kastenbaum isolates geometry found in real life to create his moody images. Kastenbaum shoots in black and white, but there is not much gray in-between in these stark visuals. The subjects include hand rails, light fixtures, stairwells, bodies of water, and sand. Kastenbaum's photographs manage to be rooted in place while being compellingly abstract; the indoor and outdoor settings are equally intimate and strange. Even when it is completely clear what the subject is, you find yourself struck by the sleek beauty of the bend in a silver hand rail or the way lightbulbs make a light fixture begin to resemble the moon. He says his goal is to create a sense of surprise at seeing a known object in a new way, and takes some inspiration from German-American modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Kastenbaum has been showing his work at the Armonk Outdoor Art Show for several years, and at the 2013 Art Show, he won third place in photography. He first came to love the medium as a teenager and exhibited his work in the early 70s in New York City, but took a "long hiatus", returning to exhibiting in the late 90s. He lives in Westchester and participates in juried exhibits, galleries, and museums throughout the county and New York City.
Jack McLean is a bronze sculptor based in Illinois. He has been a working artist for almost forty years. In 2013 he was Honorable Mention in Sculpture at the Art Show.
His sculptures contain both whimsy and austerity. McLean says that he wants his sculptures to always "retain evidence of my hand and thought." He succeeds with use of texture and hot process patina. McLean patinates his sculptures to achieve muted shades--red, turquoise, beige, brown, yellow, white--and keeps strokes visible. Houses and boats are frequent subjects. The boats are made from one flat bronze plate which is heated and hammered into shape. He describes his Wheelhouse Series as being "houses with personalities." They aren't the only works with personality, of course, McLean plays with scale to create an interesting tone. For instance, the petite doors give houses a looming quality, like maybe they belong in a child's illustration version of Franz Kafka's works. Chains and wheels make frequent appearances, adding fun to works. He also does some more abstract works, such as "Strength in Vulnerability" a box that opens up to reveal a blue and yellow setting. There is an interactive feature to much of McLean's work: boxes to open, or boats can be taken off their copper chain cradles.
Anastasia Alexandrin is another new artist at the 2014 Armonk Outdoor Art Show. Alexandrin draws mostly in charcoal--sometimes using graphite--to create her dark, very female world. Her subjects are often young women, mixed in with natural imagery of birds, butterflies, flowers, waves, cow heads, and more. The background settings are sometimes blackness, sometimes patterns that suggest a nefarious fantasy world where it's unclear if the young women in it are being threatened or are part of the threatening--or both. When a white background is used, it jolts pleasantly.
Alexandrin uses mirroring and repetition, switches women's heads with animals or shows swans morphing from their hair. These drawings could be showing a fairy tale. There is great attention to detail and line. There is not just repetition of imagery, but also of line: fervently repeated lines create her dark backgrounds. Alexandrin's drawings dance more in surrealism than realism, but there is a strong sense that she is trying to show something about both the interiority and the perception of women in the real world.
Alexandrin's family left the Soviet Union when she was five years old, settling in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Around that time, she was starting to draw. She is classically trained, and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. She was taught and mentored at PAFA by the artist Peter Paone. Alexandrin calls Philadelphia home but travels widely, having had residencies in the past in China, New Mexico, and India. Alexandrin credits living in the Northeast to her black and white palette.
Deborah Groover is a new artist for the 2014 Art Show, bringing to us her bold and colorful polymer clay paintings. Polymer clay is often mistaken for wood or fabric. She was formally trained in ceramics, and had a career as a potter before a fateful fire gobbled up her work, and she remade herself as an artist in a new medium. Groover has also dabbled in painting, quilting, sewing, carpentry, and gardening; she considers all her previous experimenting important to her current work. Groover starts her process by making thin sheets of polymer with the help of a pasta machine. She then cuts the sheets and starts collaging. The final product has a compelling texture, and Groover encourages viewers to touch the works' surfaces.
Animals are the subject of much of Groover's work. She has a special affinity for birds, but horses and dogs and others make appearances. Each work has an equally bright and fun border of mixed stripes (the frames are hand painted) and this detail sets the main image up as if it were on a stage. Groover refers to the works as stories, and says that they have "a guaranteed happy ending." Groover's animals strike a pose, but they are not anthropomorphized. While I don't think I've ever seen a bird in real life with polka dots on its head or diamonds patterned across its chest, these fantastical details don't prevent the animals from having a realistic personality, without being shown in a strictly realistic style. Playful shape combinations are a big part of creating Groover's world.
Paul Shatz is a black and white photographer specializing in nature scenes. Shatz has an eye for the dramatic in nature; his photographs feel like an epic tale wrapped up into one image. He does this often by showing large swaths of land (or lake) but the epic feel isn't as simply achieved as just that. By opening the camera lens for longer, he captures moving water in a dynamic matter, we see the water's movement while the surrounding scenery is still crisp. Water, moving or still, is one of Shatz's frequent subjects, but the trees are the divas of Shatz's work. Sprawling limbs and roots, imposing in a solid trunk, and even craggy driftwood stamp their distinct energy onto the image. Lily pads and plump clouds also make charismatic appearances.
Shatz is from the Hudson Valley, and grew up loving the nature he saw. In college, he minored in photography, thinking it would be a fun hobby to have. It was a constant hobby for almost two decades, until 2002 when he left his job as a craps dealer at a casino on the West Coast to pursue fine arts photography as a full-time job. To hone his craft, Shatz worked as nature photographer Clyde Butcher's darkroom assistant. Shatz cites this experience as extremely important to his growth as an artist, and says that not only is Butcher's talent inspiring but also his "dedication to conservation and preservation" of nature.
Having traveled most of the United States, taking photographs along the way, Shatz now resides in Charleston, South Carolina.
Greg Navratil is one of the many exciting new artists participating in the Armonk Outdoor Art Show this year. He is based in Oregon and found out about the show from the website Zapplication.
Navratil's acrylic paintings are done in a sharpened impressionism done up in an extremely vibrant color palette. Most of Navratil's work depicts nature--woodlands, wetlands, deserts, gardens--but the bright colors turn these familiar scenes into something from a dream. Many paintings deals with repetition of similar shapes, rarely is there just one flower or one leaf or one empty glass bottle but a cacophony of them, with the bottles literally smashing together and flowers pushing against each other as they unfold. This isn't to say that there's a violent tone to Navratil's paintings, but instead a joy that can't be contained. Some paintings even impart a calmness, the type when you're outside in nature and take a deep breath, filling your lungs completely with fresh air. Navratil's work presents scenes that are great discoveries, scenes which he finds out in nature himself before starting to paint.
Navratil has a varied background as an artist. He received his B.F.A. from the Metropolitan State University in Denver, where he studied sculpture and painting. He has also screen printed and done book illustration, but he has been painting full-time since 1989. In 1995 he was honored with the position of Artist-in-Residence at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
August 20, 2014 Take a look at highlights from some of the Armonk Outdoor Art Show 2013 prize-winning artists with All About Armonk.
Patricia Disantis Wearable Fiber Detail of "Magenta Garden"
Patricia Disantis will be bringing her Shibumi Silks to the Armonk Outdoor Art Show for the first time in 2014, joining us from Connecticut. She specializes in pure silk scarves. Each comes in an unique combination of rich colors, and an enchanting pattern. The names of scarves reflect the tones: Vesuvius and its pulsing reds and oranges; Atlantis's looping blue, green, and purple; or Starry Night Over The Rhone's energetic swirls of blue and yellow. Disantis's scarves are colorful, full of verve, and a lot of fun.
The scarves are hand painted using an ancient process called water marbling. The process was invented in Japan. The paint is put into a water bath where it is spread and moved around with a stylus. When she is pleased with the "fluid picture", Disantis lays the silk carefully on top and the paint bonds to the silk. The silk is taken out of the water bath and rinsed, then put in a plastic bag to dry at home. Disantis will have a water marbling demo set up at her booth, a real treat to see the process as well as the beautiful finished product.
Geoffrey Harris Digital Art "Artificial Intelligence"
Geoffrey Harris is all about robots in his digital paintings. Robot families, robot friends, robots hanging out solo, friendly robots, frightening robots. Sometimes, his subjects are rocket ships or toys, but you have the feeling that they are rocket ships and toys for robots. These zany characters step right out of science fiction films and comic books. They are presented in bright colors and words are often used as if from some booming Master of Ceremonies. Not surprisingly, there's a lot of humor. There is also a sense of display: posing robots as if in a family portrait, appropriating comic book panels, and displaying robots on a stage framed by lush red curtains. Harris textures the works to give it a worn look.
Harris was born in Iceland on a Naval Base, and grew up in many different places. He was already painting and drawing from a young age. He began professional life at General Motors as a Software Systems Engineer in the eighties. In 1992, Harris decided to quit the corporate world and become a work full-time as an artist, settling down in South Carolina. He came to his subject matters through his longtime love of antique toys and games. Harris still collects antique toys, which are a source of inspiration. The paintings are done completely digitally, using the drawing software application Inkscape and Photoshop. Each painting goes through a series of different stages to get the complete look, and while he says he looks to invoke nostalgia, the paintings are also very fresh with their vibrant colors.
Harris is another new artist that we are excited to welcome to the 2014 Armonk Outdoor Art Show.