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  • Emma Hines

Sunday, October 13th Creative Conversations at Roost

This installment of Creative Conversations was an absolute hit! Annie O’Neil, Mike Jurkovic and Matt Maley provided incredibly thought provoking works which facilitated some wonderful exchanges between the attendants of the event. Keep reading to see what each artist showed and what people thought of their work!

Annie O’Neill

First to present at this past Sunday’s artist salon was the very talented Annie O’Neill. Annie embodies the true spirit of the artist not only as a skilled painter and ceramicist, but as a visual storyteller. Her pieces are vivacious and inquisitive. There is a familiarity with her colorful platters in that even if you have never seen her work, the subject matter and playful decisions she makes in rendering animals resonates deeply with the viewer. Throughout the evening many commented on the likeness of her work to South American styles which was undoubtedly informed by O’Neill’s time spent in Mexico.

Her artistry truly comes alive in her skillful interplay between precision and playfulness, while it is clear from the overall quality of the work that she is a serious creator, O’Neill’s work never feels defined or trapped, but personable. The mood her art exhibits was supported by her own humble yet direct feelings toward her work when she discussed the desire to distance herself from the oftentimes pompous attitude of those who deal with ‘high art.’ She allows real, unfiltered life to be breathed into the clay through the colors and textures of her pieces.

One of my favorites, the image of the human and fish plate, begs the question of the relationship between people and animals. It is a curious and complex one, a relationship riddled with deep history of power imbalances and coexistence. As creatures at the ‘top’ of the food chain, we must consider our role in protecting and not exploiting the living beings that inhabit this planet with us, for they are intelligent and complicated, as we all are. This is what I think about when I see Annie’s work and I enjoy probing these ideas in a beautiful manner.

Mike Jurkovic

As the sun began to set, a warm light poured into the room through a partitioned window, similarly to the ones that house Mike’s photographs. This was a glorious moment where the atmosphere in the room mirrored the art we had all gathered to experience and appreciate; what a wonderful moment to behold. Light and mood were highly recognized facets of the conversation surrounding this work. We discussed how Mike captured the gentle relationship of light and the surfaces upon which they fall and one adjective that resonated with me was when someone called his photographs intimate.

The beauty of these images is that they are what we see when we allow ourselves to take a moment, a step back from our hectic lives and enjoy the subtle magic around us. I had never seen Mike’s work before but I recognized the stillness in them that I seek out in my daily life. His groupings of photos are balanced and complimentary. The organization was reminiscent of stanzas grouping lines of poetry, fitting given Jurkovic’s background as a poet. Without knowing this beforehand, I was immediately aware of the literary elements in his visual compositions and even hints of punctuation that seemed to appear in the way he captured images.

Mike discussed his desire to not live in a fog, the state of autopilot I and many others know so well, and appreciating all that we have to experience. This point resonated when he said that as a photographer you can take 40 photos before getting one or two that you like…but let’s see what we can do with the other 38. Those 38 moments in time are not just disposable because they aren’t the most beautiful, but rather provide the context and depth to this life we live. Powerful photographs, poetry, etc. all share a quality of connectivity with the viewer. We feel what that art has to say, and Mike Jurkovic’s photos speak volumes.

Matt Maley

Lastly we have Matt Maley, a painter, cartoonist, sculptor, writer, thinker. Much of the work I get to see at these events is thoughtful, well-crafted, and original. Matt’s work not only meets these standards, but has a power to engage and interact with the viewer in ways I have rarely seen paintings do.

Along with the large painting he showed, Matt also brought playful and interesting shadow box works as well, but I really want to take some time to discuss the first piece I showed above of the child ascending the staircase. There is a lot to unpack with this painting, but the first feeling I got as the viewer was that I could physically walk into the image before me. I not only have been a small child walking up to bed, I also was reminded of a phase of consciousness that exists between the wake and sleep, a foggy drift into another land. The disappearing railing and less defined edges of the bottom of the painting allude to this unraveling of reason, of waking life. The actual steps built into the frame of this painting allowed for a feeling of being able to to enter a parallel universe, a dream world where the possibilities are endless and logic is no longer a predominant factor. As you look ahead your eyes are level with the boy ascending, and since actual stairs protrude from the image, a viewer asked, “so where do the stairs begin?” leading me to imagine an infinite staircase crossing through layers of reality and imagination. I was invited to envision not only where the boy in the painting was going as he receded into the unknown, but what space my mind occupied in the possibly infinite sequences of existence happening around that moment.

That was a lot to think about on a casual Sunday evening but I was along for the mind bending ride this painting took me on. Maley’s shadow boxes also played with levels of interaction given the depth they provide. His phaser piece shows a solder gun transformed into a sci-fi weapon, and the lack of a glass barrier and playful feeling made it seem as though I could reach in and take it. Given the context of gun violence in America at this time in history, this was a poignant sensation as I viewed the work. Another piece placed directly above the phaser one was a colorful carnival of shapes and line created with paper and wire layered atop one another. I wanted to reach out and touch the shapes but the glass barrier that was not present in the phaser piece made me wonder if this was a decision on Maley’s part. All in all Matt Maley’s work is powerful in its ability to engage the viewer and invite them into a surreal space very effectively.

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