Conscious Reverie

Conscious Reverie: Cynthia Bjorn’s Story In Color

The collection of works displayed in Cynthia Bjorn’s solo exhibition Story In Color offer us an intimate glimpse into her evolution as a person and an artist. In a culture currently consumed with self-care and wellness it can be easy to scoff at the notion of presence but Bjorn’s utter lack of pretense makes engaging with her dialogue fluid. Her current practice has veered away from the aggressive action and large gestures of her older works and into new territory. Bjorn likens the changes in her aesthetic to her own life and a realization that her practice could be used to self direct her thoughts and feelings. The staccato energy of her former creative angst has simmered into a mindful legato intent on conscious reverie. Much like her work, Bjorn herself has a bright and steady energy and with this energy she has blended mark making and color into personal meditations. 

Left, right :  Grey 12  ,  Grey 13, Metallic Buzz, Bendable, Lime 11,  acrylic on panel with resin - 12/24/12/36/12 X 36

Left, right : Grey 12 , Grey 13, Metallic Buzz, Bendable, Lime 11, acrylic on panel with resin - 12/24/12/36/12 X 36

Gratitude , acrylic on panel with resin,104x24 + detail

Gratitude, acrylic on panel with resin,104x24 + detail

The long, feathery brushstrokes Bjorn’s current work has become known for are the result of expertly blended paint and a still hand. Bjorn uses acrylic paint mixed with medium to create the proper consistency needed for the thousands upon thousands of fine lines in her subtly detailed, minimal pieces. Each line is made with purpose and intention, and each set of colors is a reflection of Bjorn’s spiritual interior. At a distance her works communicate oscillating colors and an organic hatching, but up close her paintings give way to much more. Dense layers reveal themselves in fragments, nuanced colors emerge as fine lines momentarily cross paths, and the rich coating of resin cascading across the surface of the panel becomes more than just sheen. The resin Bjorn applies to each of her paintings captures a fantastic dynamism that allows the deepest layers to peak out as the top layer tucks in. The meditation that Bjorn brings into her mark making is matched by the meditative headspace required for the precision of her resin work: both meditations are frozen in time as the resin tightly glosses the panel before curing in sterile isolation. Once the panels have fully dried they emerge from their studio quarantine imbued with Bjorn’s energy. 

Bjorn’s panels each carry their own emotional weight, but their mutual dimensions allow the pieces to be arranged in family units that create their own narratives. With each panel sharing the same measured length alongside differing widths they cluster and pair together in seemingly endless conversation.  A trio of deep gray and black pieces partner with a pair of citrusy lime panels creating a vision of a somber mood turned hopeful. This group of panels is a reminder that a bad morning hasn’t stolen the day and that sometimes the best we can do is surrender. A stack of panels in deep neutral tones titled Gratitude appears almost figurative and deeply grounded in the Earth: the steady energy of Bjorn’s gratefulness buzzes lightly beneath the luster of each piece.

Left:  Be Still , acrylic on panel with resin, 24 x 36 Right:  Underfoot , acrylic on panel with resin, 36 x 36

Left: Be Still, acrylic on panel with resin, 24 x 36 Right: Underfoot, acrylic on panel with resin, 36 x 36

A panel dressed in a lattice of chilly blues and creams atop a base of rich grey feels like a crisp inhale while a mossy green panel ebbs and flows in its verdancy like a nice deep exhale. A family of panels in rosy pinks and peachy tones elicits the warm energy of a hug or the deep breath needed to conjure hope. This color family is unified by a thin web of shimmering gold lines resting upon the surface as a sort of suture or embrace. The largest piece in this family is titled Talking to Angels and the smallest is the aptly named Mother’s Song — the details of Bjorn’s meditations remain private, but these panels seem to invite viewers to experience a sense of both loss and hope. 

Left:  Talking to Angels , acrylic on panel with resin, 36x36 Right:  Mother’s Song , acrylic on panel with resin, 24x36

Left: Talking to Angels, acrylic on panel with resin, 36x36 Right: Mother’s Song, acrylic on panel with resin, 24x36

Like people, each of Bjorn’s paintings has a story to tell within a malleable context. Just as our own lives are temporary and often provisional, every panel’s color and every collection of panels evokes a new story. We may have said so long to Story In Color, but it’s certainly not goodbye. Bjorn’s pieces will continue to have presence in the Weinberger Fine Art main space. We invite you to come take a look and experience your own color story by appointment or by chance. 

Big Nature

Big Nature: Steve Snell’s Boat Show

Steve Snell is an artist interested in history, myth, and what he refers to as big nature. And though Snell hasn’t officially defined the term, a look at his art practice will give you the gist: living within, communing with, and drawing inspiration from the experience of adventure within nature. Snell has lived in a small house boat in Alaska, he’s hiked across the state of Massachusetts in search of inspiration (finding Alec Baldwin along the way), he’s trekked with his own art students in Nebraska, and he’s floated a couch boat down miles of the Connecticut River in nothing more than denim cutoffs and a coon skin cap. Simply put, Steve Snell is brother nature and we’re lucky he is also an artist. His exhibition Boat Show is a love letter of sorts to the big wild that has inspired his professional practice and his body of adventure-art

Float Couch , wood, styrofoam & epoxy resin, 36x108 inches —  Daunting Courage , cardboard, styrofoam, epoxy resin & wood, 32x34x144 inches —  Pretzel Boat , cedar, styrofoam & epoxy resin, 77x125 inches

Float Couch, wood, styrofoam & epoxy resin, 36x108 inches — Daunting Courage, cardboard, styrofoam, epoxy resin & wood, 32x34x144 inches — Pretzel Boat, cedar, styrofoam & epoxy resin, 77x125 inches

Adventure-art feels like the best way to describe Snell’s multifaceted approach to art making. Through his interdisciplinary practice, Snell reflects upon tropes of self-sufficiency and rugged masculinity, the exploration of North America, and the reality that for most of us, big wild is something we experience in an indirect and heavily mediated way. Snell describes his style of art making as a two part process, “The first part of adventure-art is all about creating an exciting and unusual life experience.  The second part of adventure-art is the image of that experience.” Boat Show is the confluence of each of Snell’s various tributaries of creation.

Entering the space, viewers are immediately pulled into the majesty and comedy of Snell’s boats. His wooden couch boat and cardboard replica of Lewis and Clark’s keelboat join a giant, seaworthy pretzel. Each boat is fit for the water but embraces a certain level of humor, a levity that bridges the gap between water vessel and object: each piece holds its own simply as sculpture. Encircling the boats are Snell’s two-dimensional works (and one impossibly cute wooden pretzel fit for the mantle of a home or the walls of a brewery) that cover the adventure-art spectrum. Meticulously painted pixelated portraits of Lewis and Clark meet dreamy watercolors of Snell’s “Snacks on the River,” a series born from his observations of the found objects, natural ephemera, and snacks experienced on river adventures. In one of the pieces, Snacks on the River: Gummi Bears at Sunset, a delightful line of gummy bears hover in the center of a hazy minimal sunset. This series expresses well the levity inherent to Snell's work: where breathtaking sunsets meet unfettered skylines so too there are whimsical gummy bears, pretzels, and crushed beer cans. 

(left) Snacks on the River: Gummi Bears at Sunset   (right)Snacks on the River: Amazonia  — both watercolor and acrylic on paper, 11x15

(left) Snacks on the River: Gummi Bears at Sunset (right)Snacks on the River: Amazonia — both watercolor and acrylic on paper, 11x15

Another stand out piece in this show is Snell’s life size bear. Rendered in ink, Magenta Bear #2 is overwhelming in scale and realism, but again there is a lightheartedness. Where viewers meet a life size bear they also meet the humor of monochrome magenta whipped into tactile wisps with glints of teeny metallic bits embedded in the ink. This bear dominates, but he also makes you smile. 

Magenta Bear #2 , ink on paper, 48x60

Magenta Bear #2, ink on paper, 48x60

Throughout the show the space is tied together with different plays on Snell’s dizzy pixelations. Taking images from history and the American west, Snell fractures and shatters the images and reassembles them in different ways. Ranging from the checkerboard composition of Jolly Flat Boatman On Fire to the cleverly distorted Two Clarks, viewers embark on their own journey of deciphering and discovering what they’re truly looking at. 

Jolly Flat Boatman On Fire , watercolor on paper, 22x30                 Two Clarks , watercolor on paper, 22x30

Jolly Flat Boatman On Fire, watercolor on paper, 22x30 Two Clarks, watercolor on paper, 22x30

Boat Show provides an opportunity to briefly escape into the wilderness and to journey with Snell all over North America. Alongside his trio of boats, we as viewers become part of his fleet setting off together and disseminating from the confluence down his varying creative streams. So strap on your boots, gather your oars, and join him in The Drawing Room because as Snell says, “There are enough snacks on the river for anyone who wants them.” 

Reinventing the Line

Reinventing the Line: Post-Digital Artworks by Mike Lyon

“Reinventing the Line,” an exhibition of works by Mike Lyon on display in Weinberger Fine Art’s Drawing Room, is a phantasmagoric experience. Lyon, a post-digital artist, creates prints and paintings using automated machinery and digital technologies. The results are expansive; Lyon’s exhibited artworks range from geometric spirals of paint on canvas to photorealistic monochrome prints on paper. Although the works featured in “Reinventing the Line” showcase a broad range of style and form, they are all markedly process-forward and technologically advanced masterpieces.  

“Sinjun,” Acrylic on paper, 30 x 42 inches

“Sinjun,” Acrylic on paper, 30 x 42 inches

Many of the artworks currently on display in the Drawing Room are composed of vibrantly colored lines forming hundreds of overlapping squares. The artist uses a CNC (computer numeric control) router to build repetitive, spiraling patterns of acrylic paint that rely on gradient and contrast to convey figures. Up close, the many squares appear tile-like, causing the artworks to resemble patchwork quilts. As viewers step further back from the paintings, the lines of color and geometric shapes give way to images of faces and figures. A mesmerizing video of Lyon’s process accompanies his painted masterpieces, inviting viewers to contemplate Lyon’s artistic and technological practice alongside his finished works. Process is thus central and transparently visible in the exhibition.  

Portraits comprise the majority of Lyon’s square spiral paintings. Partially obfuscated, heavily shadowed faces peer out of kaleidoscopes of shapes and lines. In some paintings, the image is clear enough to identify the subject’s facial expressions; others are so abstracted that the figure is barely identifiable. The geometrical precision of Lyon’s spiraling lines affords the artworks a matrix-like quality. The repetitive square layers function as a mediation of the images that they simultaneously construct and obstruct. In these portraits, technology both creates and obscures imagery.

“Miguel,” Acrylic on paper, 30 x 42 inches

“Miguel,” Acrylic on paper, 30 x 42 inches

In addition to the mediating power of technology, Lyon’s portraits pose the question of recognition. The artist explores the possibilities of conveying faces and bodies with geometrical shapes and starkly contrasting colors rather than traditional representative techniques. The result is both highly conceptual and strikingly visceral: it poses an optical anomaly and encourages contemplation of the technological landscape that has drastically influenced the production and consumption of art.

“Sara Reclining” deviates drastically from Lyon’s signature square spiral portraits. The artwork, a Japanese woodcut print on rice paper, represents a woman turned away from the viewer, lying nude among the ruffled sheets and blankets that adorn her bed. The print is a blue monochrome, ranging from gentle robin’s egg cerulean to deep midnight navy. The woman is posed so casually, so innocuously, that she seems to be as much a natural part of the bed as the sheets that surround her. The scene emanates a deeply personal atmosphere, as if viewers are glimpsing a profoundly intimate and delicate moment in the woman’s quotidian life.  

“Sara Reclining,” Japanese woodcut, 42 x 77 inches

“Sara Reclining,” Japanese woodcut, 42 x 77 inches

“Reinventing the Line” is homage to the expanding possibilities of technology’s influence on art. Lyon creates a visual reality in which automated machinery acts as mediator between imagery, subject, and viewership. The exhibition spotlights the complex relationships between representative experimentation, technological innovation, and contemporary portraiture.

Observe and Reflect

Observe and Reflect: Paintings by Richard Mattsson

Richard Mattsson creates art as a reflective practice. Like a meditation, his paintings exist without subliminal concept or conscious messaging. They convey the unfettered experience of the Loose Park landscape, of a Kansas City neighborhood engulfed in the yellow-red blanket of autumn leaves, or of a garden in the golden glow of late summer. There is a quiet, unassuming magic in these works. It is the magic of every day beauty, of a clear and open mind, of getting lost looking at the trees on your own street. 

Mattsson’s artistic process revolves around observation and spontaneity. Rather than attempt to control the development of his artwork, Mattsson allows intuition to guide the evolution of his paintings. This liberating, self-trusting practice lends itself to a delicately ephemeral body of work. The finished products capture fleeting moments, such as the aura of pink haze in the last seconds before the sun sinks below the horizon or the shimmering reflection of trees in a pond on a cloudless summer day. Mattsson’s solo exhibition in Weinberger Fine Art’s Drawing Room is a melodic gentle reminder to viewers to slow down long enough to experience Kansas City’s subtle, constantly changing beauty. 

“Anna in the Garden” is a captivating example of Mattsson’s seamlessly serene representative style. A nude woman stands unselfconsciously in an exterior garden, her hand delicately outstretched to caress the leaves of a tree. She exudes an effortless grace, appearing at once alert and at ease. It is as if she blends in with the foliage around her – as if she herself is a natural and expected part of the floral landscape. The juxtaposition of the tree’s red-gold leaves against the lush greens and blooming flowers in the rest of the garden tell us that it is early fall, and the trees have just begun to change color. Everything is elegantly precise – the season, the golden afternoon light, the bloom of the garden, the gentle touch of the woman’s finger to the leaves. The scene emanates a quiet, verdant tranquility.

“Anna in the Garden,” oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches

“Anna in the Garden,” oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches

Although “Studio with Crotons” is an interior painting, it is almost as rich with flora as Mattsson’s landscape and garden pictures. Potted houseplants with thick, red and green leaves adorn small tables scattered around the foreground of the painting. A geometric rug covers a stretch of the honey-colored hardwood floors. A mirror expands across the entirety of the wall on the right edge of the painting, reflecting a second perspective of the room. A third perspective is found in a smaller mirror on the left side of the painting. In this mirror, the artist and his easel are visible. Paintbrush in hand, Mattsson peers calmly but intently at the room before him. He is a self-effacing figure in the artwork; like the woman in “Anna in the Garden,” he is both at ease and fully engrossed in his serene surroundings. The artist’s presence in “Studio with Crotons” alludes to his signature meditative, observation-based process.

“Studio with Crotons,” oil on canvas, 48 x 55 inches

“Studio with Crotons,” oil on canvas, 48 x 55 inches

Richard Mattsson’s paintings are the stunning product of being present in one’s own quotidian surroundings. They are the art of meditation, introspection, and observation. Of his artistic process, Mattsson comments, “My visual perception is the sum of me looking outward and simultaneously looking inward.” As he works, delicately mediating his surroundings and his emotional response to them, Mattsson strives to return to the authentic state of pure observation experienced almost exclusively by children. His paintings invite us to do the same.