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Artists Explore New Approach to Landscapes at Carnegie Exhibit

Now Here: Theoretical Landscapes continues at The Carnegie through April 18, a group show featuring 19 artists and art collaboratives. 

If you’re like us, you’re asking “What’s a theoretical landscape?” We knew Carnegie gallery director Matt Distel would have the answer.

Now Here,” Distel explains, “uses the landscape as a springboard into a multitude of concepts, environments and objects. It asks what creates a landscape and what does a landscape contain. So really this is what I wanted to do. Ask the big question of, how are artists in this region creating work that utilizes landscape in new and inventive ways?” 

If you think of ‘landscape painting’ as traditional, Now Here will open your mind to the possibilities. At The Carnegie, the form “serves as the grounding or inspiration for all sorts of contemporary art,” Distel observes.

“I think each artist in this exhibition would answer ‘what is a landscape?’ in different ways.” 

The work is insistently now. Insistently here. 

There are artists who play with materials -- Joe Girandola extracts landscapes from famous paintings using duct tape (at The Carnegie, his work is “an ode to Da Vinci); Time McMichael makes dramatic invented scenes with volcanic ash and coal. Emily Hanako Momohara and C. Jacqueline Wood each explore very personal connections to land and sea. 

Some artists’ work is grounded in reality but alter the sensibilities of the viewer. 

Covington’s Joey Versoza, Distel says, “takes a very common scene – an empty basketball court in an otherwise empty park – that for some reason struck him as particularly haunting or poignant. He filmed it and then exhibits that video loop turned on its side. This very simple gesture changes your body’s relationship to the very ground. You want to turn it right side up but you can’t. Your own body and desire to see the landscape in the 'right way' gets sucked into the artwork.”

“My approach to creating Tree and Hoop, Versoza says, “was to use the camera as a pseudo-neutralizing eye to survey personal landscape. To fit the landscape into the frame, I had to tilt the camera on its side.  

“This gesture, for me, is what begins to activate "an altered sensibility.”  This simple act doesn’t ask the viewer to abandon their own sensibilities completely, but asks them to see an image, a common Kentucky image, as if that world has been turned on its side. “In turning their heads to correct the image for themselves, the audience is faced with the discomfort of change.”

There are works that suggest science fiction or fantasy – “scenes that cannot happen in nature or real life,” Distel defines.

He points to Bill Ross, who “loosely takes on the story of Alice in Wonderland and creates paintings, prints and even an environment populated with a host of animals as if one of his paintings sprung to life. 

“Marc Lambert makes beautiful paintings of potential future cities as filtered through the mid-20th century promise of flying cars and bubble cities. Clint Woods creates painstakingly detailed pen and ink drawings of fantasy landscapes that incorporate body parts and geodesic shapes.”

Distel invites viewers to look at the work in Now Here and ask themselves – or him -- “now how is this a landscape?” 

“I would be happy if you agreed or disagreed with what was included. This show is about asking for a bigger dialogue.”

Now Here, March 13-April 18. The Carnegie, 1028 Scott Blvd., Covington. Free opening reception 6-9 p.m. March 13, preceded by 5:30 p.m. conversation with the artists. Gallery hours 12-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. For more information: 859-491-2030 and www.thecarnegie.com.

Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts

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