From Canvas to Celluloid
new Heyde Center show covers duo of mediums
The Heyde Center for the Arts occupies a grand position overlooking downtown Chippewa Falls. Once a temple to education as McDonell Memorial High School, it now houses the Chippewa Valley Cultural Association, providing a needed venue for performing and visual arts. Debra Johnson, the director of the Heyde, is passionately committed to raising the profile and impact of local artists on the Chippewa Valley: “The area is rich in talented artists doing extraordinary work, and we are constantly trying to get the public to participate in and be moved by the arts. If someone leaves a show here with a new outlook and a new energy then I’ve done my job.” Since the Heyde opened in 2000, hundreds of local artists have exhibited in its galleries. This month, in two separate galleries can be found the work of Eau Claire artists Terry Meyer and Jason Stabenow.
Meyer is an artist preoccupied with the truthful expression of energy and motion. He has worked in several mediums over his career, but now he exclusively paints with watercolors. In his working with a medium dependent on the fickle properties of water, Meyer has chosen to depart from the traditionally highly controlled watercolor technique to embrace a more Eastern approach to the work, based in movement, the pregnant integrity of lines, and the thin slip of time where they meet to create an image. These large paintings are framed and presented without glass, establishing a delicacy and sense of fragility that sits well with his technique, and creating a more immediate presentation without glassy boundary sealing away the grain of the paper, the clarity of the color, or the trail of the brush. With few exceptions, Meyer’s subject matter in the paintings here consists of the repeated motif of the unbridled horse, active or still, in groups or as solitary figures. It is the complexity and fluidity of life found in natural forms and animals that Meyer seeks to articulate through painting. For instance, in the piece Rambunctious a solitary horse is depicted loosely but firmly, and in the expression of movement the horse’s legs all but disappear into a scatter of active brushstrokes. A boldly brushed and yet coherent painting is an accomplishment, an eloquent one even more so, and in Meyer’s case this is an accomplishment built on thousands of hours of disciplined work, hours which have very obviously served him well.
Stabenow is a self-taught photographer with an educational and professional background in horticulture. This exhibition, his first one-man show, is a group of photographs entitled Bloom. They are dramatic subject-driven images, portraits or poetic pseudo-scientific studies of blooming plants, firmly rooted in the millenia-long artistic love affair with flowers. Stabenow says that the series has become something of a personal collection that he intends to continue to add specimens to for the rest of his career. The prints are of varying scale, from just a few inches to several feet wide. In the images, the plants, almost all of them flowering stems, are placed against a plain background – black, white, or grey – and photographed with a straightforward front-and-center composition. The simplicity of the staging places all of the emphasis onto the forms of the plants themselves, their symmetry or asymmetry, papery or leathern texture, pastel or primary coloring. Here Stabenow shows a talent for understanding and highlighting each of his subject’s particular strengths, from the intimate scallops of Rosa to the glowing recesses of Phalaenopsis to the rounded pendulous forms of Lady Slipper. Using digital techniques Stabenow arrives at images of each species in idealized color and detail, at times having the delicate look of a hand-colored photograph and in other prints the bold, punched-up color of advertising. The photographs as a group communicate a desire to stop time, stop decay, and permanently hold these ephemeral objects at the height of their perfection.
Exhibits by painter Terry Meyer and photographer Jason Stabenow • 10am-6pm Monday through Thursday and 10am-4pm Friday through Feb. 27; galleries also open one hour before scheduled evening performances • Heyde Center for the Arts, 3 S. High St., Chippewa Falls • www.cvca.net.