Lincoln Center Reflections, photograph ©Ruth Armitage

Of course one of the thrills of my recent trip to New York and Washington D.C. was seeing all of the master works in museums, including the featured image of Joan Mitchell’s “Sunflowers.” But just as exciting was the chance to see and meet some of the artists currently working! The term ‘contemporary’ has multiple meanings in art. It can refer to a certain ‘edgy’ or ‘current’ style,  but it can also refer to art that is currently being made, regardless of how representational it is, what style or media is used, etc.

Some of the art that had a strong impact on me during this trip was made more recently than the impressionist era!

One such piece was at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, in the exhibition African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era . Norman Lewis painted “Evening Rendezvous” in 1962, one year before I was born. At first I thought the painting was a fascinating non-objective piece, but upon further inspection, I realized it was an abstract depicting a gathering of Klansmen. Art that makes a political statement isn’t always the most beautiful, but it certainly is powerful.


“Evening Rendezvous” by Norman Lewis



Another  artist that made a big impression on me was Elizabeth Catlett. The photo of the sculpture above includes an image of  her print titled “Sharecropper” as well. I love to see artists work so well in very different mediums, while still retaining their artistic style. From Wikipedia: Elizabeth Catlett Mora (April 15, 1915 – April 2, 2012) was an American born Mexican sculptor and printmaker. Catlett is best known for the black, expressionistic sculptures and prints she produced during the 1960s and 1970s, which are seen as politically charged.

I also had a chance to see contemporary artists at the Parallax Art Fair. Seth Apter, an online friend, had announced that he would be showing there & I wanted a chance to meet him in person. His mixed media work has a sort of grungy, gritty, textured, dimensional appeal. You can find more of his work in his Etsy shop, or on his blog The Altered Page. Later in the week, I even found a copy of Seth’s new book The Pulse of Mixed Media in the bookstore at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.!


“In View” ©Seth Apter, used with permission


Thanks to Seth, I also viewed work by Ontario, Canada artist Jeanette Luchese.  Her paintings combine subtle textures and soft shapes with intimate mark-making. She uses repetition and symbolism to create what she calls Reprsentational Abstractions.

“Mindless Simple Rules” ©Jeanette Luchese

New York photographer & illustrator Debra Lill – Still Art in Motion showed Cinematic Vignettes framed in handcrafted wood boxes. I was fascinated with how the moving imagery added to the collaged and assembled frames. I’ve posted a still image of  one of her pieces below, but I hope you’ll check out her site too, to see the pieces in motion. Each of the videos and frames are perfectly tailored to each other and the combination is unique and wonderful.


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Casey Matthews was another artist whose work I admired at Parallax. I did not get a response when I asked for permission to post an image, so I hope you’ll go to her site yourself & view her work. I loved the ‘doodle-ish’ quality of the drips and mark making along with her subtle us of color.

Finally, I chanced to run into a painting buddy that I met in California at the Corcoran Gallery’s Diebenkorn exhibit: Freda Lee McCann. Freda and I both studied with Katherine Chang Liu in Santa Barbara and Ventura, CA. It was great to catch up with her!

Searching for your own contemporary inspirations? Be sure to mark down two events that are rapidly approaching!

  • Creative Spark Session with Ruth Armitage: at the Keizer Art Association, November 8, 9 & 10, 2012. Just $165 for three days of instruction in this beautiful, light-filled classroom.
  • Sitka Invitational: I’m thrilled to be part of this wonderful exhibition for the first time. November 9-11, 2012 at the World Forestry Center, Portland, OR. Save the date! More information at the Sitka website regarding tickets, hours and included artists.


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