The Square One Events at the Ritz bring in a large number of artists, who are vetted by Okie, and pay an admission fee & get a space (4x6 ft or so) in the form of a pegboard, or multiples thereof. There's a lot of variety and media, except for sculpture, which is rare (and hard to hang on a pegboard). Lighting at the Ritz is spotty, no pun intended, a difficult mix between getting enough light to see and appreciate the work and maintaining the subdued atmosphere one normally associates with a bar -- and that's in the two front rooms. In the large back room by the stage, when events begin, the lights are dimmed to minimal levels. Some of the art is barely visible. On the other hand, that room often has the most viewers in it.
In that room, around a corner, was the work of Carrie Vail, a painter who came to Tampa three years ago via Las Vegas, where she lived at the time construction and the real estate bubble were peaking, rapidly erasing historical landmarks -- all at a fevered pitch. The artist seems to have been affected by this shockwave in her landscapes, some of which show a multitude of clone-houses flooding the conceptual space inside the frame. [Link]
These houses are skeletal, ghostly, incomplete, definitely not homes, and strewn around in a dystopic fashion. Made of paint and tape, the tears at the ends of the tape add a touch of emotion/passion to the work. Paint drips and horizontal tape add up to a subtle visual grid in these pictures. My personal favorite: [Link]
[Link] Note the cascade of paper refuse down the outside of the frame in this one. Carrie is very well aware and riffs off the potential of the frame as a visual and conceptual element, not just a container for the image. She does this in an incisive self-portrait [Link] where she is staring deadpan, almost Durer-like [Link] but recontextualized into 2010, and feminine manner, into what appears to be the camera lens, including some typical monotaxic perspective distortion (what is referred to in photography as 'lightbulb head'). This portrait plays with the edge, including the information the camera provides. We can see the timestamp, brand, number of rolls through the camera (rolls in a digicam?), even the status of the battery, which might be symbolic for the artist's condition, or not. Self-referential, it alludes to the dual processes via which it was made, and adds a secondary frame.
Another stand-out (self-portrait?) is this [Link]. Love two things about this one, first, how the figure's elongated left arm forms a secondary frame, and the concept of the artist being nude, but not naked. The black and red background...half-passion, half-mystery. She still retains her identity as a mystery, her eyes masked by what appears to be the shadow of the arm. And the gesture is delightfully, perfectly, ambivalent: I have no way of knowing if it's being donned or removed. The artist revealing and concealing herself simultaneously.
Last, but not least, is this [Link] great heart in the conceptual landscape. Note that the biological heart is also framed by a white, spiritual one. In this landscape, the hearts are dominant, the meaty one's blood vessels look like expressway cloverleaf interchanges. Here the houses relegated to subdued, small forms, more orderly, and if one looks, there are other, smaller hearts that have nested among the now-rooted houses, no, make that homes.
[The following review was written by Art Taco correspondent Lydia Gottardi]
Always a treat at Square One is the table of Case Max,a graphic illustrator who sells affordable reproductions of his stunningly-detailed pen and ink drawings (some in color) of subjects as varied as ancient gods to Death Metal figures to Japanese fashion, with hommages to heroic feats of myth and folklore, like "Enki, son of Anu", a Sumerian hero who saved humanity from the great Flood, to "The revenge of Sakata Kintoki", a Japanese superhero.
"Gothic Lolita", is a Shinjuku-Girl vision of Nabakov's nymph taken a shade darker with Goth sensibilities, as if Lolita and Vivian Darkbloom (an anagram for Vladimir Nabokov) have spawned a teenager. Whether esoteric, apocalyptic, or darkly playful in tone, Case Max's emblematic drawings all have his unmistakable style. [Link].
Melisa Taylor's card reads: "artist/photographer/crafter & dessert maker". In her shop announcement at ETSY, she writes: "I love to show others the way I see things, nature, beauty, every day objects.". Over at Twitter, her bio reads: "Pastry Chef, Crafty Chick, Artsy Phartsy, Foodie, Silly Girl.". The jewelry she makes (some out of skateboards) is also creative, innovative and beautifully designed. It's Melisa's photography that caught my eye. She's shown at several other Square One events.
Melisa's macros are colorful and passionate [Link], and beautifully composed [Link]. Here is a well-seen composite panoramic picture from pre-Katrina NOLA: [Link]. She works with a wide variety of cameras and formats, from the square (in "toy" cameras to Hasselblads) 20x24 Polaroid, to panoramic. There's a light-hearted, grounded, at times humorous, egalitarian quality to her pictures coupled with sensitivity, intelligence, constant exploration, and strong, living, organic sense of design. Her attitude reminds me of Elsa Dorfman's, with a sweet transparency into her life.