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Craving Art? Garren, Graham, Cerreta and More Dish It Out: 3 Local Galleries, 3 New Shows

| January 8, 2011

'Dawn,' by Beth Garren, at the Hollingsworth gallery. Click on the image for larger view.

Surprisingly and brightly early for an artist who tends to keep company with darker matter, Richard Schreiner peeked out of the Hollingsworth Gallery this morning, while a Tai Chi class was going on inside, and within moments was talking art, as he so often does, the way he creates it: by getting to the point quicker than a hatchet finding a scalp: “The thing about art is, it’s supposed to puncture the sanctimonious bullshit, not create it.” That such sudden bursts of Rive Gauche lingo can now be heard, even in snippets, in a Palm Coast strip mall is indicative of how much the town and its surroundings are attempting to put a little more emphasis on the urbane part of their suburban culture.

So is this: in these 24 hours, beginning with Friday evening’s (Jan. 7) opening at Flagler Beach’s Gallery of Local Art (GOLA), three new art shows are opening, featuring some 100 works: Peter A. Cerreta at GOLA, Beth Garren and JJ Graham at Hollingsworth, and new work by 44 artists at the Flagler County Art League’s “Color Splash” exhibit. Hollingsworth and the Art League are both at City Market Place in Palm Coast (the former City Walk). Their opening receptions are tonight from 6 to 9.

Some of it—maybe most of it—may not be to Schreiner’s liking, though art’s point isn’t primarily to pander to the largest number of people possible. Nor, of course, is it primarily to alienate. As Art League President Bob Ammon put it, “That’s the great thing about art: it provokes conversation and discussion and who knows where it will lead.”

Garren and Graham at Hollingsworth

At Hollingsworth, it leads to Daytona Beach artist Beth Garren’s meditations on the surreal. “In exploring connections to the mysteries of life, I seek to inspire a sense of awe about the workings of nature and the human experience,” she writes. “The sheer unknown that surrounds us on a daily basis is an amazement to me.  Curiosity, a fundamental of the human condition is a driving force in my life as well as my works.  I hope that the wonder I experience is translated to the canvas.”

Garren’s subjects are as familiar and common as rabbits, women, snakes, birds, plants. Their combination is not so common. She mixes the geometric rigor and regularity—if not the rusty colors—of Egyptian art with the dislocated perspectives and visual shocks of surrealist art: like Georgio de Chirico, who had a thing for errant heads and brilliant perspective, Garren’s heads become excerpts of something human radiating all sorts of unlikely tendrils of color and symbols—black-diamond tears, a Garden of Eden’s worth of snaky suggestions, concentric circles faintly rooted to a background of shapes and hints galloping toward a psychiatrist’s wet dream.  No wonder Graham was attracted to the work. His can be a psychiatrist’s nightmare, a struggle to get to that more peaceful point Garren is tapping, though happily for the viewer, Graham’s paintings don’t make the jump. They’re still in the churn, what the seven days of creation would look like on the third day.

“I was going to show more artists in the back, but nothing kind of felt right,” Graham says, explaining why the back half of the gallery displays his work as a counterpoint to Garren’s. “I saw this kind of yin and yang and the way the paint was handled in her work, she’s a very soft painter, and I kind of when looking at her work it made me feel like this total brute. I saw that tension between the paint, but also I saw the similarity and the spirituality and the dream. There’s a lot of searching in her work. I’m definitely searching too. And there’s also this element of what you’d call the unspeakable, or the unseen. I find it very interesting when artists try to paint that. I think it’s the things that we sense, and the things that we feel with our notice of things, but aren’t necessarily painted in black and white or color right in front of us. I see in her that she’s engaged in her nervous system. That’s definitely where I’m coming from too.”

With one signal difference: Garren is more at peace than Graham is. She’s made it to Sunday.

“Color Splash” at the Flagler County Art League

Speaking of which: a few doors down at the Flagler County Art League’s “Color Splash” show, some 61 new works by 41 artists cover the walls of the revamped gallery, where the floors have been finished and both sides of the gallery look as intended (and as inviting). The artist’s task this time around: “Basically,” Ammon, who teaches color theory, sais, “show us your use of color. I was always telling everybody it’s not so much it has to be brightly colored necessarily, but it’s the use of color that should be the emphasis. As you can see, it’s quite bright, quite colorful.”

It is: Ammon’s own rustic landscapes contrasts the dark blues of an evening or morning sky with the bright yellows of a pasture, Robert Carlson’s arresting, National Geographic-like photo portrait of a parrot (judged best in show) with its plumage of bright reds and greens, Ann DeLucia’s Warholian montage of “Compound Zebras” and Sadny Pierce’s “Poppies Galore” (no additional description necessary) make Ammon’s point. There are several interesting explorations of color that go beyond the figurative and the familiar, though at the Art League the viewer will more often be gently nudged toward something unusual rather than shocked or jarred into it. And proverbial points of reference—like Emile Dillion’s scarlet and yellow “Hawaii Motel” or Stephanie Salkin’s “Paris Lights”—are always there like lighthouses pointing the way back to a known shore.

“One of the most difficult things for a beginning artist to grasp is color theory, which is based on the color wheel, which shows you the complementary colors,” Ammon says. “Certain colors used adjacent to each other intensifies both colors and until you kind of learn that—I teach here on Fridays, and that’s one of the things I have to keep drumming into them.” The artists on display are not beginners, of course: they’ve into experimenting with those theories, and one of the points of the “Color Splash” shows is to invite visitors to react to those experiments.

Peter A. Cerreta at GOLA in Flagler Beach

Leaving Peter Cerreta for last here in no way suggests the order in which you should take in these three shows, especially since Cerreta’s is likely the most fun, in the sense of being equally accessible and provocative: Cerreta doesn’t just like to tell stories in his paintings. He likes to tell them directly without hesitating to borrow, and occasionally steal, from his inspirations: Chagall, Picasso, Duchamp, Goya. His “Young Girl Before a Painting” is a recreation of Picasso’s “Girl Before Mirror,” except that Cerreta’s girl is much younger and only admiring, in the nude she’s looking at, the woman she wants to be—“hair, boobs,” the works, Cerreta says.

The painter, who is 80, is not shy about his subject matters or the way he takes them on. He’s also done a reinterpretation of Manet’s famous (and famously scandalous) “Olympia.”  Like Manet’s, Cerreta’s prostitute is nude, reclining, and looking slightly more annoyed (time is money, after all) than Manet’s, because instead of having a black servant at her bedside, bringing her a color splash of flowers, she is faced with a cubical stagger of veiled women right off a fanatical Teheran street, one of them bearing a bucket of stones. One of the veiled ones, in this large painting called “The Emissaries,” is pointing to a black-clad thing (again, the quote from Manet), which in this case happens to be the prostitute’s warning: if she doesn’t straighten up, she’ll get stoned. The prostitute’s breasts, perkier than Madonna’s metallic sort, suggest that the moralistically mad message is falling on deaf ears. And like Manet, Cerreta succeeds in showing the prostitute more dignified than her assailants.

So it goes in Cerreta’s “Facts Fantasies Follies and Foibles of Man” show, which he describes as a jaunt from the serious to the whimsical: a girl right out of Edward Hopper is “looking for answers to her own life,” a bull, however powerful once, is looking death in the face, and those prostitutes again, this bunch on 9th Avenue in New York (Cerreta has his vice’s geography right), having a smoke and a tiff.

“As far vas subject matter, everything has been done,” Cerreta says. “The only thing that changes is technique, how artists present it.” Puncturing sanctimonies being one of Cerreta’s strengths, if not quote in Schreiner’s style. “One of the purposes of art is to clarify nature. Man’s nature, human nature,” Cerreta says. That’s assuming that there is something there to clarify, Schreiner might say.

And the conversation plays on.

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18 Responses for “Craving Art? Garren, Graham, Cerreta and More Dish It Out: 3 Local Galleries, 3 New Shows”

  1. Art Lover says:

    What ever happened to the fantastic and challenging show that were show at Hollingsworth in the past. Artist from all over the world were exhibited there. I miss seeing all of the incredible pieces not just the same vanity work or self taught artist showing. How about exposing Palm Coast to more than just local and poor imitations of famous artists and their works.

  2. W.Ryan says:

    Art Lover??…. Art Lover, the show at the Hollingsworth Gallery features an outstanding, creative and expressive artist. She is self-taught but you could never tell. Her understanding of where she is with regard to her ability with the brush is well balanced with her conceptual depiction of the world she creates withing the canvas boundaries. Her color sense is outstanding with her use osf econdary and tertiary colors confirms her organic nature of her work. As for your disdain for self taught… as a matter of fact, the term of self taught is a little misleading. All artists have looked for an understanding of technique or for ways to handle a particular issue/subject matter that arises as they work. This is why art books are so profitable! There is a variation of degree that an Artist has as to their level of academic participation or influence. I don’t know what famous artists are poorly imitated. I don’t see it. JJ Graham has a fresh approach to painting that is inspiring to a lot of artists that come across his work. His process is genuine. Most artists that are taught tends to take on the style and method of the teacher and then explore other methods. Some take on the thought process and some combine the two. This is a credible expectation of mature artists. I welcome local artist. The need to go elsewhere and not support local artists deprive local artist of local support thus robbing our local community of talent. The Hollingsworth, GOLA and FC Art league should be appreciated for promoting local artists and in no way should be hampered or dismissed for showing local talent. Especially works from Beth Garren. So lighten up Art lover and be welcoming of an expanded palette.

  3. J.J. Graham says:

    Beth Garren lives in Daytona Beach, still people in this community experienced her work for the first time, and gave it high praise. As far as being self-taught goes, I know painters with their MFA who don’t paint as well as she does. Vanity?… Uh Weldon it’s a shame they don’t make scratch’n sniff commentaries cause I promise you if you scratched the one above yours it’d smell like sour grapes. What’s up with the fancy Moniker this person donned. I’d be willing to bet you and I have more love of art residing in our fingernail clippings.

  4. Jon Hardison says:

    The opening last night was great! Don’t need to know the background of the individual to validate the work. It was great.

    I also stopped over the the Art League, and to be honest, it seemed… well… somehow less than what I’ve come to expect. There were some amazing items, but once you take note of the ‘honorable mentions’, it becomes clear that something is wrong. Enough about that. It was, and continues to be a great thing that’s going on over there, and I, for one, hope it keeps going. The community needs it, no?

  5. Sean says:

    Posting my Opinion after viewing the Hollingsworth showing:
    Beth Garren’s work although thought provoking and well explored through visual interpretation, still seems to lack a small amount of skill. The self taught part might have a part in that. To the comment above: “JJ Graham has a fresh approach”; JJ’s work has always been uninspiring and poorly executed and hasn’t seemed to evolve much in the last several years.

    Although, I am still glad there is some sort of creative outlet within the Palm Coast community.

  6. Melissa says:

    Sean, I must disagree! I did not attend Beth Garran’s show, in which I will not comment on. As for J.J Graham, I have seen his work continuously evolve. What you call poorly executed, I see creative expression. His ability to express emotion has always astonished me! A picture perfect painting is only entertaining visually. John’s work is painted with passion, and is felt upon viewing. I personally am moved when seeing his pieces!

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Not every show needs to be a ground-breaker, and not every work in any given show needs to be a masterpiece: most, even at the Museum of Modern Art’s upper-floors–that is, its latest–arrivals, aren’t, nor are they necessarily meant to be: to approach art from any predisposition whatsoever, including those dictated by impressions of former shows at, say, Hollingsworth Gallery, immediately begins to deny the current show the objectivity it deserves in its own right. Not that context isn’t important. It’s just not defining. These aren’t FCAT scores on display. They’re individual works by individual artists who themselves couldn’t tell you exactly where they are or what they’re aiming at, sort of live streams we’re lucky enough to get a chance to raft on, bumps and rapids included: I have some reservations about Beth Garrin’s work, though some of those reservations have more to do with my personal antipathy for a certain style than with the quality (let alone the technical quality) of Garrin’s work: every time I go to a show I’m face to face with my prejudices, too, which can be an embarrassing and humbling experience. I have some reservations about particular works of JJ’s as opposed to others: I have one of his in my bedroom; others, I might not so readily take to. But no matter what JJ works on, there is an irresistible attraction to see it, to see it many more times again, the more so since I’ve been lucky to see some of his work in progress, and to compare the experience not with the works of other artists, but with the memory of the previous experience of seeing the same work by JJ: the fact that it’s never the same suggests very strongly that the paintings have a depth that that my be clouded by the apparent initial chaos, but that lurks there nevertheless. Naturally all of JJ’s work is in progress, and we may be witnessing something of a break between one phase and another–a break literally on display in his latest work, the bluish “breakthrough” greeting visitors at the far end of the gallery these days. Plucking individual pieces out of that progress (or individual shows, since JJ’s curating is all of a piece with his own vision) has its place, but it’s far from the only way to see these shows.

      One more note, about being self-taught: I’m a little surprised that being self-taught is seen as something of a crutch. It’s generally the opposite, more of a reason for admiration than skepticism, given the aridity of institutional (because too specialized, too reverential of systems and form and pragmatism) education these days. Besides, once we’ve been freed of school’s shackles, don’t we all become self-taught–assuming that we continue to want to educate ourselves? Graduating from wherever shouldn’t, as it is so often presumed, be confused with arrested intellectual or artistic development.

      At any rate, these shows are validated at least as much by the disagreements they generate than by the works themselves, art being a conversation more than a mere crucifixion of frames on gallery walls.

  7. J.J. Graham says:

    Whoa…! We got a first name! I have to give you kudos sean for only coming out half cloaked. Though if I critique you as a critic – Clement Greenberg you are not. This has got to be good for ratings though, Pierre.

  8. Sean – I didn’t realize that skill in any amount is a necessary product of one institution or another. Never mind inherent talent or desire and ability to say something through art, to start (not end) a conversation… Interesting expectations expressed here…
    I listened in to the conversations people were having about the works on display at JJ’s on Saturday. One can tell a little something about the sort of life someone had in how they view a particular work, and least I think I can, and I don’t mind being wrong either. The stuff that hangs anywhere, no matter how acclaimed the walls, and raises not a question is more often the product of those institutions you so wish everyone who ever picked up a pencil attended. I am not sure there is much room for this sort of exclusivity in art. I doubt there should be.
    One other thought. I went to an Artsy school where plenty of people graduated with a piece of paper affording them the ‘right’ to be called artists. Their talent, sadly, did not grow in any correlation to their GPA. Some things do come from God (or whatever powers one believes in). The rest of it gets honed over a lifetime, not a degree.

  9. Melissa says:

    Well put Perrie and Inna! I could not agree more!

  10. James Harper says:

    I am trying to repost.

    Exceptional job and kudos to Graham, not only for his work ( which to me evokes emotional stimulation and represents his ambition) but also for his perseverance promoting the arts in Central Florida. I had the fortunate opportunity to have an extensive conversation with Graham and truly look forward to future endeavors.

    As for Garren’s work, inspirational ( both color and composition-wise) breathtaking; and lastly Cerreta’s work, whom having the privilege to exhibit his work last year, really makes us look at everyday objects we take for granted and passionately replicates American iconography with a sense of humor.

    When one takes themselves too seriously in this world, and feels they have mastered their life’s goal/talent, they are making a grave mistake. We should understand life is a continual learning experience – this mantra was once reverberated by a dear friend of mine.

  11. An Artist says:

    Wait a minute: if Art Lover really understood art and knew art history, they would’ve recalled Jean-Michel Basquiat and Grandma Moses before submitting that critique. And they would’ve known that famous artists – like Brice Marden, Robert Rauschenberg, Harold Garde, and Wolf Kahn — lived, worked, taught and/or studied in neighboring Volusia County.

    I disagree with Sean: I found Beth Garren and JJ Graham’s work refreshing and strong. Thinking back to what I’ve seen in Chelsea this Fall and Miami this December, I particularly found Garren’s painting exceptional and well-executed. She held her own. Putting this show together had to have been difficult. But the curator pulled it off. Hollingsworth Gallery is to be commended for what it does, consistently and well. Bravo!

  12. Sean says:

    As stated before, this is only “My Opinion”. I am not an art critic, only a general person of the public.
    I stated my opinion as other people share theirs. I don’t disagree with the other well written statements either. Basically I’m stating with these artists, and with most, there is and should be still room to grow and move forth into new creative boundaries.

    Also remember before jumping to conclusions. With the amazing anonymity of the internet, all that could be said could be for publicity. Either way, it is working as JJ stated.

  13. An Artist says:

    I couldn’t speculate on your motives. But I couldn’t misinterpret your comments that Garren’s art “…seems to lack a small amount of skill”; or that Graham’s “has always been uninspiring and poorly executed and hasn’t seemed to evolve much…”. There’s only one conclusion anyone can derive from them. Although your elaboration after the fact seems hindsight, you are correct: everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Yours just seems to represent a minority in this instance.

    Perhaps, if you create art, you and Graham could challenge one another to a paint-out open to public view and judging.

  14. W.Ryan says:

    One of my art teachers used to say that “Artists continue their education on a constant. We continue our higher learning like Doctors and Lawyers.” Of course… since F.I.T…I know we all do. I love the responses that are expressed here. Don’t feel beat up on Sean! This tells me that the show was successful and The Hollingsworth accomplished its goal. As for JJ and Beth…they both inspire me. As an illustrator I admire immensely Beth’s work. As I stated before, she is comfortable with where she is in terms of her skills. Her even temperament with her skills and her concepts shows maturity in this young artist. “She’s workin it” Though her subject matter may not reach some, it reaches this Fantasy Art/Sci-Fi Buff. Her work brings me back to when Doc Savage(illustrated by Boris) and Isaac Asimov adorned the book store shelves in prominence. JJ’s color sense and creativity astounds me. They are both young and their growth will continue. Enjoy the show and while you’re at it buy a couple of pieces. The days of the Medici’s are done. Artists need patronage.

  15. J.J. Graham says:

    The truth of the matter is this… it’s 3:36 in the morning and I just walked into my studio because I can’t sleep dammit. I’ve got a dear loved one who can’t grow up enough to get over some stupid guy that used her for sex and is driving herself crazy over the dude, another loved one who going mad trying to decipher what God’s will is in his life and losing it just the same. Another good friend of mine just got layed off and is about to have his water shut off…and he has two kids, and you know what my broke ass is going to give him some money- because he would do it for me. God forbid he gets desperate and goes out and robs one of those banks that are currently robbing us all and lands his butt in jail for a water bill, cause according to Pierre’s article I won’t even be able to write him a letter. So I’m lying in bed and I can’t think because it’s too chaotic and its welling up. When I look at the world I can’t deny the chaos I’m seeing. It wells up in me and spills out on my canvas, and then I have to try decipher some kind of prayer or sense of hope just to keep my spirit elevated. For some reason I just don’t think a candy coated little house with the lights on, a palm tree, are some material object to mimic is going to do it for me, wouldn’t be honest although I’m sure it’d hoodwink some one into thinking I was talented. Sean dude I’m sorry you just don’t get me man, and Art Lover get a name change cause you don’t get Art. Honestly you don’t get it.

  16. James Harper says:

    Well stated W. Ryan!

  17. J.J. Graham says:

    My buddy Mike and I are celebrating his birthday with a paint out, pausing sporadicly to admire the drop ceiling, when we realized that we haven’t heard from Rudy Smith. Things don’t seem right here in the commentary without a word from the #1 Hollingsworth Gallery Hater. By the way Rudy we have that Music is the Muse show on film. Are you the guy wearing the argile socks with the penny loafers and cargo shorts? If so I take back everything I said about you, and give you props for being RAW.

    P.S. I really hope you didn’t think I was going to take your bait over in the Voices article commentary. That would’ve been innapropiate. Wouldn’t want to detract from their night with wordspat, but I’m wide open in this one. Lo to the isel.

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