I finally made it to Artomatic Frederick, all 27,000+ square feet of space at the former FCPS Central Office building at 115 E. Church Street, Frederick, Maryland and like all Artomatics of the past, I was not disappointed in the trek, and like all previous Artomatics, I think that I've discovered some new artists whose work is new to me, and whom I think have the potential to use AOM Frederick as the initial stepping stone into other art things.
As an artist, art dealer and critic, I think, well... I know, that I am better equipped and trained and experienced than most "regular" art critics to visit a gargantuan art extravaganza such as the AOM shows are.
The real reason that most "regular" critics don't like AOM is because they lack the formation and depth to see beyond what is hanging on the walls. Because their experience is often limited to reviewing or visiting a gallery or a specific show in a museum, their sensory capacity is quickly overloaded when they pass the 100th or 200th artist with less than noticeable work in a postmodern world where everything and anything is art. Thus once those senses are overloaded, it all looks in the same puerile category to them and they fail to see what most of us see. After a rookie critic is exposed to 20-25 photographers doing close-ups of flowers, all in one show, it is actually quite hard for those same tired critical eyes not to be poisoned into giving all photographers a failing grade.
Not all critics lack the mental capacity and visionary depth, but most do - including the guy who once gave AOM a horrible review on air in a radio show and later it was discovered that he had actually never seen the show... remember that?
By past AOM scales, this Frederick version is small, only about 27,000 square feet and about 300 artists; by most art scales, this is a gigantic art show, with extremes as diverse as the crazies on the left and right of the political scale in the USA... well, maybe not that extreme.
Every AOM I try to pick someone whom I think is the rising star of that AOM, if you search through this blog you will find names whom are now well-known DMV area artists and who once took their initial steps via AOM.
It didn't take me long to find this AOM's top pick - his work is on the ground floor - and after patiently walking through all floors and basement, I am sure that the singularly unique video work of Richard Schellenberg wins my first vote for top pick of AOM Frederick.
Tucked away in a corner of the first floor, Schellenberg has two videos playing in two old, vintage TVs. In one of them, a young boy tells a dream story of his dream involving flying on Superman's shoulders and directing the Man of Steel's movements. The storytelling is addictively odd and grabs the listener, but it is the video that stops viewers on their tracks. In a very sophisticated marriage of video morphing, Schellenberg has created a young boy riding on the shoulders and arms of George Reeves, the Black & White Superman from the TV series of the 1950s who was either murdered or committed suicide in 1959.
Schellenberg's technical mastery of video morphing, coupled with the odd, but sensitive storyline, as well as the vintage presentation, make this one of the best works of video art that I have ever seen.
Also on the ground floor I liked the sensitive portraiture of Jamie Gerhold. They are superbly executed technically, but also manage to grasp that unique sense of personality from each subject that is so difficult to achieve in this most challenging of art genres. Note to Jamie: You need to enter the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition and the deadline is Monday!
Still on the first deck, I liked the large charcoals and painterly pieces by Walter Bartman, Director and Founder of the Yellow Barn, and certainly not an "emerging artist" in a sense, since he has taught art in the Bethesda, Maryland area for over thirty years and his work is in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Scupture Garden Library Collections.
Painter Phyllis Mayes also stands out by her very well executed set of self portraits, nearly all of which explore some odd facial expression.
They are a genuine delight to the eye, both as a painterly exercise and also as an intelligent delivery vehicle for highly personal imagery presented for us to admire.
Note to Phyllis: You too need to enter the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition and the deadline is Monday!
Last cool find on this floor was David Hagen's funny illustrations depicting all ranges of subjects, including my favorite, a rather large sized Batman, possibly after the Dark Knight discovered carbohydrates.
The second floor was a little tougher for the critic in me. There is some very decent pottery on this floor, and some very cool and interesting ideas, some delivered better than others. Among the best are Roger Cutler's brutal and funny assault on postmodernism.
His "Domestic object with natural patina" at $10,000 can easily be visualized in the top white cube galleries of New York and London, and even in the early days of Art Basel Miami Beach and Pulse Art Fair, before those fairs' directions were rudely re-directed by the tough economy and they both made an U-turn for art that stands a chance of actually being acquired by a collector - or am I the only one who has noticed how both ABMB and Pulse are now dominated by figurative/representational art?
Deborah Winram collects objects and then presents them in jars - as a set, they offer a powerful image. The presentation reminded me of a very similar display at the second AOM ever - the one that was held at the former Lowe's space in Tenleytown - where an artist whose name escapes me had a whole wall of jars with these cool transparencies of her photography inside each jar.
Wingram's power also lies in the presentation, which as a whole give us an insight into the found or collected objects displayed as art. I must wonder, however, on the dilution of this powerful piece if the pieces are meant to be acquired individually, as that would seem to dilute its associative presence.
The third floor's favorites were started by Keyleigh Montgomery's back lit photographic landscapes, but it was Jenny Wallace who wins this floor with a super flexing of artistic installation skills with her multi-effect installation in a very cool, somewhat macabre odd room to the left of the performing stage.
The basement is dominated by the exceptional work of Margaret Dowell and here she displays her "Sidi Flowchart" series. In these powerful pieces, Dowell depicts the effects of alcohol addition and eventual recovery on her friend Sidi, from childhood to the present. In the hands of a master painter such as Dowell is, the storyline delivers a punch to the visual senses that is hard to forget.
AOM Frederick is on through November 6 - go see it this weekend! The hours are Wednesdays & Thursdays, 11 am - 9 pm, Fridays & Saturdays, 11 am - 12 am and Sundays 12 pm - 6 pm.