Today, Wednesday, March 5th is a big day for Central Connecticut State University. Obama, the president graced us with his presence. You can imagine the craze all over campus since Monday. Personally, I never tried to get a ticket to see the president talk. People are inspired when he talks, but can’t help but think of his actions which are all disappointing and not conducive to progress but rather regression.
But enough about politics. Here, at the CCSU Art Galleries, we have been busy putting together an exhibition that will blow your minds! This Thursday, March 6th is the opening reception for Brooklyn Salon which is featuring work from Mike Ballou, James Esber, Tony Fitzpatrick, and Jim Torok.
Mike Ballou was here, at the gallery, yesterday afternoon arranging his sculptures just right. He scoffed at the thought of calling his work “installation art” as he told Mark (the gallery director) “It’s just an arrangement.” He was an impressively simple guy with a fun side.
Ballou’s eclectic mix of sculpture and painting, for this exhibition, is quite fun and empathetic to all animal lovers. I had gone to run some gallery related errands and as I entered the gallery space I was greeted by this an excited puppy (he wasn’t exactly a puppy, but I call all dogs a puppy in an endearing way) jumping up all over me. It was a good surprise to find out that Mike Ballou came to work with his dog. At this point his collection of animal sculptures made so much sense. Some of his animal sculptures sit on his big studio rug to which he says “it’s meant to be lived” meaning “yes please walk on the rug and experience the art don’t just look at it.”
James Esber lives and works in Brooklyn. What an inspired artist. His renderings are very interesting and somewhat psychedelic. Within his body of work one can find historical figures or perhaps nuances of historical events, but he has distorted them almost how the media distorts a news story. This distortion, in his still recognizable portraits like that of president Lincoln, become almost surreal and it can place you into a trance.
The third artist that is being feature in Brooklyn Salon is Jim Torok who also lives and works in the great city of Brooklyn. His work is a lot more straight forward than most, but don’t expect to see a photorealistic painting. Torok’s canvases are jam-packed with information in a newspaper comic strip style. His work is almost always a commentary on a life observations which seem introspective at times, sometimes societal, and many times very funny and relatable.
The last artist, but definitely not the least, Tony Fitzpatrick, lives and works in Chicago. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago he recalls being a teenager and carrying around a notebook that he could easily fill with his mind escapades despite bullying he received from other kids around him. As he became an adult, he worked many jobs like bar tending and even boxing. There were times in his life when he lost his way due to alcohol and drug addiction but he graciously credits his family for not giving up and being there for him to help break the habit. All I have learned about this artist I have read in this great long Chicago Reader article describing and interviewing Fitzpatrick about his life and his art.
All of his life experiences, along with his seemingly quirky personality have given way to a burst of inspiring artwork. His inspiration? The Hairy Who (AKA Chicago Imagists) whose fantasy driven art of the 1960s was propelled by postwar generation artists trying to break the mold to create Chicago’s own art identity. When you look at Fitzpatrick’s exquisitely made collages, you can see the stylistic similarity to the work of the Chicago Imagists, but when you look at his content you start getting bits of his own personality and understanding of the world around him. Make sure that you look at his work long enough because it’s easy to miss a piece of imagery imperative to his intent.
Tomorrow will be a fantastic time. I invite you all (if you are in the New Britain, CT area) to come and visit the CCSU Art Galleries for some good fun and some great art. The artist talk will start at 3:15 PM and we will have hors d’oeuvre and wine from 4 – 7 PM. This show will not disappoint, see you there!