Q&A: Jeff Dehut

Jeff Dehut is a freelance Illustrator working in Louisville, KY specializing in tabletop game design and portraits using traditional mediums such as pen and ink, and watercolor. He is the creator of Pocket Dungeon Quest, a simplified, casual rogue-like tabletop adventure for 2-4 players.

When did you first think you would be an artist?

It was when I was just a small boy. I would sit at home after school and draw comics all afternoon. I knew I wanted to get into art somehow. At that time my thoughts were either as a comic book artist, or concept work for movies and games.

Who or what inspires you now?

I absolutely love Wesley Burt’s style; I could look at his sketches all day. I also love looking at concept art books of any kind.

If you could do anything else but make art, what would it be?

I would probably have to say making coffee. I just love everything about the coffee-making process.

"Homes" by Jeff Dehut, 8x8in, micron pen (2016)

"Homes" by Jeff Dehut, 8x8in, micron pen (2016)

What frightens you the most?

Getting stuck at a job that drains me creatively.

"Enjoy the Little Things" by Jeff Dehut, 8x8in, digital (2017)

"Enjoy the Little Things" by Jeff Dehut, 8x8in, digital (2017)

What is your favorite music to listen to when making art?

Typically I listen to documentaries about various things, or audiobooks of all kinds. When I listen to actual music, it’s usually soundtracks or instrumental so I can focus on other things at the same time.

Vinyl or CD?

Neither. Digital.

Favorite movie?

Star Wars, IV, V & VI.

What are you reading right now?

Ha. I just finished the Magnolia Story, it was a super cute book.

What advice would you give a young artist just out of college?

Don’t wait for jobs to come to you. Go get a job - of any kind. Go make your own creative projects while you wait for something creative to turn up. Be proactive. Make the kind of work on your own while you’re not getting paid for it so that when a company is willing to pay someone for it you can be first in line with experience. Go! Do!

"Illustration Samples" by Jeff Dehut, 3.5x2.5in, ink & marker (2017)

"Illustration Samples" by Jeff Dehut, 3.5x2.5in, ink & marker (2017)

Tell us about an important moment of transition for you as an artist?

The moment I lost my first salary job. It forced me into freelance for a while which forced me to learn many valuable skills I would not have otherwise acquired.

"Watercolor Thumb People" by Jeff Dehut, 3.5x2.5in, watercolor & micron pen (2017)

"Watercolor Thumb People" by Jeff Dehut, 3.5x2.5in, watercolor & micron pen (2017)

If you were given a $100,000 what would do with it?

Get a studio of some kind so I could finally unpack all of my art supplies and make bigger work.

What does art mean to you?

This is a huge question... Art is something you create - for me it is usually, to some extent, emotionally charged, and I hope my art makes other people feel that way. Usually I want people to feel happy to see my work.

What do you feel is your greatest flaw?

I typically bite off more than I can chew. I’m getting better at it…kinda.

If you could have a talent that you currently don't already have what would it be and why?

I want to learn about more art mediums or techniques because I always want to learn more about my craft.

If you could meet any celebrity who would it be and what would you ask them?

I would like to get a photo with Enrico Colantoni because I loved him in Galaxy Quest and I think we look very similar. It would be funny!

Does art have a purpose? If so, what is it?

Oh boy. I think it does. The purpose of my art is to make others feel encouraged to be better people.

Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Age: 36
Education: Associates in Graphic Design with a specialty in Photography
Social Media:

"Watercolor Faces" by Jeff Dehut, 8.5x11in, watercolor & micron pen (2016)

"Watercolor Faces" by Jeff Dehut, 8.5x11in, watercolor & micron pen (2016)

Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved. 

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Fiber, Ceramics

Feature: Elmer Lucille Allen

"I love the academic environment. I am a perpetual student." — Elmer Lucille Allen

Artist Elmer Lucille Allen ( Photo by Tom LeGoff)

Artist Elmer Lucille Allen (Photo by Tom LeGoff)

When Kentucky Center for African American Heritage Center Director Aukram Burton describes Elmer Lucille Allen as, “one of our Elders,” he is not just acknowledging that the ceramic and fiber artist is an Octogenarian. The term carries weight in various cultures, but in parts of Africa it specifically denotes a connection to ancestors, the dead who remain vested with mystical power in the kin-group, and the elder’s authority stems from the idea that they are representatives of the ancestors to the contemporary community.

Elmer Lucille Allen is as approachable and convivial as anyone you would ever meet, but she is a “senior” (the far less satisfying American appellation) who has never truly retired. She earned the gold watch, so to speak, after 31 years as a chemist at Brown-Forman, where she was the first African American chemist to be hired (in 1966). In the twenty years since she retired, she has established herself as one of the most important artists in Louisville and an important influence on succeeding generations.

In person, Ms. Allen is an archetypal matriarch, speaking in the unadorned but nurturing language you would expect from any great-grandmother. She exhibits little outward evidence of the depth of her academic background, the years spent as a community activist, and the position she occupies in local history; she never wears her ‘status’ on her sleeve. She puts it this way: “I take it as an honor because what I do is part of who I am.”

"Untitled ELA #5" by Elmer Lucille Allen, Shibori Wall Hanging Red Kona Cotton – Stitched Resist – Dyed Blue Price, $2000 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled ELA #5" by Elmer Lucille Allen, Shibori Wall Hanging Red Kona Cotton – Stitched Resist – Dyed Blue Price, $2000 | BUY NOW

“I became involved in the art scene in the early 1980s when Ken Clay, then head of Renaissance Development, held the first African American (AA) Arts Conference at the Galt House. After this conference, the Kentucky Coalition for Afro-American Arts, Inc. (KCAAA) was formed. I was the first and only president of this organization that lasted 10 years. When I decided that I did not want to continue as President, the treasury was donated to the Arts Council of Louisville. I was a charter member of the ACOL and a treasurer for four years.”

Ms. Allen states she has never felt a bias in the arts, but her history before she was an artist is another matter, and reflects the time. “Remember, I came up through a segregated system and did not have classes with a white person until I was a junior in college. I experienced racial difference when Nazareth College (now Spalding University) graduates in 1953 were looking for a place to host a graduation event. The event was eventually held at the Knights of Columbus Hall.”

“When I graduated I could not get a job as a chemist in Louisville. The only jobs available were teaching. My first job was as a clerk typist in Indianapolis, Indiana, at Fort Benjamin Harrison. There was bias on that job - one person from a city in Indiana had never been around a "colored" person, but you have to be who you are and stand up for what you believe. ‘Speak to a person even if the person does not acknowledge you.’” 

Allen took her first pottery class at Seneca High School in the late 1970’s after her children were all grown and out of the house. She never gave empty nest syndrome a chance, following up with mold ceramics or pottery classes through JCPS and New Albany adult education. But this was still just the beginning: “Then I enrolled in a ceramics class at Metro Arts Center where I studied with Melvin Rowe. Also, while I was a student there I had the pleasure to meet Laura Ross, a national ceramic artist who encouraged me to take classes at the University of Louisville with internationally recognized ceramicist Tom Marsh.”

But studying ad hoc wasn’t enough, and, after retiring she decided to seek a masters in ceramics at U of L. It was while studying for her master’s that she was introduced to a second art media - fiber/textiles. “My thesis exhibition consisted of stenciled wall hangings and over 200 reduction fired porcelain sculptural boxes that were placed on boards on the floor, which meant you had to view the pieces while standing.”

Lucille Allen in a workshop (Photo by Aron Conaway)

Lucille Allen in a workshop (Photo by Aron Conaway)

Whatever racial or gender restrictions she encountered in her earlier life, Allen’s first years in the art world were mostly lacking in such difficulties. “I have not experienced any discrimination as a woman artist or as an artist of color. My work does not depict any culture - it speaks for itself. I create work that I enjoy making. I do not do commissions. I have been fortunate because I did not have to depend on selling art for a living. I retired in 1997 and have been volunteering in some capacity ever since.”

Yet she is not blind that many artists of color find it a challenge to reach wider audiences and secure their place at the larger community table, particularly in the visual arts world. “I think that one organization needs to take control. At the present every organization's president has their own agenda and is not looking out for other persons or organizations, and small organizations normally do not have a specific place, computer equipment, or expertise for such large undertaking.” 

One of the values of being an Elder is that you have been a witness to the changes in the arts and cultural landscape that surrounds you. Allen can recount a time when there was much effort in the name of unity and inclusion. “Years ago, Louisville Visual Art had a large (non-digital) database of artists and arts organizations. The Kentucky Arts Council funded two directories of African American artists in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Two conferences were held, one in Lexington, and one in Louisville. They conducted free workshops for the community at the Chestnut Street YMCA, West End branch of the YWCA, as well as other venues. Bale McKnight, who conducted drum making at the YMCA, created a drum that was in Chickasaw Park, which was the first public art project in the West End. KCAAA was the fiscal agent for Educations Arts and the dance group founded by Harlina Churn.” You see, Elders know the history.

So how does Louisville recapture that level of motivation again? What actions need to be taken today to build a functional community network? Allen feels, “Everyone is waiting for someone else to do the hard work,” but individuals who want to be leaders need to focus on developing their game in crucial ways; Elders also get to give advice:

  • Organizational and leadership skills are a must. 
  • You have to show up and be willing to assume responsibilities. 
  • You must not be afraid to fail. You learn from your mistakes.
  • You, as a leader, must be presentable and responsible for your actions at all times. Remember the golden rule - Do unto others as you want others to do to you.
  • You must be punctual.
  • Respect the time of others. Meetings should have an agenda and should not exceed two hours.
"Untitled ELA #2" by Elmer Lucille Allen, Stenciled Wall Hanging Black Polyester Fabric Price, $750 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled ELA #2" by Elmer Lucille Allen, Stenciled Wall Hanging Black Polyester Fabric Price, $750 | BUY NOW

So how does this near-iconic status affect Elmer Lucille Allen’s work as an artist? Or does it? “My work is not impacted by my place in history,” states Allen. ”The work that I have done since 1981 speaks for itself. I have been the volunteer curator/director of Wayside Christian Mission's Wayside Expressions Gallery since 2005.  My goal is to showcase artists, some of which have never exhibited. My second goal has been to have an African American artist or artists for February. I have done the scheduling, press releases, fliers, finding new artists, etc., from my home. I think my presence in the art world has afforded me the opportunity to be asked to serve as judge for the 2016 Fund for Arts, as a panelist for Metro arts grants, etc.”

“I think that over the years, the community sees who is where and what you are doing. Action speaks louder then words.”

You can see Elmer Lucille Allen’s work as a part of the Louisville Visual Art exhibit Tessile Ora, at Metro Hall, now through May 26, 2017. 

Louisville Defender – Lifetime Community Service Recognition Award (2016)
Outstanding Community Leader by Metro Council (2016) 
Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft’s First Art and Advocacy Award – Bourbon Bash (2015) 
Parkland Rising Up Project (2015) 
Community Spirit Award given by the University of Louisville College of Arts and Science and the Yearlings Club (2015) 
Spalding University Caritas Medal (2011) - the highest honor awarded to an alumnus 

"Untitled ELA #4 – Shibori Wall Hanging" by Elmer Lucille Allen, Natural Silk Noil – Three Panels - Stitched Resist and Pole Wrapped – Dyed Blue, $1000 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled ELA #4 – Shibori Wall Hanging" by Elmer Lucille Allen, Natural Silk Noil – Three Panels - Stitched Resist and Pole Wrapped – Dyed Blue, $1000 | BUY NOW

"Untitled ELA #1" by Elmer Lucille Allen, Stenciled Wall Hanging Black Polyester Fabric Price, $750 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled ELA #1" by Elmer Lucille Allen, Stenciled Wall Hanging Black Polyester Fabric Price, $750 | BUY NOW

This Feature article was written by Keith Waits.
In addition to his work at the LVA, Keith is also the Managing Editor of a website,, which covers local visual arts, theatre, and music in Louisville.

Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

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Vignette: Violet Herrmann

"Faces" (set of 2) by Violet Herrmann, 10x16in, photograph (2014)

"Faces" (set of 2) by Violet Herrmann, 10x16in, photograph (2014)

As a photographer and a designer, Violet Herrmann states she is, “…a firm believer in simplicity with a bold hint.” In “Mellwood,” her photograph reads at first glance as a captured ‘snapshot’ – a random glimpse of a passing moment, yet the cool, evening shades of blue are seductive, and there is tantalizing mystery in the dramatic depth found in the contrasting channels of space. It would all be a solid, albeit academic composition except for the hesitant figure on the right, leading us further into the scene but arresting that momentum by turning on their heel. It is the key to lifting the image beyond the ordinary.

All of which reflects the idea that good composition and design is a series of relationships, most of which might never register fully with the viewer, but will have undeniable impact on how a piece is read. Herrmann explains, “I believe that the best designs appear to have their components distributed randomly throughout the page; but one finds that every element is aligned to another found in the piece.”

"Mellwood" by Violet Herrmann, 17x11in, photograph (2016)

"Mellwood" by Violet Herrmann, 17x11in, photograph (2016)

“My work describes me as an artist as well as a person. As a stubborn perfectionist, my designs reflect my personality by carefully placing components in relation to one another while maintaining an edginess that makes them unique. I believe that a design must ultimately speak for itself to be considered truly successful. If I have done a good job on my work, my personality should be able to shine through and reflect me as a designer.”

Herrmann has worked as a Graphic Design Intern for Simon Signs in Louisville Kentucky and her work has been displayed in the Kentucky College of Art and Design (KyCAD) Gala in the 849 Gallery, Louisville Kentucky. While at KyCAD she was awarded the Presidential Scholarship.

Hometown: Charlestown, Indiana
Age: 21
Education: BFA candidate, General Fine Arts, Kentucky College of Art + Design at Spalding University, Louisville Kentucky

"Louisville Door Series" (1 of 12) by Violet Herrmann, 10x10in, photograph (2014)

"Louisville Door Series" (1 of 12) by Violet Herrmann, 10x10in, photograph (2014)

Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

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Q&A: Sid Webb

“Art is a creation that aptly describes its time and place.”
— Sid Webb

"Untitled #1" by Sid Webb, 6x18in, ash and honeysuckle (2016), $350 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #1" by Sid Webb, 6x18in, ash and honeysuckle (2016), $350 | BUY NOW

Sid Webb is a Lexington native who studied journalism at the University of Kentucky and attended the Atlanta School of Art. He came back to Kentucky to be the first art director at the Kentucky Educational Television network (KET), where he was an early advocate of using the digital canvas to create art and to make gicleé prints. He created a 13-part show for public television called Sid Webb’s Digital Studio, in which he demonstrated several ways to create art and paintings on a computer. After many years at KET, Webb turned to travel and editorial photography.

When did you first think you would be an artist?

I was convinced at a very early age that I would be an artist…maybe 10 or 12 years old.  I had done some freelance work for the new IBM plant in high school and local TV stations plus some other work in high school. Sometimes clinging adamantly to such an idea can lead one astray, as it did me. I joined the Air Force after my freshman year in college. At that time the military was very sensitive to the criticism that they were assigning recruits to the wrong jobs and they had developed an elaborate test to discover one’s potential military vocation. I insisted that I wanted to be a graphic artist and passed the test with a near 100 percent score. No portfolio was required. Just several hours of reading questions and guessing at answers to questions like “Which Speedball pin tip would you use to letter a diploma?” Even though I had passed the test, there were few graphic artists needed in the Air Force. No openings were available. There were plenty of openings for cooks and cops, however, and those occupations were in the same category as graphic artists for some reason. I opted for cop.

"Urn" by Sid Webb, about 11in tall, cherry wood (2016), $1200 |  BUY NOW

"Urn" by Sid Webb, about 11in tall, cherry wood (2016), $1200 | BUY NOW

If you could do anything else but make art, what would it be?

Fortunately, during my career I found several creativity roles that were very fulfilling. After college and art school, I came back to Kentucky to work for KET just as it was going on the air. During those early years I did set designs and construction, make-up, newsletters, ads, photography…you name it. Later, I became director of production, and then created and headed a department that sold and distributed KET programs to stations in other states. Surprisingly, that time was perhaps the most fun and productive. We were distributing GED and adult literacy programs and I tried to break new ground in reaching those who could benefit from KET’s creations. I had workbooks translated to Spanish and programs subtitled. I looked for ways to make the content work on computers and audiotapes. I looked for ways to help adult education centers.  Perhaps most importantly, I explored ways to get the message of “help” to those who needed it. In the process I met some very talented and wonderful people and felt gratified. 

You were an early practitioner of digital art and the use of computers for reproductions. What do see as the future of digital art?

I had one of those "ah-ha" moments sometime ago. I was thinking about the artwork and photography I have done over the last few years.

Early on, I became enamored with the possibilities for digital printmaking and the computer as an art-making tool. I also knew that inkjet prints would face stiff opposition from galleries and buyers. I thought the process needed to be elevated and legitimized, so I invented a new term for it: "digitography".

I pat myself on the back for seeing the need, and kick myself for not being outrageously inventive.

For my intended purpose, any word that too easily revealed its derivation like digitography did was destined for the scrape heap, where it soon found itself. The word that emerged and quickly claimed proper respect among the art community was "gicleé". It was a flash of brilliance.

"Untitled #2" by Sid Webb, about 11in tall, spalted maple and catalpa (2016), $800 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #2" by Sid Webb, about 11in tall, spalted maple and catalpa (2016), $800 | BUY NOW

It didn't matter that the true definition could be easily discovered, which is "to spit," or "to sputter". What mattered was that it had a nice ring to it.  The beauty of the choice was that it is a French word, always nice sounding; and it helped that France was the birthplace of modern, avant-garde art. Also, it helped that the definition of gicleé, even when discovered, did not immediately reveal its connection to the mechanical and digital aspects of computers.

That leads me to the "ah-ha" about what I have been doing.

I have been doggedly creating "paintings" on the computer that looked as though they were created with traditional media. Again, I wanted to legitimize the computer as an art tool, and I have been trying to do it by demonstrating that my approach worked as well as other tools by inviting comparisons.

The epiphany was the realization that every new medium first gained legitimacy in this way. For instance, early films and radio productions "translated" books and theater before it found firm artistic footing of its own.

Even though I am someone who adopted the computer early on as an art tool, others have moved beyond "translations".  I decided I would, too.

What advice would you give a young artist just out of college?

The challenge is how to pay off the student loan, pay the rent, and have enough money left over to create art the way you want to do it. Facing this reality is often shocking and overwhelming . . . and defeating. I have a lawyer friend who told me that in law school he learned the law but left school with no idea how to practice it or run a business. That’s so very true of young artists just finishing their degrees. How to sell art is the very first thing a graduate needs to learn. I suggest an internship with a successful artist or photographer. Working in a craft shop or gallery is also a great option. 

Tell us about an important moment of transition for you as an artist?

Retiring from my day job freed me to explore the world around me . . . libraries, museums, friends, travel. I was usually free to spend as much as I wished on my art projects. I had no deadlines, self imposed or otherwise as a rule.

"Untitled #3" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, wood (2016), $180 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #3" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, wood (2016), $180 | BUY NOW

What's your favorite place to visit?

Tough question. I love France because I have an insatiable appetite for great food, and it is hard to find mediocre or bad food in France. France, like so many other places I have visited, is candy to the eye and fresh air to the inner spirit. I am able to see and feel that which has become too familiar to local people. I do love my home but there lives within me a need to see beyond the next horizon.

What's the most challenging part when starting on a piece of work of art?

How to create the next piece and push beyond my “style”. My style is like my shadow. It is glued to me and I have little control over it. I can walk around a room with a single light source in the center of it and my shadow will mutate, but I still own it. I can’t shake it. But I try.

How long do you usually spend on a specific piece of art?

It depends. I may spend less than an hour to several days. Sometimes the pieces that take less than an hour to create have taken shape in my head over days.

Does art have a purpose? If so what is it?

It defines us, our place in time. Our culture. Our beliefs. None of this is too obvious until we travel and become aware of what surrounds us.

A few decades ago, André Malraux wrote a little book titled “Museum Without Walls” and I used it to make a compelling case that art is dead. Malraux thesis was that the industrial age had made it possible to exactly duplicate fine works of art so that people no longer had to flock to the museums of the world to see and appreciate them. 

In his view we needed to disconnect the ideas of “original,” and “art”. In other words the fact that a piece is an original or part of a limited edition may make it costly, but its cost doesn’t make it art. 

This of course leads back to the question of “what is art?” To be candid, the answer is a moving target with philosophical overtones. The layman’s answer often is “I don’t know what art is, but I know what I like.” That usually puts an end to the discussion as the remark is often intended to do. But there is a measure of truth in it. 

"Untitled #4" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, wood (2016), $180 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #4" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, wood (2016), $180 | BUY NOW

The German word “gestault” describes that measure of truth. But the best way to think about it may be by using music as an analogy. Most people know when a singer or an instrumentalist hits a sour note or is off key. The ability to detect harmonic sounds is built into our physical make up, at least in most of us. We are painfully aware of singers who are off key or hit a bad note and we know when the rhythm is not quite right. But being aware of the correctness of those essentials of music doesn’t determine the kind of music we enjoy or make us good critics. 

In a general way, what most of us think of as good music has to do with lots of other things. If we play an instrument or sing in a group we are certain to pay closer attention to music than others who don’t. The music we grew up listening to affects our appreciation of it and how we feel about music outside of that genre, too. 

As with music there are physical attributes we humans have that determine our feelings about art. Perhaps surprisingly, one is in our inner ears that keep us balanced and on our feet. Gravity and that liquid in our inner ears keeps us keenly attuned to weight and what’s up and what's down. 

The physical mechanics of the way most of us see color is another factor. Some people are color blind or “tone deaf” to color, but most of us know when colors clash. It takes only a little experimentation to sharpen ones sensitivity to the harmonies of color, but as with music, our taste in color has much to do with our cultural background and where we live. 

So in both music and art we humans share common tools for creating and appreciating them. From there, defining what is good or bad, great or worthless becomes a stroll in the wilderness of philosophical thought that leads to questions like these: 

"Untitled #5" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, spalted maple and walnut dowels (2016), $325 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #5" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, spalted maple and walnut dowels (2016), $325 | BUY NOW

— Is craftsmanship important or necessary? 
— Can utilitarian objects like knifes and forks, pottery, etc., be considered art? 
— What’s the difference between arts and crafts? 
— Is folk art really art? 
— Is performance art, art? 
— Should commercial art be considered as worthy? 
— Does museum ownership make it art? 
— Must an artist know art history to create “real” art? 
— Should photography be considered art? 
— If a sculptor creates a model that someone else casts into bronze, should the piece be considered art? 
— What if the sculptor intends that only one piece be cast but two are actually made. Is the second piece art? 
— Must a work have lasting value to be considered art? 
— Are movies to be considered as art?

Twenty-four images a second pass the shutter of a movie projector. Should we select only a few of the frames to consider as art or are each of the frames to be considered art? 

I could go on, but you get the idea. 

Music is also exposed to these same sorts of questions when trying to separate “great” music from the commonplace, but the answers are usually less vague and troubling. We all know what music is; because, it seems, we trust our ears more than our eyes, and because the word “music” never took on a double meaning as the word “art” has. It makes the discussion about great music easier. Music is also less complicated in other ways. Utilitarian items crafted by a master can be considered art, but elevator music remains merely utilitarian. 

Various details of Webb's work.

Various details of Webb's work.

Art critics will say that you cannot know what “art” is until you have immersed yourself in it. On the other hand I suspect many artists would tell you the process is more important to them than the product. 

In Kurt Vonnegut’s book, “Man without a Country,” Vonnegut, in his usual direct and pithy style, cuts to the chase on the subject. An artist friend told him the way to recognize great art is to look closely at a million pictures. Then he would know what art is. He told his daughter this and she agreed. She told him that after working as an artist for years she could roller skate through the Louvre going “yes, no, yes, no, no, yes,” confidently assessing the value of the works as art. 

I have my own definition of what “art” is that’s fairly encompassing but leaves a few corners uncovered. I choose to think of it as a creation that aptly describes its time and place and sometimes foreshadows its successor. 

I fill in the blanks from the gut.

Name: Sid Webb
Hometown: Lexington, KY
Age: 74
Education: Majored in journalism and political science, University of Kentucky; Atlanta School of Art (High Museum)

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Painting, Mixed Media

Curatorial Q&A: 9 Questions for Peter Bodnar III

"Indehiscent form #2" by Peter Bodnar, 19x46x4in, acrylic on steel ( 2016) , $1200 |  BUY NOW

"Indehiscent form #2" by Peter Bodnar, 19x46x4in, acrylic on steel (2016), $1200 | BUY NOW

Having known Peter Bodnar for a LONG time, in fact since my days in New Harmony, which date back forty years, I am always excited to see what he is up to, so the prospect of a show of new work at Swanson Contemporary (opening Oct. 7) is indeed something to look forward to.

I value Peter for lots of reasons, his thoughtfulness, his integrity, and ability to question authority, his persistence and dedication, his humor, both good and funky, and his ironic stance in the face of a non-caring universe.  All these character traits show up in his art, which to my mind is the principal duty of being an artist: putting in, giving form to the world an authentic and personal vision.

These questions are all things, that while I had made assumptions about, I had never really asked Peter directly, so this was a chance to learn from him in a new way.  — John Begley

When starting on a piece of work of art, what's the process?

PDBIII - An idea becomes a drawing, which begets more drawings until a path toward final execution is clear. Small models make form concrete and guide the larger work. Paul Klee showed me that one could invent a living world with a pencil and paper.

JPB – I am delighted to see the Paul Klee reference, have always liked his “taking a line on a walk” statement.

Since you work abstractly, how do you know when you are finished with a specific piece of art?

PDBIII - I’m not sure that the moment a work is “finished” is any different for abstract or representational work, having done both. It generally is the point at which something cannot be added without losing something else. I live with my pieces for a long time. They are released into the world when they possess fewer things that bother me than excite me. That said, the desire to make new work comes from a feeling that I never quite get it completely right.

JPB – I should have realized that you do work in a multitude of manners and not asked the question so narrowly.  I find your explanation of not being able to add something without losing something to be very revelatory, and right.  And the motivation to do new work because there was always a choice that you could have made, and did not, and therefore are not sure that you indeed get it right to be compelling.

“Liquid Structures Suite” by Peter Bodnar, 15x67in, acrylic on paper (2013), $950 |  BUY NOW

“Liquid Structures Suite” by Peter Bodnar, 15x67in, acrylic on paper (2013), $950 | BUY NOW

Since you have long tenure in the Louisville art community, how are you feeling about local art scene in Louisville?  What's good? What's not so?

PDBIII - Things change, some for the better, some not. I am especially grateful for the support & leadership you, John, have given this community over many years. With experience comes the long view. I am still dismayed at the lack of institutional support for regional artists. From an ART BASEL perspective, we’re all folk artists.

JPB – Thank you for the compliment, and I do agree that the art history of our community is neglected and deserves the same thoughtful analysis that work in other places receives.

“Cusp #5” by Peter Bodnar, 24x28in, acrylic on steel (2016), $1200 |  BUY NOW

“Cusp #5” by Peter Bodnar, 24x28in, acrylic on steel (2016), $1200 | BUY NOW

You have exhibited with Chuck Swanson for several years, what are your thoughts on the artist/ dealer relationship? What makes it work?

PDBIII - I am lucky to have had Chuck’s friendship over these years.  I have been able to show bodies of work in an un-curated context. The classic artist/ gallerist model is a rare bird these days, and Louisville is fortunate to still have a few long standing examples. Sales and promotion have few rewards in hinterland markets.

JPB – I think “un-curated” may be a bit misleading. Chuck’s ultimate curatorial choice is to choose the artist and then trust the artist to bring a cogent body of work to the exhibition space.

What advice would you give a young artist? Any regrets for paths not taken? 

PDBIII - Beware of fashion and seriousness. Develop as many skill sets as possible. You will need and enjoy them. Knowing what I know now, I might have chosen another profession.

JPB – I find I am susceptible to the “seriousness” problem, and I think that is why I always find the“dada-fluxus” response so freeing.  I have always loved your “eclectic” cooperative as absolutely fun, anti-seriousness in its most honest form.

What role do you think is important for an artist to play in a community? What is the artist's job? 

PDBIII - I feel my job, as a citizen of this community, is to strive for equality and justice for all its members and to protect the environment of this place. That is my social practice. As an artist, I work to make the community a place that can support creative individuals. When I was starting out, I felt my challenge lay outside NYC, to forge a new art / community dynamic in flyover America. As an educator, I know I have made a difference in specific cases, but in general, after forty years, I fail to see much effect on the community as a whole.

“Oscillating behavior series 02” by Peter Bodnar, 22x28in (framed), mixed media on paper (2014), $400 |  BUY NOW

“Oscillating behavior series 02” by Peter Bodnar, 22x28in (framed), mixed media on paper (2014), $400 | BUY NOW

JPB – I think many of us feel this frustration at the slowness of change, at the same time I remain hopeful that if we keep doing it, we might get it right at some point.  I think you must feel the same way.

You have worked with ideas from science and mathematics for long periods in the past, what is exciting you now?

PDBIII - Same inspirations— just deeper, less literal— in my view. I want to see how an idea looks in the flesh, so I have to make it. I strive to make animate objects, so my metaphors are animal, vegetable & molecular.

JPB – Ideas incarnate, sounds almost religious.

You have used a variety of materials and media, as well as engaged in performance work, collaborations and installations, what is the cause of your restlessness? (I don't want to imply that question as a pejorative.)

PDBIII - I don’t / didn’t want to miss anything, so that when opportunities arose, I took the bait. Different audiences respond to different stimuli, and the question of whom you’re making your work for is an important one. I find I need a better “effort-to-return” ratio to prompt me in my golden years. Large installations with a clear narrative receive a predominance of media coverage, but are usually costly affairs that turn an artist into a fundraiser.

JPB – If we do this kind of thing again, I want to explore this idea of the artist as fundraiser.  You have provoked me again in a most positive way.

“Above / Below (in blue)” by Peter Bodnar, intaglio w/ pigment (2016), $300 |  BUY NOW

“Above / Below (in blue)” by Peter Bodnar, intaglio w/ pigment (2016), $300 | BUY NOW

Your father has had a successful career as an artist/teacher, how has that shaped your approach to making a life as an artist?

PDBIII -. My father has been a great influence on everything I do. I purposely ran in different directions as a youth in order to define my own self, but am constantly aware of how much I’ve circled back to the groove. His work ethic approach to art making—perspiration not inspiration-—kept me going from the start. I was fortunate to catch a career as artist –teacher before that model became difficult to maintain, and was able to develop my expertise in ways that were never available to him. He’s 87 and still painting and I am proud to be carrying on a family tradition. 

JPB – Peter, thank you for your willingness to share these thoughts, as well as your work.  I look forward to the new show at Swanson with much anticipation.

Peter Bodnar’s Neo Phenomena
Swanson Contemporary, October 7 - November 12, 2016
Opening Reception 5-8pm, October 7

“Vibe Series 01” by Peter Bodnar, 14.5x16x5in, intaglio on paper w/ HC (2015), $300 |  BUY NOW

“Vibe Series 01” by Peter Bodnar, 14.5x16x5in, intaglio on paper w/ HC (2015), $300 | BUY NOW

“Whirl Study” by Peter Bodnar, 14x14in, burnt cedar on paper (2015), $200

“Whirl Study” by Peter Bodnar, 14x14in, burnt cedar on paper (2015), $200

This Curatorial Q&A was written by John Begley.
John Begley is a Printmaker, Installation and Video Artist. From 1975 to 2014 he was a Curator and Gallery Director, including 19 years as Executive Director of LVA and several years with the UofL’s Hite Art Institute, where he is now Coordinator of IHQ Project.

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