The Alliance Art Gallery in Hannibal, MO will feature the work of guest artist, Tim Laffey and member artist Brenda Benson during the month of July. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, July 13 from 5 until 8:00. This reception is free and open to the public.
Abstraction and Passion: Art of the Heart
Tim Laffey alternates his creative passion between abstract painting and wire sculpture. As the Alliance Art Gallery’s June guest, this Carthage artist living on a 20-acre family farm admits, “Wire sculptures, which I began in Fall 2018, have become my obsession.” When he is in his abstract painting phase, he works predominantly in acrylics on wood. “They start as a work area to practice mixing, overlays, strokes. If they catch my eye, I develop them further.”
But in the Fall of 2018, the wire sculpture obsession struck … by accident. Laffey recalls, “A large wooden sculpture had a gash that needed filling. I dug up some dirt, added acrylic. It became rock-like.” He began exploring this medium, but it needed armature to hold the sloppy mix, and he thought, “Hey, wait a minute. The heck with the acrylic mud.”
“Early on,” he recalls, “I used rusty, weathered wire, old barbed wire, baling wire found on my property, and painted the finished product.” No doubt recognizing the law of diminishing returns, he soon switched to buying fresh wire from the local farm supply store. He explored tarnishing and copper electro plating, but admitting, “I’m a sucker for mad science,” Laffey started drenching the wooden bases in a copper-saturated vinegar slurry to get stains permeating the ‘xylem and phloem canals’” of the wood.
“I set rules for myself,” he explains, “No welding or soldering. Everything must come from the direct, first order, properties of the wire by cutting, bending, and wrapping. I have to let the design come from strategies of bracing that impart strength while contributing to expression. It is always intriguing how such set limits somehow morph into freedom. “As to content,” he adds, “the possibilities are open and limitless. Instead of the butterfly, show me the flight of the butterfly. Bend wire into a thought, a feeling. The possibilities seem endless.”
Tim Laffey, an artist-philosopher at heart with a slight touch of mad scientist, wonders, “Can I discover new words, new syntax, make a new language? I don’t know. But for now I can’t make myself stop.”
Featured member artist Brenda Benson takes us into a 3D color-rich Fabriana watercolor paper world. Intensely inspired by glass artist Chihuly, unsatisfied by her watercolor renditions of his work, she boldly did what no artist does: she chopped up her watercolor into geometric pieces, folded and glued them to a mat board, all in a passionate desire to carry the 3D feel of Chihuly’s work into her watercolor world. Today, having won the 2017 national Watercolor USA award, Benson continues to create vibrant works of art, perplexing the viewer as to how she does it. So here, briefly, is the “how.”
On graph paper, using pencil and color pencils, she creates the basic design/theme, and prepares a mat board with a grid—often 2” but Benson has used elongated rectangles, diagonals, and other grid-based options.
She then watercolors one side of her Fabriana paper, allows it to dry, flips it, and watercolors the second side in a contrast color or different value. She then cuts the painted sheet into rectangles, and using a scoring tool to fold both ends up, forms a square with overlapping edges. Now begins a second layer of creativity: she cuts designs and uses paper punches to enhance the underlying theme. Once glued to the mat board, she may add a third layer: scraps of paper, bits of jewelry, commercial stickers, bits of photographs—whatever the design seems to need. She’ll even tweak it with