Sunday, September 30, 2012

“The Artist’s Studio” by Franklin McMahon

The Artist’s Studio by Franklin McMahon (1921-2012), ink on paper. Illustration is taken from American Artist magazine, “Drawn Directly with Brush and Ink,” April 1956. 54.

Franklin McMahon’s artwork relies on a strong lyrical and personal story for impact, which makes his illustrations fine art. His direct drawing approach and spontaneous contour lines develop work that seems to breathe—one can almost feel McMahon’s compositions inhale and exhale. McMahon, who died this year (March 3, 2012) was an internationally known artist-reporter and illustrator from Lake Forest, Illinois.

By accentuating straight lines and angles McMahon’s illustrations are more than objective renderings. His unique and idiosyncratic style seems like a synthesis of hand-drawing with lens distortion without using the camera.

Read More......

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Los Angeles based artist John August Swanson captures the look and feel of art in the streets. Poster, 24" x 36"— © John August Swanson 2008. Images and copy taken from John August Swanson’s website.

It is my hope that this art work might serve as an inspiration and a tool for those working to organize those who have been displaced & marginalized by economic injustice into compassionate communities empowered to implement justice and bring peace. —John August Swanson

In the first panel:
At the left side of my serigraph, there is an employment agency with a long line of people waiting to sign on a waiting list. Our “Unemployed Man” is seen at the moment he writes down his name. He continues into the next panel, where he walks down the street, feeling alone and powerless, as he passes factories and office buildings with “No Jobs” signs posted.

In the second panel:
He is standing outside an overcrowded hotel where he has just picked up a newspaper which announces a march, a gathering of many people, of many communities coming together to address their common problems.

In the third panel:
He is the foreground figure in a huge gathering of people who have come together to call for quality universal healthcare, better schools, affordable housing, living wages, equal pay and job training. Many of their signs promote strength in unity, community organizing, and peace. This large group of people is positioned so that they march toward the viewer as if they are moving forward out of the picture.

Read More......

Friday, September 14, 2012

John August Swanson as graphic designer: 1972 Cesar Chavez United Farm Workers Poster

John August Swanson, Struggle for Justice: 40th Anniversary Poster, 2012/1972
© John August Swanson 2012

“It is my hope that this art work [my posters] might serve as an inspiration and a tool for those working to organize those who have been displaced and marginalized by economic injustice into compassionate communities empowered to implement justice and  bring peace.” —John August Swanson

The Dordt College department of art and design is busy preparing and anticipating the next art exhibition featuring the Richard and Helen De Vos collection of John August Swanson's iconic advent series of serigraphs. The exhibition will be installed in the Campus Center Art Gallery from October 10 to December 2.

In addition, we have become inspired by Swanson graphic design work. Compared to Swanson's serigraphs very little is known about his social activist posters. Illustrated above is John's recently reissued poster from 1972 titled "Struggle for Justice” which is a 40th anniversary commemorative piece. Of import is that the poster has as much relevance today as it did in 1968 and the poster is a significant reminder that challenges still exist for racial and economic justice in our society.

About the poster Swanson writes the following on his website:

The poster, STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE, was first created forty years ago, in 1972 to help raise money for the United Farm Workers. The original printing was limited to one hundred posters. 
As I recall, the union provided me with a statement from Cesar Chavez’s 1968 speech. My idea for the poster design was to use his words to create a “newspaper,” a black and white montage of photos and lettering. For the lettering, I used a variety of typefaces; many of these were rubber-stamp alphabets I had carved from rubber erasers and other materials. His words became my “headlines,” accompanied by images showing the struggles of the United Farm Workers in our agricultural fields and the attacks from the giant agribusiness corporations. I also used other photos depicting labor, race, and economic struggles throughout the 20th century in the United States. I interspersed the words and photo images, hoping that this would be an interesting design and would best communicate the message of our continuing struggle to bring justice for all.

In 2011, I felt the message still resonated with strong grass-root movements: the energetic actions of the Occupy Movement, the growing awareness and participation of the Global Warming and Environmental Movements, the struggle of workers to protect their labor unions, and the renewed effort of the Peace Movement. I decided the poster should be reprinted. The original poster was revised with new images, revised spacing, and adapted text. Now, I hope this poster will bring Ch├ívez’s powerful words to students, to union workers, and to those who struggle for justice. I hope this work will encourage, strengthen, and empower those who seek a just and peaceful world.

Read More......

Monday, September 10, 2012

Behrens and Versluis collaborative print selected for the Washington Pavilion Visual Arts Center’s First Juried Exhibition

David M. Versluis and Roy R. Behrens, Iowa Insect Series: Yellow Jacket, 
digital collage–giclee print, 2012. Image copyright © David M. Versluis/Roy R. Behrens

A collaborative print by David Versluis, Sioux Center, Iowa and Roy Behrens, Dysart, Iowa was selected for the Washington Pavilion Visual Arts Center’s first national juried exhibition in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Art professor Behrens teaches graphic design at the University of Northern Iowa and Versluis teaches graphic design at Dordt College. The piece selected for recognition is from the “Iowa Insect Series” of 10 images, which were completed during the month of January, 2012. The collaboration was long distance and image files were volleyed back and forth while each artist added, subtracted or modified the image until both felt the print was finished and the series was completed.

The First Juried Exhibition runs from September 14 through December 2, 2012 in the Everist Gallery; the Opening Reception is September 15 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Some notes from the Juror, Megan Johnston:

The task of selecting only 60 works from amongst the 508 entered was very difficult. Many strong works were not selected in order to have a clearer curatorial intention, which will hopefully be evident in the show. In order to create an exhibition that had a voice or a story to tell, works were selected based on several curatorial themes that emerged from amongst the pool of submissions and not necessarily on individual pieces. Newer work was selected over older work in general.
Some of the curatorial thrusts that emerged from the pool of works during the selection process: an investigation of materials; politics; landscape; nature; and death. There is a strong visual leaning towards the natural world—themes and ideas, materials and construction, imagery and subject matter. The selection process went beyond the identification of works that were simply (even though highly) beautiful to look at or were well-executed and sought out works that contained multiple layers of narrative, were examples of interesting or non-traditional use of materials (or re-use of traditional materials) and/or had something to say in relation to sociopolitical, economic, or historical nuances.
Megan Johnston is the director of curatorial affairs and interpretation for the Plains Art Museum, Fargo, North Dakota.

Read More......

Thursday, September 6, 2012

“Look for deeper meanings in life and in art”: a report on artist Steve A. Prince’s visit to Dordt College, September 1-4, 2012

From a photo shoot of Steve A. Prince’s art exhibition at Dordt College. This photograph illustrates Steve standing next to Exodus: Bread from Heaven which is from the Old Testament series, 2012, 24 in. x 36 in., Linoleum Cut. Photos by Doug Burg.

Steve poses next to Job: Take me to the Water, also from the Old Testament series, Linoleum Cut. To the left is Lamentations: Send your Rain, 2012, Linoleum Cut.

Student recollections (in their words) of quotes from Steve’s presentations:

  • Be a Living Epistle
  • Keep the light on!
  • Be the Ecclesia — “the called out ones”
  • MINE your business; dig deeper than the surface
  • Confront life’s nastiness
  • There are gaping wounds that need to be healed
  • Old soil [the past] is doomed to be repeated unless addressed
  • Your past may be stained but your future is untouched
Starting Sunday evening (9.2.12) with his exhibition opening Steve Prince was kept very busy for three days and energetically gave of himself to Dordt in so many powerful and challenging ways. Steve is an artist and art educator based in Silver Spring, Maryland; he and his wife Valerie are co-founders of One Fish Studio.

Last Tuesday (9.4.12) Steve wrapped up his time at Dordt College as the First Mondays Speaker, visiting gallery artist, studio guest, and workshop leader. Steve has developed a reputation as an excellent and demanding teacher; he's continually producing artwork and commissions that have received international acclaim while managing a full schedule of gallery exhibitions, workshops, and lectures to audiences of all ages.

On Labor Day Steve spoke in the morning to a full house in the BJ Haan Auditorium and had his audience riveted. The afternoon was dedicated to a monoprint workshop with 18 participants. In the evening event Steve’s presentation was both powerful and profound. He went into more detail and deepened the themes of his morning lecture by showing a more complete body of his artwork. Steve is one of the finest storytellers I’ve ever heard and of great interest to me is the way in which he tells his narratives through visual art. Steve’s evening presentation was titled, “Second Line: The Art of Social Justice.” He began by showing a slide of one of his pieces in the Dordt exhibition titled, “Requiem for Brother John” and described the work which is based on the New Orleans funeral tradition of the dirge as a sad song for the one who has passed away. In Steve’s art the dirge is a metaphor for personal and communal sadness, corruption, and loss – the sad fact that things are not right in the world.

Then as a sure sign of hopefulness Steve followed his “Requiem” piece with the next piece called, “Second Line: Rebirth” in which he described the contrast as “cathartic”. In the New Orleans funeral tradition, after the mourning has taken place, the processional continues as a “Second Line” and becomes a celebration of the life of the one who has passed away. In the afterlife the person's life is made new and he/she is reborn. In Steve’s artwork, the “Second Line” is a metaphor for purification, liberation, and cleansing.

In several ways the themes of the “Dirge” and the “Second Line” are foundational metaphors in most of Steve’s work. His work is intense and challenging, symbolized by very strong black and white contrasts; every aspect of the compositions is full of meaning.

Steve has had a very positive impact on each community that he's been a part of and on those who view his work, as well. His artwork conveys the impact of the New Orleans storytelling tradition. Steve speaks sincerely from his heart and is genuinely interested in making the world a better place to live. Steve's abilities and talents are amazing and we were very fortunate to have him on campus.

Steve Prince’s visit to Dordt College was sponsored by the Andreas Center for Reformed Scholarship and Service.

Read More......