Leslie Smith III: I want People to Just Get It

May 25, 2014

I missed the introduction to the “rapid fire” lecture of UW-Madison professor and painter Leslie Smith III. Smith, in full force, as I entered the dark auditorium, showed little inclination to slow down. Immediately captivated, my senses prompted me to pay very close attention and strive to comprehend every word. I searched for a pen and paper to assist in increasing my chances of taking it all in and to also ” get it.” His choice of words fell on my ears as magic even as I missed chunks of phrases and bits and pieces here and there.

I instantly traveled back in time to my days as a UW-Milwaukee art aesthetics and philosophy student in the classes of Professor Haig Khatchadourian and much later as a student in the classes of Judith Russi Kirshner, then my professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a contributor to Art Forum. Khatchadourian’s and Kirshner’s command of aesthetics and delivery excited and gained my rapt attention. Smith’s command of aesthetics and delivery intertwined with his artmaking, inspired that same awe.

Smith provided glimpses into his educational background, museum exhibitions and assorted processes influencing the thought-provoking abstractions. He shared narrative observations and interpretations of sometimes quirky private dramas and interpersonal relationships. His real life references definitely distinguished themselves in the abstract paintings. Without these associations, the actual connections to pieces like “Piss Chair,” “Hungry Boy” and “You First”  remain with Smith. The uniquely personal references provide insights when the viewer needs them and when the artist desires, in some way, to provide them. Smith’s increasingly asymmetrically shaped canvas paintings, gestural brushstrokes and bold colors stand solidly alone as strong aesthetic images. My notes, following the artwork titles, reveal what I heard as Smith’s aesthetic concepts and welcomed as his references.

"Piss Chair" 96 x 108 inches, Oil on Canvas 2008

“Piss Chair” 96 x 108 inches, Oil on Canvas 2008

“Piss Chair”
In the white lawn chair we ate watermelon and barbeque/Legs and high heel shoes/Psychological aspects/Objects that function with little reference
Emotional Gravitas borrows language/language/isolates it from the language of object/You have to work with what you know. Work has to be more about me/How you tell the truth.

"Hungry Boy" 40 x 40 inches, Oil on Canvas 2011

“Hungry Boy” 40 x 40 inches, Oil on Canvas 2011

“Hungry Boy”

Hungry for work, Hungry for time, Hungry for a studio Infatuated with the romance/synthetic life of NY/Find objects that I can re-contextualize -find what I wanted/ I was asked, “Have you thought about Philip Guston?” It helps to organize the canvas/I thought about separating the making of a character from the act of creating the painting/I start out not knowing what they are all about/I’m interested in investigation/all the conditions of a painting/Dealing with the role of color, dealing with narrative/I thought about separating the making of a character/from the act of creating the painting/I start out not knowing what they are all about/I’m interested in investigation all the conditions of a painting/Dealing with the role of color/Dealing with narrative.

"Window" 24 x 24 inches, Oil and spray paint on Canvas 2010

“Window” 24 x 24 inches, Oil and spray paint on Canvas 2010

“Window”

What came out of it is collapsing the space/Factor into a larger context/27” x 27” paintings/Infatuated with inanimate objects about the physicality of painting/How to not make it figurative/Make it volumetric/I realize that I just made a window/It reflects light with its metallic under-painting/I enter into an architectural space/Artist – Fra Angelico/He could negotiate space/Investigating Fra Angelico led to windows/Changing ways of studying subtle narratives and suggestion/“How Long has this been going on?/The Morning After”/Red hue is necessary for trying to solve the problem/Hard to quantify the saturation of color/Set within dream space/elements may float or exist in a semi-real space/I am interested in specificity and a certain reality/I want to create a sense of familiarity/I dream too much.

"You First" 26 x 26 Oil on Linen 2012

“You First” 26 x 26 inches, Oil on Linen 2012

“You First”

Do you know “Coming to America?”/Jerry Curls, Jheri Curls, Uncle’s/You first integrate multiple characters/Jerry curl juice/sweat.

"Self" 26 x 26 Oil on Linen 2011

“Self” 26 x 26 inches, Oil on Linen 2011

“Self”

Annual self-portrait/Gestural characters clouds or a mop/Working around the peripheral/Strike a theme until I exhaust it/“Viennese Waltz”/Relationships with closest friends are closer or more like family than your real family/Dancing with the stars.

"Sticks Stone or Drones" 72 x 96inches Oil on Canvas 2012

“Sticks Stone or Drones” 72 x 96 inches, Oil on Canvas 2012

 “Stick, Stones, and Drones”

It was great, I liked it/But it did not satisfy what else I’m missing/A post-modernist painter/Everything is apologetic/Everything is working together/I wanted to give my painting the same kind of complexity/“Philip Guston at work in his studio”/he did not want to understand what he was painting/I think about the contextualizing/I do want to understand it and demystify things/Canvas/frame/Potent reason to allow the painting shape/once a square/Then disfigure/dis-invigorate it to a hump form/What the contradiction was/Contradicting realities.

"Night Baptism" 42 x 42 inches Oil on Shaped Canvas 2013

“Night Baptism” 42 x 42 inches Oil on Shaped Canvas 2013

“Night Baptism”

I flew to … the east coast to be re-baptized, it happened at night with about/6-7 little bitty people, then I flew back/“Drift Studio” carpentry/ Were all forces and working mechanisms/Equal and opposing-canceling each other out/Cyclical unsolvable realities/ Societal and cultural/Drawings are subsidiaries to the/Building off the idea of/Locked on and found if you lose it.

 

"Best Kept Secret" 48 x 48 inches Oil on Shaped Canvas 2013

“Best Kept Secret,” 48 x 48 inches Oil on Shaped Canvas 2013

 “Best Kept Secret”

 Under a vail/Broken fractured/Night                 twitch shows up/Things that show up/The  politics of dealing with human  dispositions/All the others become more  complicated/I deal more or less/These  objects/I want to take a more direct  approach/Moved back into just letting things  go. I order two or three shapes at a time because I don’t know what to do with them/A juxtaposing element of form not fitting that way/I just fuss with them until they kind of meld together/Post-minimalism neo-geo/My personal experience, an absence of self/The work becomes lost in the conversation/Big elephant in the room/packed with a certain amount of familiarity.

Untitled work on paper, 26 x 40 inches Oil on Chromcoat paper, 2014

Untitled work on paper, 26 x 40 inches, Oil on Chromcoat paper, 2014

“Untitled”

Oil on Chromcoat paper/I can’t contextualize it/Something about these gestural painting/ Night Orchestra/Not figured out what that means/I just think it’s cool/Just needed something black to offset the newness/Want to make a painting that lifted those shapes up/The African American Abstract exhibition in Texas/The curator did such a good job of making me see the relationship my paintings had to abstraction in a multi generational context/I don’t believe mine are truly real abstractions/They are personified gestural subtle narrations of painting speaking to one another/I am working on more Chromecoat paper/their likeness helps fortify the shapes/I want people to just get it/A bad idea/My wife has told me no one can read my mind/unrealistic/my titles connect.

by Evelyn Patricia Terry

Terry received one of the Milwaukee Arts Board’s 2014 Artists of the Year Awards (along with Barbara Leigh), please contact Terry for juror, lecture, curator, commission, or workshop requests at terryevelyn@hotmail.com or visit the web page evelynpatriciaterry.com/news for more information.


 

 

 


An unwavering season of growth

November 4, 2011

Evelyn Patricia Terry, "Sacred Precious One," Pastel, 41 x 37 inches.

Summer zoomed through like a torpedo. The backyard garden, which in past years always yielded cucumbers and tomatoes, went neglected. This unexpected turn of events instead yielded a season of personal growth and diverse experiences: an unplanned vacation; a chance connection to the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; a famous juror at a community festival; and finally a major move.

In June, I accepted an invitation from my daughter and her husband, living in New York, to fly in for a couple of days and hang out with them and his mother visiting from Montana. We enjoyed each other’s company and sought out great experiences for our brief soirée. Though we didn’t have time to catch a Broadway show, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Savage Beauty” had all the trauma and drama of a major theatrical production. A multimedia exhibition, it enthrallingly traversed the prolific fashion career of the late Alexander McQueen whose suicide at age 40 stunned the fashion world. His haunting designs are artistic explorations, shrouded in beauty, mystery and dazzling showmanship. It is no wonder that on the final day of the exhibition, a New York friend reported lines several blocks long, keeping MMA open until midnight.

Evelyn Patricia Terry shares a moment with Dr. Roland Patillo. Photo: Lynda Jackson-Conyers.

Back in Milwaukee in August, as an honoree, I attended the elegant Milwaukee Community Journal Anniversary Celebration, the Academy of Legends. Academy of Legends organizer Patricia O’Flynn Pattillo, founder and CEO of the MCJ weekly newspaper, cleverly emulated Hollywood’s Academy Awards. I took the opportunity to exhibit my work, Sacred Precious One, to a new audience.   I graciously congratulate Florence Dukes for winning in the Arts/Music Category, thus sparing me from giving an acceptance speech.

Rebecca Skloot's "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks."

More importantly,  before the event, I was honored to speak with both former Wisconsin residents, Mrs. Pattillo and her husband, Dr. Roland Pattillo–now Georgia residents. Dr.  Pattillo, a Morehouse School of Medicine professor and Director of Gynecologic Oncology,  shared his role in the discovery of HeLa, the first immortal human cell line ever grown in culture from the cells of Henrietta Lacks. The controversial medical discovery received major news coverage in 2009, with the publication of Rebecca Skloot’s bestselling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Lacks cells were being used for medical research long after her death, without her family’s knowledge or permission. Dr. Pattillo, who helped expose the existence of the cell line, now organizes and chairs the Annual Morehouse “HeLa” Woman’s Health Conference. After my inspirational conversations with Dr. and Mrs. Pattillo, I went immediately online and read a compelling excerpt of the book.

Back in my comfort zone, I was invited by Mount Mary art professor Brad Anthony Bernard to the 2nd annual Community Arts & Funk Festival reception in Milwaukee — which he organized. I provided artwork from artists represented by the Terry McCormick Gallery.  For me the festival highlight was speaking briefly to renowned Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt. Hunt — along with Nicholas Frank, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design faculty member, and Dr. Annemarie Sawkins, Haggerty Museum Curator — juried the festival. Said to have completed more public sculptures than any other artist in the country, Hunt has in impressive signature sculpture installed on the Mount Mary College grounds. Best of Show went to Eddie Davis (painting), 1st Place went to Angela Smith (wearable art), 2nd Place went to Jeff Newville (leatherwork), and 3rd Place went to Bashir Malik (painting). Honorable mentions went to Vedale Hill (painting) and Jessica Laub (ceramics). A lively end of summer occasion, which along with original artwork, feathered live performances by singer songwriters of original music.

Nicholas Frank, Richard Hunt and Dr. Annemarie Sawkins tally scores. Photo courtesy of Harrison Kern.

Finally, I created a kind of win-win change from a potentially unpleasant situation in late August. On three days’ notice, I was asked to relocate from my art studio, at Lincoln Center Middle School of the Arts, to a much smaller space. After negotiating space for my two studio partners,  I decided to move my studio to my home. The daunting task, packing up and moving into the school’s temporary storage from my space that I had occupied since 1985, occurred with the assistance of three maintenance engineers and two friends nearer the end of September.

The move out of storage is only partially accomplished. Nevertheless, I feel that the new fall season signifies even greater growth. This includes my new project, “Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop.” Designed to benefit k-12 youth and their families, this workshop is funded by a MPS Partnership for the Arts Grant, Alice’s Garden, Walnut Way Community Corporation, Riverwest Artists Association, and Lena’s/Piggly Wiggly. It signals the continuation of unwavering growth opportunities including the return of next year’s cucumbers and tomatoes.

–Evelyn Patricia Terry, evelynpatriciaterry.com

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Celebrating George: Celebrating Art

July 21, 2011

George Ray McCormick, Sr. stands in front of two carvings from the “Four Horsemen” Series,” 2008 (Collection of Deana McCormick). Photo courtesy of Terry McCormick Gallery.

By Evelyn Patricia Terry

George Ray McCormick Sr.–my life partner, my good friend, and as my son says my “road dog”–transitioned on July 30, 2009. To honor our joint creative impulses, I founded the Terry McCormick Gallery that same year. Needed repairs to the gallery porches, kitchen floors and basement, along with other perceived failures and hardships, like accomplishing the publication of my first book bogged me down this year. Desperately desiring success, I avoided opening the gallery.

Lately I learned, by listening to many self-empowerment conversations and recordings, that embracing perceived failure is a necessary component to any success story. I then realized that George’s transition date aligned perfectly with July’s Gallery Day in Milwaukee, a synchronistic moment that trumped my gridlocked thought pattern. Subsequently, I am hosting a reception on July 30, 2011 and exploring options for completion of my book “Permission to Paint, Please! 150 Year Celebration of African American Artists Connected to Wisconsin.”

This realization allows the honoring of my goal to make available, to the public, George’s artwork and that of the other gallery artists, Shana R. Goetsch, Ras `Ammar Nsoroma, Ktinsley and Jacqueline A. Richards.

George Ray McCormick, Sr., “Adam and Eve Series: Cupid Speaks,” 31” x 11” x 11,” Painted, woodburned carved wood, found objects and welded steel, 2007, (Collection of Paul Phelps). Photo: Larry Sanders.

George’s remaining artwork includes spiritual and secular subjects in woodcuts, garden and large bug-like creatures, ink and pencil drawings (exploring sexuality and depression) and woodburned painted carvings (featuring his last series–roosters). His family retained many of his pieces and collectors acquired work through ongoing sales–such as those hosted by the Jazz Gallery and the Center for Spiritual Living.

George deeply desired to have his artwork valued and “paid for” by avid contemporary folk art collectors and museums. He resolutely avoided being taken advantage of after reading how African-American contemporary folk artists often were. Notebooks and entries on bits of paper preserve some of George’s thoughts indicating his personal struggles with “trust,” “God” and “evil.”

Throughout our eleven-year relationship, he also struggled with health issues. Diet changes, to predominantly vegetable-based protein, facilitated his recovery from cancer (twice), arthritis, and blindness in one eye from a stroke. His greatest challenge was drastic blood pressure fluctuations. My research shows managing one’s thoughts, diet and proper sleep drastically impact blood pressure control.  George’s intense commitment to mastering the guitar led him to research and practice into the night. A resulting aneurysm, too soon for me, ended his struggles. Without him “going places” is less interesting. I content myself with completing goals and exploring informative concepts like the law of attraction and the ability to control one’s life by one’s thoughts–a rich exciting opportunity.

Shana R. Goetsch, "Tributary 3" (detail), Collograph prints on paper, 2 feet x 65 yards, 2011. Photo courtesy of the artist.

As for other Terry McCormick Gallery artists, it is important to note that Shana just completed her MA in Community Art at Maryland Institute College of Art and is opening at the Jazz Gallery in Milwaukee, August 6, 2011, 6-9 p.m., with her thesis exhibition “3 Tributaries.” Shana R. Goetsch’s intense and provocative pieces, including 4,000 individual prints of row houses on one sheet of paper, challenge us to visually and emotionally connect to 4,000 victims of domestic violence. (You can also see her work in PortalWisconsin.org’s online gallery.)

Ras `Ammar Nsoroma with “Thought, Speech, Action,” (1 panel of 14), 4' x 8,' Acrylic on board, 201l. Photo: Elisabeth Miller.

Ammar recently completed a project of 14 panels for the Franklin Square Apartments spearheaded by Melissa Goins of Maures Development group. Ammar, the lead artist for accomplishing ten murals in conjunction with youth employed by Artworks for Milwaukee, Inc., created the last four, independently, in April.

Evelyn Patricia Terry, "And God Loves You, Too," 24" x 16," Screenprint (edition 125-few remain), 1979. Photo: Vernessa Weatherall.

Open to the public, Terry McCormick Gallery hosts “George Ray McCormick, Sr. Celebration” at 2522 North 18th Street on Saturday, July 30 from 1 p.m.–5 p.m.

Gallery Night and Day sites to view my artwork  are: Friday, I will be present for my continuing exhibition at Cuvée’s featuring a winding down of  “One Hundred Dollar Special Sale,” at 177 North Broadway from 5:30 p.m.–9 p.m.

Selections from “Finding Peace Prayer,” an abstract collage series, are exhibited during Peltz Gallery’s “21st Annual Remarkable Women Show 2011.” Located at 1119 East Knapp Street, the hours on Gallery Night are 6 p.m.–9:30 p.m. and on Gallery Day are 11:00 a.m.–4:00 pm.

Jose Alfredo Chavez produced this video, after learning of George’s transition, in time for his memorial service. For more information visit evelynpatriciaterry.com.

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How This All Started

October 1, 2010

By Evelyn Patricia Terry

"Beyond the White Picket Fence: The Computer Beckons," installation by Evelyn Patricia Terry, UW-Milwaukee Union Art Gallery, 2006. Photo: Vernessa Richardson.

My practical-minded mom suggested majoring in cooking so that I might always be employable at a hospital or other institutions. Having no career notions, I attempted to follow her advice. But instead, my art career began after one of my University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Home Economics professors, Ms. Jean Stange, suggested that I might be an artist. She was aware (no doubt) of my poor performance in other department classes. In a cooking class, my soufflés fell and my white sauce had lumps. In interior design, I didn’t like matching or even looking at sofas, rugs, paint swatches, and curtains. However, I loved Ms. Stange’s Related Art class and I excelled.

Growing up, drawing was second nature to me. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to learn degrees could be earned based on one’s ability to draw. Mom once said her grade school teacher relegated children caught drawing to the corner  to wear a dunce hat. Consequently, her conditioning discouraged promotion of drawing.

"Play the Race Card: The Patriotic Bride Wore Black, Red and Green," by Evelyn Terry. Mixed media found objects, 2009. Photo: Fred Fischer, Tom Fritz Studios, Inc.

I knew I was an artist when I walked into a Mitchell Hall printmaking room and saw an art student pull a print on an etching press. For the first time, my continuous feelings of misery from being on earth dissipated; I felt overall joy and a strange new sense of my future opening up to embrace me and invite me forward. Though the road to becoming and being an artist has often been bumpy, I was determined to keep the feeling of peace and contentment that the environment of creating art provided. I strive daily for that feeling when I am not in the actual act of producing art. After switching to art classes, I began almost immediately to make a leap to becoming a professional artist by selling my artwork in festivals. Additionally, opportunities came along through galleries, art consultants and museum associations.

As a professional full-time visual artist who has worked conceptually, figuratively, and with abstraction exploring such subjects as race, religion, relationships, recycled art, and raw food health, I have created artwork in the areas of printmaking, recycled found objects, pastels, painting, public art and installations. The “Play the Race Card” series is my current body of work, which conceptually addresses continuing US race issues from my self-actualized perspective. I have received two fellowships, several grants, and a selection of exhibition awards. Through the assistance of art consultants, my work has been collected widely. I have artwork in more than 400 collections throughout the United States (also Japan and Germany) and Milwaukee-area museums. Presently, I have a book manuscript, Permission to Paint, Please! 150 years of African American Artists Connected to Wisconsin, contracted to the UW Press in Madison, Wisconsin. It is now in the editing process.

In 2009, I started the Terry McCormick Gallery in the lower level of my duplex after a series of burglaries, arson and the death of my long-time companion, self-taught artist, George Ray McCormick, Sr. He left a plethora of his creations including sketches, woodcarvings, and sculptures. My gallery exhibits the work of both contemporary fine and folk artists. It carries my last name, Terry, and that of Mr. McCormick’s.

"Last Supper Club Dinner," George Ray McCormick, Sr. Wood-burned carved wood, acrylic, and plywood, 4' x 8,' 2008. Photo: Larry Sanders.

Click below to read about and hear Adam Carr’s (88.9 Radio Milwaukee) visit to my gallery:

http://unifiedmilwaukee2.wordpress.com/2010/02/28/make-milwaukee-week-5-the-terry-mccormick-gallery.

You can learn more about me and see some of my work at www.evelynpatriciaterry.com.

You may also visit my website for gallery information or call 414.264.6766 to make a gallery appointment. I am pleased to share my ideas as a blogger and will generally concentrate on issues important to artists and artmaking.