This week, the visual arts have attracted the attention of the Critical Eye.
I want to share information about two exhibits of fine art, one here in Jamestown and another in Ohio, showing the work of a gifted artist from the Mayville area. Since I only have a relatively small amount of information about one of the shows, I'll fill the rest with a review of a most interesting new biography of film star Ava Gardner. She, after all, was something of a work of art herself.
An exhibit of photographs by Otto Knoll, such as, clockwise from above left, “Arches Sunset”, “Redondo Xamas Moonset” and “Alaska Ice River,” will be on display in the art gallery of the James Prendergast Public Library in Jamestown through Jan. 2.
Andrew Lundberg, an artist born in Chautauqua County, attended Mayville High School and the Pittsburgh Art Institute. Beginning today and for the next month, a show of his works with the title "From Left to Right" will be on display at the Mahan Gallery, located at 717 N. High St. in the Short North District of Columbus, Ohio. They're holding an opening reception from 6 to 10 p.m. this evening.
Lundberg lived in Columbus before moving to his present home in Connecticut. He has had numerous shows in both states. He says in his artist's statement that, for the show, he was inspired to create the artwork by his move to Connecticut. He found he needed to focus his ambitions, face his fears, and cope with the new and different.
He has created his series of paintings using a combination of oils and silkscreen to create a variety of effects, from flat and detached to delicate and deeply involved. Applying the colors onto metal helps signify the weightiness of the subject matter. The works are a series of collages, hoping to evoke the experience of self-examination, resulting in a wide range of ideas and emotions, sometimes smoothly transitioned, and sometimes jolting from one reaction to an utterly unrelated one.
The Mahan Gallery describes itself as "the premiere contemporary art venue of the midwest." The gallery is dedicated by Jacqueline Mahan, its founder, to "showcasing the work of emerging and burgeoning artists across a range of media, from painting to photography and sculpture, and to making fine art accessible to all, from the seasoned collector to the beginner." The gallery also serves as a sight for performance art, music and alternative media, hoping to inspire the public with the interrelationship among the many genres of art.
The gallery offers exhibitions beginning on the first Saturday of each month, lasting through the first Saturday of the subsequent month. For more information about the gallery, consult www.mahangallery.com.
The Critical Eye salutes Andrew Lundberg, and hopes he will include us in future exhibits and projects so we can share them.
The James Prendergast Library, at 509 Cherry St. in downtown Jamestown, is blessed with two outstanding small art galleries.
One, called the Fireplace Room, is the former reading room of the library. It now displays the wide variety of 19th-century paintings donated to the library by Mary Prendergast, daughter-in-law to the founder of Jamestown. Mrs. Prendergast also donated the beautiful building which houses the library, which she named for her son who died quite young.
The second gallery is used to present changing exhibits of work by artists from Western New York. Last week, the gallery began showing an exhibit of the photographs by Otto Knoll of Celoron. His photography is almost entirely made of landscape and structural images. He calls his exhibit "Through the Seasons," and he has filled the gallery's walls with dozens of images, both in color and black and white.
Each of the four seasons has a wall dedicated to it. The images represent a wide variety of locales, including from this area and as far away as Alaska, Europe and the American west coast. The small annex to the gallery contains a few examples of Knoll's mother's painting, which he considers a major inspiration for his photography. It also houses mostly black-and-white images, which are in addition to his views of the seasons.
Knoll was born in Germany. His family moved to the United States in 1956 and he grew up in the Midwest. After military service and college, he began work for a large construction and engineering company based in Los Angeles. His wife is a native of Western New York, the former Rebecca Stormer. The family decided in 2003, while their three daughters were in junior high school and high school, that they preferred to live in a more rural area, and they moved to Celoron.
Now, he commutes to and from this area, and his work in six western states, including Alaska. He started taking photos in 2000, when he was photo-documenting a construction project for his job. He found that changing vantage points often gave very different impressions of the same image, and that stirred his curiosity about the entire photographic process. He began to read about lenses, filters and printing techniques, and gradually found himself very much caught up in the artistry of his images, beyond the simple documentation of their subjects.
Knoll's photography is based upon literal images, not manipulated or manufactured subjects. His use of color is especially effective, and most of his images leap off the wall at the viewer. The unusual quality of light caused by the angle of the sun in the far north seems to hold special attraction for him.
Learn more about Knoll at www.knoll-photo.com. All images in the Prendergast show are available for sale, as are many more which can be seen on the Web site. I recommend it to you, with enthusiasm.
Gallery hours at Prendergast are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., except Wednesdays. Due to the challenges of funding learning in our culture, the library is closed Wednesday evenings, and the gallery must close at 4:30. On Saturdays, see the exhibit from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For similar reasons, the library is now closed on Sundays.
The next artist whose work will be exhibited in the gallery, starting Jan. 9, is Suzette Paduano.
Most art lovers are familiar with the famous film "La Dolce Vita." It's most notorious scene involves a beautiful actress, portrayed by Swedish bombshell Anita Ekberg, who goes on a wild spree through the city of Rome, ending in a jump into one of Rome's beautiful baroque fountains in full evening gown.
Fewer people are aware that that scene is based on a real-life adventure by American film star Ava Gardner.
The colorful Gardner is the subject of a relatively new biography written by Lee Server. The title is "Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing."
She had an extraordinarily long career, beginning with a number of obscure "short subjects," dated 1946, and ending with a number of noteworthy television guest appearances in the mid-1980s.
A number of writers have compared her with another beautiful woman who made headlines during the same period: Marilyn Monroe. Both women hungered to work as serious actors, but were cast as eye candy in films where the action is dominated by others. Both were astonishingly beautiful and rich beyond imagination, yet chronically unhappy. Both felt that everyone in their lives didn't truly care for them, but only wanted to use them, and both struggled to maintain some grasp on normalcy in a career based upon fantasy.
The author takes a plain and effective approach to his subject. He neither drones on about her perfection and genius, which wouldn't be true, nor does he twist ordinary facts into evidence to make her life into a product for sale. He tells us how he knows what he says to be true about her, and if he has manufactured any part of it, he has disguised it extremely well.
He seems to have earned the trust of many people who knew Ava and the people around her, and focuses on portraying how the life of an individual becomes the thing of legend, rather than on enlarging the legend to sell books.
Gardner was born in Grabtown, N.C., a small bend in the road near Smithtown. Her real name was Ava Lavinia Gardner. She was the youngest of 13 children, born to a dirt-poor farmer and his second wife, who contributed seven of the baker's dozen.
She grew up in a world of dirt roads and outside bathrooms. In her teens, she would take a train for a short visit to New York City, where Beatrice, one of her older sisters, lived. Her sister married a professional photographer. At his wife's request, he snapped a head-and-shoulders photo of young Ava. It turned out so well, he put it into an inexpensive frame and placed it in the front window of his business.
Many of the professional movies in the early 1930s were still being made in New York City, before the industry moved to California for its many cloudless days. Film executives, passing on the street, saw the arresting photo of a young woman and entered the photographer's studio to offer her a screen test.
The rest is history. Despite her reputation as a film siren, Server claims that Ava's first experience with a man was with her first husband on their wedding night. Apparently Mickey Rooney was a skilled lover, because he started her toward a career which would attract film stars, authors, government officials, musicians, bullfighters and more.
The most famous of her husbands was Frank Sinatra. Like Ava, Sinatra came from a family which had very little money, and the couple were completely overwhelmed by their enormous earnings and the power and influence which went with them. Like Rooney, Sinatra would remain obsessed by Ava, long after they had divorced and gone on to many more partners.
Throughout the history of filmmaking, when an actress begins to get a reputation for being difficult to deal with and being unreliable about things such as showing up on time and learning her lines, typically Hollywood gets rid of her, regardless of her talent or fame. Yet, almost to the very end of her life, Ava's beauty was so great, as was her ability to dominate a scene and command the audience's attention, that she continued to be hired.
In films such as John Huston's filming of a series of the events described in the Bible's book of Genesis, which he boldly named "The Bible," she was called upon to speak almost no lines, but merely to radiate beauty and fascination.
If you're interested in the history of filmmaking, and the degree of contribution in films by actors and directors and studio executives, you'll find this book very interesting. If you just like gossip about famous people, you'll like it, too.
"Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing," has 500 pages in the hardbound edition. Find it on the shelves of the Barker Library in Fredonia or borrow it by interloan through any of the independent libraries of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System.