By F. Lennox Campello
Artomatic, the planet’s greatest open visual arts show is back (through December 9), this time in Montgomery County, Maryland. And, because this is the smallest Artomatic ever (by Artomatic standards anyway) since it only has about 380 artists, it was perhaps the easiest to see.
I’ll start with work that caught my eye, my usual Artomatic “Best Awards” and finish it with my top ten picks, perhaps the hardest job that any art critic ever has, since the trite saying “art is in the eyes of the beholder” has never been more applicable than after a visit to any Artomatic.
I liked the paintings of William Tinto (great deals by the way – all around $300-$400), Nils Lofgren, Nancy Abeles and Praveen Thaivalappil. I also liked some very unusual paintings by Yumiko Hirokawa – “unusual” because they’re on a substrate of aluminum paint and boast superb technical skills (as do all the previously noted painters) with a hard-to-pin-point sense of macabre to them. I also liked Joyce McCarten and Laurie Breen. And now, the awards!
Artist Most Likely to Attract Gallerists: Kathy Lindert… I can’t find a website for her, so I’m assuming that this talented painter is unrepresented… Get a website!!
Best Naive Art: Schroeder Cherry – this artist initially fooled me into thinking that he was a self-taught artist (he’s not), until on my third visit to his booth, I did a closer examination of his works, and realized that he’s perfectly accomplishing one of the most difficult tasks in the visual arts, which is to use a naive visual approach to deliver intelligent and resonant works of social commentary and narrative complexity. Cherry focuses on African-American themes that reflect powerful imagery, augmented by striking presentation (chopped frames, etc.), found objects, etc.
Best Frida Kahlo Art: Marily Mojica – The Washington Post once called me a “Fridaphile” and I know my Fridas. Having curated two worldwide international homages to the Mexican icon, I really know artists working the Frida angle. And Mojica is easily one of the best that I have ever seen! Her approach is a clever re-invention of how we see Kahlo depicted.
Best Erotica: Jenny Wallace – She runs away with this coveted award, although I must also add that this Artomatic doesn’t have the usual large numbers of erotica as part of its roster of artworks; Wallace also wins the “Sexiest Image Award” with her photo titled “Resignation.” Wallace could be the best fetish-focused artist that I have ever seen. The second place for sexiest image goes to Julia Mazur’s photo of a nude woman sitting on a window sill. The image is back-lit and highlights every single hair on her body, each one seductively outlined by the light.
Best Mobiles: Rita Mortellaro – This is a spectacular departure for this award, which is usually the domain of someone channeling Calder. Mortellaro rocks this category with mobiles made out of tiny metal and/or fiber hoodies with rocks and found objects!
Best “Is it Abstract or Not” Award: Anne Cherubim is one of the most interesting painters around the DMV, and her dream-like paintings are deceptive images which showcase her formidable painting skills – they leave the viewer wondering as to the subject matter, while all along Cherubim has been hypnotizing them with her mastery of the subtle psychological effects of color!
Coolest Idea Award: Victoria Thompson – In her booth “Object”, this photographer takes old vintage photos and then modifies them, exposing breasts here and there; a clever depiction of the objectification of women.
Best “Better not have fallen asleep in Art History class” Award: Roger Cutler – This is not a surprise, as Cutler is a master of his genre, and his Duchamp’s Bike Repair sculpture should be included in the next edition of Janson’s!
Best Record Keeper Award: Greg Benge – His “Vinyl Countdown” series is very attractive and could also get the “Recyclable Art Award.” Benge notes that he “found a really great deal on hundreds of scratched unplayable discs (don’t worry, I haven’t ruined any rare finds).” For older readers: “disc” = “LP” or “record.”
Best Bug Art: Emily Uchytil – Surprisingly, although not for most AOM’s, this was a highly contested award! The very talented Uchytil also gets second place in the “Best Birds Art” category; she has enviable painting skills!
Best Erotic Fruits: Tara O’Neil – Her sliced peaches got me all fuzzy!
Best Animal Art: Sandra Perez-Ramos – She also gets the “Coolest Use of Pocket Protectors” award.
Best Landscape Artist: Sarah Wardell – Elegantly muted plein air landscapes, where one can feel the sunlight and smell the grass.
Best Mono-Chromatic Art: Alex L. Porter – Impressive what Porter can do with just black and white.
Best Portrait Artist: George Carr – He also gets the “Best Figure Painter” award – not an easy double award to get in two very hotly contested categories!
Best Textile Art: Diane Tuckman – a master of the craft!
Best Illustration Art: Annie Lunsford – She also “illustrated” her booth’s drywall! This was a highly competitive category, as there is a lot of high quality illustrative work in this iteration of AOM.
Best Installation: Liliane Bloom – Her “Pink – A Cherry Blossom Fantasy” is not only mesmerizing to the eyes, but also a perhaps unintended tip of the hat to DMV installation artist Dan Steinhilber.
Best Glass Artist: Sherry Selevan – Opaque and mysterious works that stand from the usual glass menagerie of bowls and vessels. She shares the award with Trish Kent’s very cool fused glass dresses.
Best Color Pencil Artist: Amanda Spaid – Wonderful control and intelligent employment of color – really, really good at a very difficult technique.
Best Clay Artist: Kasse Andrews-Weller – Busy and intelligent!
Best Action Painting: Kim Foley – One can almost feel the energy pop out of her works!
Best Flower Art: Malathi Jayawickrama – Superb use of light and very painterly – this is one of the toughest categories at AOM, as there are many flower aficionados.
Best Sculpture Award: Gloria Chapa – Her Placebo Piňata did it!
Best Encaustic Art: Marcie Wolf-Hubbard – easy pick when a master of the genre is in the show.
Best Veggie Painter: Kathleen Carroll – Do not be deceived by the focus of the work; this is a really good painter!
Scariest Painting Award: Josh Gorsky – The angry mandrill did it!
Best Student Art Award: Dionnia – From Holy Trinity Catholic School 7-2A class! Her use of color, and replay of the color on the ground, on the pyramids and in the sky is playful and attractive!
And here are the Top 10 Artists in this gigantic group show (in alphabetical order):
Shiri Achu – Powerful African art in a marriage of contemporary skills with strong African imagery from this Africa-born new American artist.
Ralph Baden – His ridiculous paintings are over the top!
George Carr – Spectacular painting skills! A total master of the figure and of the portrait.
Shanthi Chandrasekar – Over the years she has developed her own style of painting that is almost magic in context.
Schroeder Cherry – Read what I raved about him earlier.
Ellen Cornett – A spectacular artist! I’m so jealous of her drawing skills!
Ric Garcia – Continues to invent and define a new genre of Latino pop art.
Glen Kesler – An easy pick… and I think that I’ve picked him before in previous AOMs!
Kathy Lindert – Get a website!
Phyllis Mayes – Another repeat pick for me – one of the best painters around the DMV.