Thursday, October 9, 2008

SoWa First Fridays

Last Friday I had the opportunity to check out the SoWa (South of Washington Street) studios for their October installment of the First Fridays event. Located at 450 Harrison Avenue in Boston, the SoWa Artist's Guild is essentially a gigantic warehouse, but one full of stylish and fascinating contemporary work. The three-story building is home to over 50 studios, and they open their doors to the public on (yup, you guessed it!) the first Friday of each month. Take away the formality and cost of a large museum and you get the open studio experience: people mingle in the hallways holding plastic cups of wine, artists speak directly to the viewers about their artwork (and about anything worthy of some small talk, for that matter!), and unfinished paintings sit right beside polished and mounted works. It's fun, casual, and as interactive as you'd like to make it.

Linda Cordner was one of several artists who specializes in encaustic painting, a technique which involves creating an image from multiple layers of hot wax and pigment. As the wax hardens quickly, the painting process must be extremely efficient and exact.

In another room, 50 cents bought you an ominous fortune cookie from a vending machine. The words "YOU WILL DIE." marked the wall behind it, and the little slips of paper inside answered how. I'm going to have to appreciate silence from now on, as mine told me that my iPod would spontaneously burst into flames and ignite my clothes, burning my body to a crisp.

There are also some fantastic jewelry studios and one woman creates a whole bunch of bright hats-think feathers, vintage veils, and cozy knits. Here are some samples of some stunning contemporary earrings and a necklace by Sophie Hughes.

Another artist was busy making portraits and had an audience of people in folding chairs examining him as he worked with a live model. A friend and I both spied finished paintings of our studio art class models-sometimes Boston is a smaller place than you'd think!

One of the most popular rooms is always the wire sculpture studio of Brian Murphy. He has a wonderful sense of humor and cunning perception of presence and absence of forms in the pieces of "Totally Wired." His lighthearted works include clever titles sure to delight anyone who looks closely at the details.

Equally popular was the newer "Architecture of Bones" gallery. Haunting (and sometimes politically explicit) images of buildings constructed from human skeletons lined the walls. In the center, artist Shaun Lynch displayed several miniature monuments made to look as if they were pieced together with skulls, ribs, and other body parts. The implications? Definitely worth exploring.

One of my personal favorites was the studio in which Barbara Glee Lucas showcased her large naturalistic paintings featuring glass. A fusion of landscape and still life, Lucas's pieces show a masterful rendering of distortion and details. She's set up in a number of locations, including Australia and France. She talked with some of us about potential locations in Boston for her upcoming projects. I'd love to see her tackle a darkly lit place (maybe a nightclub or bar) and capture the reflections of light on the glassware from neon signs and such. Look for more work from her this year as she explores Boston!

First Fridays is a great way to get to know the South End galleries and have a one-on-one connection with the artists and their work. Head to SoWa with some friends and fellow art enthusiasts on November 7th from 5-9pm for the next event if you're interested in checking it out for yourself. Free artwork, food, wine, and shmoozing abound!

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