Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Richard Carlyon ...above and beyond...

VCU it is! After procrastinating about applying to college, I scrambled to put together a portfolio and set up an interview with the Dean of Admissions at Virginia Commonwealth University. I had always enjoyed art classes, drawing, collage-making as a kid, but I had never seriously considered becoming an artist. That changed within my 1st few classes with Richard Carlyon. I had the great fortune of being enrolled in one of his Art Foundation classes. I had never met anyone like him. His high energy, knowledge, creativity & humor captivated me completely and I wanted to be like him! I am just one of the countless students, fellow artists & friends to share this feeling.

A Retrospective of his work has been on view simultaneously at four Richmond galleries-- The Visual Arts Center "Chance", Reynolds Gallery "Early & Late Eleanor", Anderson Gallery "Choice" and 1708 Gallery "Interval", for which he was a co-founder. If you are in the area, 3 of the exhibits are still up, with the exception of 1708. I made a visit home so I could see the shows and I'm so glad I did!

Richard Carlyon 1930-2006.

Above is a recreation of his studio in the Anderson Gallery. People in the downtown area who had never even met him became accustomed to seeing him walk along West Broad Street every day to his studio. He once brought our class here and seeing the space where someone you admire works & spends their time is a real treat!

It's hard to express in words, particularly for a visual artist, just what was so special and spectacular about him. He was a spectacular person! I'd like to share a bit of my experience, because he had such an impact on me and the way I try to look at the world and live my life. He was a force of nature, that rare person who had focused, not manic, energy with actual knowledge to impart, a fantastic sense of humor and contagious enthusiasm.

Freshman year, my class could barely take their eyes off him when he spoke. He was full of charisma and he knew so much about art, culture, media, history, it inspired all of us. Until that time, I had not heard much (if anything) about Marshall McLuhan, John Cage, Abstract Art, Happenings or Minimalism. He connected that world to typical everyday life and to current popular culture (mid '80s-- good times ;) I was aware of Andy Warhol, but more from New York & People Magazine than any of his underlying ideas & concepts. Mr. Carlyon, as we called him, treated us like adults and did not go easy on anyone who did not put effort into their projects. It seemed to genuinely hurt & upset him if an assignment was not taken seriously.

On the other hand, he could find some bit of promise or insight in the most flimsy of pieces. I once benefited from this ability and his kindness. We were expected to create a visually interesting, movable piece that made sound(s). Mine would not have created a sound unless you threw it to the ground and crushed it loudly under your feet! I attempted to hide it over in a corner (it hung, think they all had to) I hoped that we would never get to it that day, but he spotted it, asking who had made it. Instead of being made to feel embarrassed by it's lack of function, he complimented me on the way the colors were mixed & how it was painted. He was the 1st to suggest I look into the painting program.

A terrific catalog is available and can be purchased online from the Anderson Gallery
Style Weekly's article, "A Long Goodbye" can be viewed online and you can hear interviews on VCU's journal, Blackbird

I went into Communication Arts & Design my Sophomore year, but did fall in love with painting by Junior year and received a minor in it. This is what I still enjoy doing most today :)

My favorite assignment had been a series of self portraits we created. I was most thrilled when he got a kick out of the giant check I made with "BOUNCED" stamped across the face of it. He had the best laugh! I can hear it so well when I think about it. The unusual thing about him is just how long he sticks with you. I had not seen him since about 1994 when I ran into him near Strawberry St (walking as always, he never drove) on a visit home. I graduated in 1989 and had taken only one other class (in Communication Arts) with him and I sat in on his extremely popular Art History Seminar. Something about the way he expressed himself and some of his observations are so fresh in my mind, I may as well have run into him this afternoon.

I always kept up with what he was doing through articles in local papers that my mom sent me over the years. He retired in 1996 and I regret that I never attempted to contact him or show him my work. I don't know if he would even remember me, but I was pleased to read about the outpouring of support and gratitude he received when he 1st became ill. It was obvious that he was an important and much loved instructor, but you always wonder if the person realizes just what an impact they have had on others. He really helped build VCU into what it is today, one of the very best art & design schools in the country. I am amazed by how much it has expanded each time I visit.

Richard Carlyon was disciplined about his art making and deeply believed in Art and the process as a way of life. He was charismatic & fun, but also serious and a little mysterious to me. I'm sure I cared too much about what he thought of me, because I respected his opinions so much. Wish I could know him now at 42, while I feel ever so slightly more secure ;)

By the time I decided to apply to NYU for graduate school, I was again putting it all together at the last minute. I had work ready to show this time and was about to fly up for my interview, but I had to ask him to fax his recommendation letter to their offices. He laughed. Faxes were not so common yet and while he embraced technology, he often seemed amused by it's effect on us and the speed at which it alters our expectations. He faxed it :D

I loved seeing pieces like the one above where he worked with drawings and notes left by his son Jason as a child. This one reads: Dad fill the aquarium with water or you'll be sorry- very sorry Great!
I wish I could have included images from his videos or had better photos of his gestural Dance Maps, where he plotted out the paths of Martha Graham dancers' movements. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing film footage "Bird Park Lane" from 1966 at the Reynolds Gallery when he was in his mid 30s and reading some of the very funny postcards at Anderson Gallery that he wrote to his sister.

Here mom ponders his paintings; Above/beyond, (here and there), THISIS, ...over (AND) above from 1984

Above is a photo strip from the catalog and the way I remember him-- animated and perfect.

He meant a lot to me even though I knew him for such a brief period. I'm so grateful that I had the chance to study with him. He will always be with so many of us!

My best to his wife, artist, Eleanor Rufty and his son, Jason Carlyon.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thanks :)

Thank You to everyone who came down to my Opening at Fat Cat last week!! I really appreciate the support!

The show will be up through the end of November due to the popular cries of fans. Ok I'm exaggerating, but it will be up for the next two months :) Please stop in, if you get a chance.

Above is lovely Miki, co-owner and soon-to-be mom, in front of one of "Face"series. She and Daniel own and run this wonderful Carroll Gardens wine shop that helps support smaller vineyards, while offering a varied selection of wines with a great price range!
They also support local artists like myself by exhibiting work here. I had no idea they had the space they did in back until I saw it. Miki seemed amused as I kept coming back with more and more pieces from my studio (conveniently located right across the street ;) I've always enjoyed setting up work in an installational manner and letting paintings play off of each other.

Above, some of my favorite ladies-- Martha, Holly & Jess :D

This is adorable Georgia and her sister Violet, who opted to check out the snacks rather than pose for a photo. These two are the daughters of my friends, Graham & Emily, super adorable themselves. Some other friends & neighbors brought their kids to the show, fitting for my work! I wish I had taken more pics that night.

Jane allowed me to photograph her in deep contemplation ;D

I enjoyed hanging the flat, illustrative pieces and the bloppy abstractions together :)

I was lucky that a past artist had left up her graphic tree mural, it was a fun backdrop for Big Beach Octy Looms Large Over Tiny People Tanning (favorite title ever). These 3 panels are intended to hang flush against one another, but the jutting of the wall dictated how it's shown here. I ended up liking the space between them.

Thanks for taking a look at my post. It can sometimes feel odd promoting yourself, but I am very pleased to be able to show this amount of artwork in one spot & in such a nice shop.

It's been a long time since I have exhibited original paintings. It's especially nice to have some of the Blip Blop series seen by more than just my close circle of friends!

xo, Allyn


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