Speaking of trends: Chris Morse of The Granary speaks up
File photo by Lynn Christoffers
Trends in art: an interesting subject, but very basic at its core. Trends represent a natural flow, so subtle that many artists are not always aware of the influence on their work. It's more like being enveloped by a surrounding current.
Consider the similarities between Motherwell and Rothko in the '60s. It was the result of the same energies being shared.
Influence, a more complimentary word than trend, is pervasive. Just being aware creates influence. It is difficult to respect, admire, and study an artist without being influenced.
Wolf Kahn is an example of an artist whose paintings have influenced other artists. He can be considered trend-setting for artists doing ethereal landscapes that feature single structures.
Wendy Weldon, who's reinvented that genre, has brought her landscapes to a contemporary level, incorporating gold leaf and using paraffin (encaustic). And it's not unexpected to see other successful examples similarly done. The striking landscapes with barns at Dragonfly Gallery are painted by Peter Batchelder, at North Water Gallery, by Suzanne Crocker, and at Eisenhauer Gallery, by Robert Cardinal — all successful demonstrations of a natural and popular trend.
Even as artists maintain their integrity to exercise their processes and their commitment to what their craft dictates, thet are also expressing that which has influenced them.
On the Vineyard, painters Rez Williams and Allen Whiting have had observable influence on younger painters such as Ken Vincent, who has made a commitment to his craft as a painter, and is at the very beginning of what is going to be an exciting career.
In art, influence does not confine itself to financial success. Often the paintings that remain displayed in the galleries the longest, are seen more often and become the ones that are best remembered.
Years ago when Alison Shaw was doing her jarringly high-contrast black-and-white photography, her exciting photographs began to be emulated by other photographers.
Heather Neill's success has germinated from the influences of her life. Everything she has done has led her to this point, a chronicle that includes her work as a chairmaker and carver. Now she carves the frames for her paintings. It's a very honest story.
Heather Neill is currently the most popular artist The Granary represents. She's more idealistic than realistic, and doesn't shy away from incorporating politics, humor, or any emotion. I think artists like her and any painter who's having a successful response — not just commercial but response driven —motivate other artists, and elevate their desire to become better.
David Wallis is someone a lot of young painters look up to. When people were experimenting with very impressionistic work, he tightened up, and got highly detailed. His work is distinguished by his ability to control the uncontrollable with watercolors.
David Fokos's photography is an example of defying popular trends, at least in his process. With new technology that enables photographers to take a thousand images in 10 minutes, he creates just three or four images a year — the least productive professional photographer on the planet. He will work sometimes 200 hours getting the effect that he wants.
Throughout history, even the artists who turned their back on their patrons were subject to the influences of their audiences and their environments.
Trends are driven by popularity and linked to what people are buying. But trends are cyclical. In painting or in any of the visual arts, most work is a version of something that has been done before. Eventually, it gets played out, and then is revisited. It's a rotation and an evolution.
What artists use as inspiration ultimately comes from what's around them. That is a constant. The Vineyard provides a regional grounding of subject matter. Kara Taylor's ethereal forms are floating over "some" land — that land is Vineyard land, and artists creating on the Vineyard embrace that as a comforting and enduring touchstone.