Chenoweth and Roger Halligan work in markedly different dimensions: Chenoweth collapsing expansive forms onto a relatively two-dimensional surface and Halligan building outwards, expanding graphic compositions into three-dimensional space. Both artists pursue abstraction rigorously, manipulating familiar yet sometimes unexpected materials into novel forms and surfaces. Seen together here, their work is marked by both its differences and a subtle shared vocabulary.
Living and working in Lake City, South Carolina, Chenoweth and Halligan redeploy the detritus of our modern world — beachside garbage, caution tape, traffic cones, building materials — and create serendipitous windows into common landscapes and into their own process of making. Fragmentary Dimensions is an opportunity to look closely and discover the cunning breaches hidden within the work of these two artists where abstraction reigns but gives way to ruminations on the world weve built for ourselves and the aesthetic potential therein.
First Time - Mixed media and sculpted head. 22 x 17 x 3.5 inches. 1999.
Getting back into the studio after a holiday hiatus got me wondering about the works of mine still packaged and packed from our move over 2 years ago. Our decision to move from Chattanooga to Lake City, SC was done very quickly. It actually started out as a joke. I was delivering one of my wall pieces to the Artfields exhibition in the spring of 2019 to the small town of Lake City, SC. Oddly Lake City has no lake. It boarders the Lake Swamp which also has no lake. What Lake City does have is three excellent gallery spaces, run by the Artfields Collective and a 9 day visual arts exhibition that encompasses the town, focusing on contemporary works by hundreds of southern artists.
Jan and I were aware that our home/studio in the former Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall had significantly increased in value since we bought and renovated it.. We also knew our property taxes were getting pretty high. I joked that we could sell the Hall and probably buy a studio and home outright in the little town of Lake City. I said property has to be cheap in that little town. Jan responded it's in the middle of nowhere. I wasn't serious but that is indeed what we did. In less than a week of delivering my work to the Artfields exhibition we had purchased a building that was to be our new studiosand temporary home. The town of Lake City is truly a unique place and that became apparent to us rapidly after visiting and its not really in the middle of nowhere. We quickly realized it would satisfy our needs and desires over this next part of our life. It's near the coast and near to some our children and grand children. It's is affordable, and it's a unique and dynamic visual arts center with a variety of interesting show throughout the year. By late summer of 2019 we found a buyer for the Chattanooga property and moved to the renovated building that was to be our new studios, gallery and sculpture garden.
We had to move a houseful of furniture and art, 12 large outdoor sculptures, our studio equipment and our extensive art inventories. With help, we managed to get this all accomplished but we really didn't take the time to reflect on or cull the art we had packed. So, two plus years later we live in a renovated 1957 southern colonial, which we love. That's good because with the pandemic hitting our first winter here we have split most of our time between it and the studio. If we had to quarantine this wasn't so bad.
Back to the present and all those packages of stored art work. Jan and I had talked about doing a show of our some of our past works. Besides being a mini retrospective of our work it would allow us to see where we had been artistically before moving to Lake City. It would also allow us the opportunity to cull some pieces that just needed to disappear.
In the 90s and into the 2000s besides my free standing sculptures I did a lot of wall pieces using an alkaline resistant fiber glass, reinforced commercial cement product over lath or polystyrene foam blocks. Some of them contained objects, bits of stuff I had found and kept over the years. One such object was the concrete sculpted head pictured here. I kept it as a memento of the beginnings of my journey as a sculptor. It is all that is left of the first sculpture I ever made and it has great sentimental value. At one time I also had the body of this severed head and I have no idea what happened to it. Culled perhaps before one of my many moves.
Detail of concrete head
Besides acknowledging that this piece was my "first time" at sculpting which obviously wasn't entirely successful , since the head fell off the body while I was trying to extricate it from it's waste mold, it marked the beginning of what is now a 50 year practice. I made the sculpture in a night class at Syracuse University. It was taught by a graduate student by the name of Roger Brown. No, not the Chicago artist Roger Brown, another artist a sculptor. The modeling of the figure and molding and casting was the substance of the first half of the course. I can't really tell you what the second half contained because Roger offered me another choice. During the critique of the class sculptures he had positive things to say of all our endeavors. I could see that my work, even in pieces, showed some promise. He must have also, because he invited me to follow him to another part of the sculpture area where oxyacetylene rigs and scraps of steel sat next to a welding table. He showed me the basics of how to weld and then told me if I so chose I could stay there and work and didn't need to return to the second half of the class. And I never did. By the end of the class I had welded a 3 foot tall boat-like sculpture made from the steel of an old car hood. That was 1971. By 1973 I was enrolled provisionally in the graduate sculpture program at the University of Georgia.
I never saw Roger Brown after that class and my attempts to locate him over the years have been unsuccessful. There are some days I curse him for gatewaying me into the life of a professional sculptor. Those days are few, usually when its all going to shit in the studio. Mostly, I just feel incredibly fortunate and thankful to have taken his course and found the path he subtlety suggested I needed to follow in this life. Thank you Roger where ever you are.
I have felt a definite increase in my sense of freedom as an artist over the past 10 years. I believe many other artists I know who have been working all their lives and are now in positions to concentrate more on what it was they started out to do in the first place have a similar feeling.
I am now in the enviable position of being a full time artist who is working on exactly what I want to work on with only some limitations. I dont have an un- exhaustible budget and my facilities although excellent could use additional add-ons ( I can always use more tools, space, materials, help). My basic financial needs are met and I dont have to work to meet them so I can concentrate on making the art I want to make. Thats the freedom I find so exhilarating. I spend more time in my studio making what I want to make, than I ever have in the past. I enjoy the whole process more. I also believe that I am making the best art I have ever made.
I am far from whats considered an emerging artist although I am definitely still emerging. My work is not cutting edge . My work is simply evolving in a direction I feel I need to go. To quote Joseph Campbell Im following my bliss. It feels good, very good.
My sculptures, wall works and drawings are conversations with myself that reflect on my interests in boundaries (from the Neolithic to the present) both real and physical as well as the self-imposed psychological ones weplace before us. My reading lately has reinforced that. Edith Hamiltons Mythology published first in 1942 speaks of belief systems (Greek, Roman and Norse Mythology) long dispelled as fictional but at one time very real to those that believed. Robert M. Sopolskys recent book Behave an 800 page piece on the science of human behavior written by a MacArthur Genius grant recipient who is a specialist in neurology and primateology is fascinating in how it explains what happens to us physiologically due to a myriad of stimuli including, genetics, environment, brain functions etc.. In other words he is attempting to answer the question: Why do we do the things we do and what makes us feel that we should be doing them? Finally I had the extreme pleasure of reading Paoulo Coelhos the Alchemist a brilliant parable about finding ones path in the world.
In a preface to one of Edith Hamiltons other books on mythology that I partially read back in my college days, is the one point I remembered and that stuck with me all these years. This one important point: Belief systems are just that, belief systems. We cant expect that ours is the correct one for history proves that for the most part all that have come before us or are in existence now are probably not correct as well. Beliefs evolve. The barriers or boundaries they impose change. We or at least most of us no longer believe that the earth is flat or the Zeus is responsible for lightning. We feel secure in the knowledge that if we were to sail around the world we wouldnt fall off it. A thunderstorm is meteorological not mythological.
My thoughts about boundaries, what they are, where they are and how they impact us seem to be what makes me make things. Its a dialogue between my evolving beliefs and my evolving physical works of art. This all started many years ago when I encountered my first Neolithic standing stone in Dingle, Ireland. It had been standing in that spot silently for thousands of years. It designated that space as something special, something you wanted to approach. The stones location now set up a north, south, east , west orientation to it. It was a marker a boundary for something. In the distance stood another. Now we had a line segment. Was there another stone over the hill.? What did these boundaries signify for the peoples who set them and those who came after them? Why in those locations? Why were they still there?
I say my art is about boundaries, warnings and lies. If you sail to the edge of the earth (a boundary) youll fall off (the warning and the lie). So what are our current boundaries personal as well as public real and imaginary? What makes them? Why are they here? What are the warnings (verbal and non verbal) and are they correct?
I recently got an email request through my website for price information on several works. I replied quickly. Always pleased to have inquiries and a potential sale. The response from the person who made the inquiry was that they indeed wanted to purchase one of the works and wanted to know where to send the check. I replied that the website had a Paypal option and that getting a check from out of state even a Cashiers check had been somewhat risky for other artists I knew. They replied that they preferred sending a Cashiers check and that they had problems with Pay pal. I agreed to accepting a check if I could thoroughly authenticate the check as real and after a reasonable waiting period to see if in fact the check was good I would then send off the work to them.
I was getting somewhat more suspicious about this transaction.
A check arrived. It was a cashiers check. Well no not really. It looked like a legitimate cashiers check from a real bank. However, it was made out to me but for an amount almost twice what I had stated as the price. Secondly the check was supposed to have a watermark which I couldn't see when holding up to a light and the letter seal in the lower right hand corner of the check that was supposed to be able to wipe off didn't. I went by my bank to ask them what they thought about it and they too said it was bogus.
I responded to the scammers that the check arrived but that it was for the incorrect amount and I would gladly send it back to them.
They replied and here is the scam.
They want you to deposit the check, send them the difference and send off the artwork to a given address. Their check will bounce but it takes some time. Meanwhile your out almost the sales amount for the work as well as your work. The address you may send it to may be bogus or has nothing to do with these scammers. All they want is your money.
Fortunately, I was somewhat aware of this scam because it was attempted some years ago on one of my artist friends. We encouraged him not to go for it and it saved him some money and frustration.
I saved the check and the emails along with the envelope the check came from and turned them all over to the U.S. Postal Service. That won't stop the scam but it made me feel like I was doing something.
One of my newest sculptures entitled "Pretending To Be" has just been installed on the campus of the University of Louisiana, Monroe. The sculpture was selected in a competition juried by Cliff Tresner.. This is my second time having sculpture on this campus and I am honored to have one of my newest outdoor works on loan there for the next two years.
The title refers to each viewers associations of the work. I have already heard a variety of "its a .....". i like that. The sculpture is made of welded steel and Portland Concrete products hand applied to a galvanized lath covered steel armature. The sculpture is painted with exterior acrylic paints and a clear satin acrylic lacquer.