An Artist's Statement
Kathryn F. Lee trained in illustration at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts with a BFA from the University of Pennsylvania and studied abroad on two traveling fellowships from the Academy. After finishing a big bank mural in Philadelphia, she went abroad again, this time to Florence to study Italian. By chance, her first job was illustrating books for a Florentine publisher, Adriano Salani, where she worked for nearly a year. Upon returning to the United States, she worked for various publishers, including Doubleday, D.C. Heath, Houghton Mifflin, several magazine publishers, and architectural firms doing historical murals. In the early 1960s, she became the head of the illustration department at Moore College of Art. She is currently a member of Muse Gallery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Kathryn Lee’s recent work continues to display a deep understanding of color and color combinations, plus an inventive--even whimsical--approach to composition. Working with fine art paper in a rainbow of complementary colors, her process produces bas-relief abstractions, featuring a whole vocabulary of playful shapes: stars and stairways, turbulent ovals and multi-hued trapezoids. The torn-paper artist whips up a rare give-and-take between naive play and formal elegance.
The public will have the opportunity to see Kathryn Lee's latest work at Muse Gallery, 52 North 2nd Street, Philadelphia, October 5 through 30, part of the "Color Collaborations" exhibit with artists Diane Lachman and Deann Mills.
Ralph Roether Expands Perspective in New Work
Published in ArtVoices, Winter 2015
The disposable nature of ideology and popular culture inhibits a reviewer of a work of art from appealing to universal rules when assessing its style or content. Our world isn’t monolithic; we piece it together collaboratively. One could blather, “I don’t like it,” and that’s okay, now we know how you feel, but we’re back on square one: a reality that makes sense only relatively speaking. Alternately, we have reason to be fascinated by the means of expression the artist chooses and the influences that shaped the contents of their thought: trapped in our own bleak subjectivity, evidence that other minds exist and struggle to find and communicate their experience as we do is encouraging.
The recent work of Ralph Roether extends his usage of a cartoon style and explains how he got there, while adding a broader range of interest to the sex-obsessed content in his last wave of pictures. In correspondence with Artvoices, he cites R. Crumb, Ralph Bakshi, and John Kricfalusi as cartoonists whose work influences his own. The blatant eroticism in his Sexmerica series is reminiscent of the ribald subjects in Crumb and Bakshi, but his deft blending of provocative advertising-type copy (“gunlovintits” and “theAmericanfearofboobs”) with jiggly images uses those overripe breasts and bullet-like nipples to present an opinion not gorged with testosterone: America embraces gun culture but represses sexuality.
Roether warrants the influence on his paintings of Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi, whose hilarious animation of a dog and cat living together had an infantile pre-sexuality about them and a second-grader’s fascination with scatology. Roether’s Seahorsecock began as ink on paper and was converted digitally and colorized in Adobe Illustrator. Professing that the finished result comes from a technology-reliant process recalls the production studio where television cartoons are made. The art producer deconstructs biological entities into dislocated parts, bloodshot eyeballs, balloon-like breasts, and mindless penises. Kricfalusi’s work had the same post-rational metonymies writhing in an Apocalyptic background, with advertising and the sit-com form as its enervated setting. Who can forget, “It’s Log, it’s Log! It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood!”? Roether communicates the same Ren and Stimpy feeling that commercial slogans have replaced what previous generations accepted as real.
No exterior point of reference helps us to negotiate the world of commercial excesses clamoring for our attention or the billions of souls hoping to survive the final cut on American Idol. In a Nature that can only be understood subjectively, one last comfort is finding out the history that led to some other human sharing our space and sidling up to the trough. Roether rates Salvador Dali as an artist he admires, but it hardly seems relevant to his work that Dali could melt watches or grow hair on a rock. The big, waxed mustache paired an academic mastery of oil paint with an intensely idiosyncratic vocabulary of forms. Skip the Freudian analysis. That giant hand certainly “represents” masturbation, but it’s Dali’s audacity in claiming space in the gallery for his feverishly personal vision that commands our attention.
Roether’s work relies for style on the graphic art of advertising and illustration, embracing commercial methods while expressing his highly individual obsessions, with pro wrestling, with typography, or with generous breasts. Experience throws new people arbitrarily into our individual consciousness on a daily basis. So much as the ceaseless accidents of existence make us anxious, taking the effort to map out how that artist or schoolyard shooter got that way re-establishes a sense of control. Roether’s self-portraits or portraits of children utilize an abstracted likeness, rendered with a cartoonish refinement of the crucial details plus a multi-layered white noise of random numbers and particular fonts.
Recognizing that Picasso and Jasper Johns used lettering as a subject reassures us that, yes by golly, Roether’s work, though it’s the damnedest thing, all those nekkid ladies and such, comes from a very long lineage. Setting such comforts aside, a thing about numerals and typography is that the individual signs, divorced from a larger context, lack correspondence to complete sentences. Be that as it may, every font communicates a mood that comes from the history of its use. Even when not used to fully form ideas they contain meaning. Roether’s use of numbers and letters as part of the composition refers to the endless, shrill pitch of advertising, and how the deluge of claims on our attention, that incessant, hissing backdrop, eventually strips the signs from the products they represent.
The details about the physical means by which the images are produced are important. We long to see the process that leads from the man to the picture. His recent Blue Portrait series, self-portraits, and portraits of buxom Jenny Roether are painted on hollow-core doors. It’s a cheap material and one that might be salvaged in bulk from a home-remodeling site. Like Toulouse-Lautrec’s oils on cardboard, the thriftiness and accessibility of the surface matters, but the non-absorbency of the surface recommends it for the artist’s style of colorization and the ease with which transparency is achieved.
Roether writes that the documentary Crumb “opened my eyes to a whole other art world. [It] had a huge influence on me.” Terry Zwigoff’s film pleased many of us, perhaps because of Crumb’s candor about his own peculiar sexual obsessions and openness about the influence of his comic book-loving older brother, a fine artist who was mentally unfit to put his work before the public. Best of all, the movie has no less a critic than Robert Hughes to tell us that satirical cartoons exposing society’s underbelly are more than worthy of claims to high art. We benefit by recognizing that the over-the-top sensibilities of the satirist, looking in instead of out for some of his most extreme characterizations, have their origins in advertisements, pop culture, and between the matches at Wrestlemania.
An Artist's Statement
Drew Zimmerman (drewzimmerman.com) has been making masks, puppets, satirical sculptures, and relief-collages professionally for forty years. Somehow his childhood interest in paper mâché, wearing a plastic apron to protect school clothes from blue laundry starch slopped over a toy balloon, survived into adulthood.
Years after he proudly debuted his egg-headed alien mask at a Cub Scout assembly, it was the inexpensive audacity of paper and paste that enticed twenty-year-old Zimmerman to return to the medium. Newspaper and wallpaper paste haven’t the luxurious pretense of bronze or marble or the ponderous weight of more serious sculpture. Paper mâché preserves the whimsical and courageous spirit of that lost childhood experience, when everything was possible and art was everywhere. For mere pennies, one can recycle the Daily News into something grand, and every day the paperboy brings more.
Besides its marvelous cheapness, the fractured, ink-rich skin of a paper mâché work presents a mish-mosh of the current times. In the Information Age, the cacophony of words and slogans contributes to the impossibility of understanding the present moment. Meaning gets crushed under layer upon layer of chaotic opinion. The mâché artist attempts to refine all that newspaper noise and babble into a recognizable object, perhaps creating in the absurdly slow accumulation of strips of paper a work that transcends the staticky confusion of the howling news.
Doubtless his efforts are in vain, but every collage, mask, or toy he creates is an attempt to safeguard a cherished memory against the inexorable decay of an illegible history. Here are the names and games that were meaningful before understanding was crushed beneath the weight of paradox and polarization, and the sheer volume of current affairs. These are the faces and scenes rescued from the scrap heap before the bulldozer churned, the carrion-eating gulls squawked, and the land was filled in like a pauper’s grave.
That’s the artist’s statement and, who knows, it may even be true.
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The generic drug Lamotrigine, brand-name Lamictral, was originally prescribed as an anti-convulsive to treat disorders such as epilepsy, but a long history of clinical trials has shown its effectiveness in reducing the severity of mood swings in bipolar disorder, especially the rapid-cycling type. In this mixed-mood variety of bipolarism, patients can experience symptoms of mania and depression within very short periods and a combination of both extremes simultaneously. Lamotrigine is effective at heading off or preventing the depressive component of these rapid cycles. Frequently doctors prescribe it in combination with the anti-psychotic medication Aripiprazole (trademark Abilify) which has long-documented success at preventing manic behavior.
Notable and potentially dangerous side effects of Lamotrigine include a skin rash or blistering of the soles of the feet, palms, or mouth. It may also cause flu-like symptoms such as fever and laryngitis. Any of these should be immediately reported to the prescribing doctor. The rash is especially dangerous as it can eventually cause deterioration of internal organs. For this reason, doctors cautiously prescribe Lamotrigine in a very small dose at the beginning of treatment, usually 25mg, and increase it to a dose of 200 to 300mg over a period of time. Larger doses are the most effective at treating depression. Use of the drug does not require monitoring with regular bloodwork as do other drugs used to treat bipolarism. Although no antidote for Lamotrigine exists, the dangerous and less dangerous side effects of the drug (including dizziness and stomach disorders) can be treated.