Friday, January 16, 2009

ArtsBuzz: An artist to watch at palmbeach3

Shannon Trudell with four of her graphite drawings at the Ferrin Gallery booth.

By Katie Deits

The palmbeach3 contemporary art fair is now under way, and on the first official day of the event Thursday, I discovered an artist to watch.

Tucked away in the back of the Ferrin Gallery booth was Shannon Trudell, whose finely detailed graphite drawings are worthy of some of the masters of art. She may be following in their footsteps: She's a classically trained American artist who's now living in Venice, Italy.

In her work, Trudell superimposes the female form (often using herself as the model) over historic sculptures such as Michelangelo's David. Her meticulously executed drawings are original and eminently collectable, and this is an artist whose career will be well worth following.

Daffodil Dancer, by Debra Fritts.

The Ferrin Gallery's group show consists of contemporary work in all media by a number of highly acclaimed artists who create two- and three-dimensional work. The Pittsfield, Mass.-based gallery also represents a favorite of mine, Debra Fritts.

Her ceramic pieces are full of emotion and her style is strongly recognizable. When she visits our area, she usually gives workshops or master classes at The Craft Gallery or The Armory Art Center in West Palm.

In addition to visiting the work of these two artists, I took in a panel discussion with museum curators called Building a Collection: An Art in Itself. It was moderated by Diana Edkins, director of exhibitions and limited-edition photographs for the Aperture Foundation in New York.

Charles Stainback, the William and Sarah Ross Soter curator of photography at the The Norton Museum of Art, said the Norton began its photography collection in 1998. He groups photographs into two categories: works made by photographers and works by artists who make photographs. He works closely with a photography committee of Norton members and with donors to build the Norton’s collection.

(If you haven’t seen the current Norton exhibit yet, Striking Resemblance: The Portrait as Muse, make sure to take time to see it before it ends Feb. 15.)

From left: Diana Edkins, Christopher Phillips,
Barbara Tannenbaum and Charles Stainback.

Next to speak on the panel was Barbara Tannenbaum, director of curatorial affairs at the Akron Art Museum in Ohio. She said 52 percent of the museum’s collection is photography and that they concentrate on work from 1850 to the present. She tries to buy works that have (or will have) historical influence, work with emotional and visual impact, and images that address important ideas and events of the time.

Buying bodies of work is also a focus; the museum purchased Mary Ellen Mark’s series of 37 photographs of Tiny, shot from 1983-1999.

Tannenbaum said it’s crucial to make sure that the photographs will work within the context of the museum’s collection and reflect the community. Timing is another issue, as the curator must spot the collectable images (and artists) before the work is too pricey.

She recommended that would-be collectors of photographs study and learn about the history of photography, contemporary artists and photographers, as well as doing some comparative shopping by looking at prints offered by different galleries. She said to be adventuresome, consider a variety of images, and that the photographer doesn’t necessarily have to be famous to create good collectable images.

Christopher Phillips, senior curator for the International Center of Photography in New York, gave a brief history of ICP, which was founded by photojournalist Cornell Capa in 1974. Today, the center houses more than 200,000 photographs and negatives and is a must-see for collectors and photographers.

The collection is concentrated in four areas: documentary/photojournalism, vernacular images (snapshots, commercial photography, photo-booth shots, tin-types, etc.), contemporary photography (identifying emerging trends around the world) and, recently, fashion photography.

Answering an audience question about how to know whether a photograph is collectable, Stainback said to make sure that you work with a reputable dealer. Edkins recommended some books to the audience: Photography Speaks, edited by Brooks Johnson, and any photography book by Robert Adams (Edkins keeps his books by her bed for daily reading, by the way). The books are available at the fair in the Aperture booth or on its Web site.

The presentation proved to be an opportunity to get a revealing glimpse inside the world of museum curators, while picking up some good pointers about collecting.

palmbeach3 contemporary art fair is a four-day event open to the public from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. through Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $15 for a one-day pass to $30 for a multi-day pass with catalogue, and tickets for students ages 12 to 18 are $10. For more information, visit, or call (561) 209-1308.

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