Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lucien Freud Paintings

Freud, Lucian (1922-2011). This German-born British painter was a grandson of Sigmund Freud. He was one of England's pre-eminent contemporary figurative painters. Aside from showing my students one of the best painters ever, I use his work as an example of excellence in treatment of skin tones. His non-apologetic style encourages my students to stretch the boundaries of contrast, use of color, and accuracy of rendering. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Biggest Red Dot News Yet

Our humble press release about our upcoming Red Dot exhibit:
Five Years in the Making: New Work by
DeCamillis and Bennett at Red Dot Gallery

Two highly personal visions—one, paintings of Alabama’s rare places, and the other, voluptuous ceramic sculptures inspired by cars—meet in a two-person show at Birmingham’s Red Dot Gallery. For the first time in over five years, owners Dori DeCamillis and Scott Bennett exhibit their recent bodies of work at the gallery, approximately 25 pieces in all, in “Exhibit A” and “Compact Hybrids.”
The double show opens with a reception featuring the artists from 6-8 p.m., on Friday, October 14.
"Exhibit A," a critically acclaimed series by artist and teacher Dori DeCamillis, comes home to the gallery after a successful summer showing at the Mobile Museum of Art. DeCamillis first moved to Alabama from her native Colorado 17 years ago, and was taken by the physical and cultural beauty of her new home. "The more I learned, the more I wanted to know," she says. "I began visiting places that even my friends who are natives don't know about."
The hikes, canoe rides, photo sessions, and sketching trips DeCamillis took inspired the ambitious series, which she developed when she was awarded an Alabama Council on the Arts fellowship in 2006. Her diverse subjects include the Cahaba River, the Alabama Theatre, Horseshoe Bend, the Sipsey Wilderness, and Jones Valley Urban Farm. Comprised of intricately oil-painted multi-media panels in wood and copper inlaid with handmade ceramic tiles, the works are large and lush.

"I wanted to say to people, 'This place is remarkable.' So, my goal was to create a project that would be a collaboration--of art, nature, history, social change, and a state-wide people who cherish Alabama like I do,” DeCamillis says. To that end, she worked closely with biologists, historians, naturalists, and other experts to gather images and background information for the series. The works have been endorsed by organizations such as the Cahaba River Society, the Freshwater Land Trust, Friends of Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, and WildSouth.

Scott Bennett was a recipient of the Alabama Council on the Arts fellowship this year. As with the work of DeCamillis, research—done over the course of years—was also key to Bennett’s “Compact Hybrid” series. “I’ve been exploring the forms of cars,” he says, and has frequently incorporated grilles, door handles, and flame imagery in his nationally recognized work. “The small and intimate pieces in this show were inspired by my memories of building model cars and old hood ornaments.”

The pieces also bear subtle references to elements as diverse as fishing lures, human appendages, and plant hybridizing—Bennett is a well-respected daylily hybridizer. “These influences have been coupled with my experience and interest in ceramics to create this series,” he says.

The resulting sculptures are elegant yet awkward, sleek yet quirky, provocative and light-hearted, the scale, forms and details are all an attempt to allure the viewer towards closer examination. “They are meant to be fun if not a bit naughty, seductive visual treats begging to be fondled,” Bennett says.
"Exhibit A" and “Compact Hybrids” will be on display at the gallery, which is free to the public, through November 19. 

Red Dot Gallery, a working studio and teaching space, is at 1001 Stuart Street in the Edgewood section of Homewood. DeCamillis and Scott Bennett teach painting, drawing, and clay classes for children and adults at the studio. For hours and directions, call 205-870-7608, or visit

Monday, September 26, 2011

Annabelle's First Big Art Sale

My daughter, Annabelle DeCamillis, age 16, just sold this painting 
for a very grown-up price.
It's her first large piece, a self-portrait. She plans on doing a series of 
portraits of everyday people in period costumes, doing everyday things in everyday places. 
Her work is inspired by her love for costume-making, and for sitting down
wherever she is and drawing the scene right in front of her. 

Today we are celebrating her first day at a new high school. My hat is off to my strong, brilliant, talented, funny, sassy, and sincere kid. She's made her mom proud, and inspired so many people around her. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hints About My Next Painting

The painting I'm working on includes a few things I was told not to paint in college. Unicorns, rainbows, clowns, baby kitties, and red barns. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tony Cragg Sculptures

I saw a fabulous show of Tony's work at the Louvre this spring, and my sculptor husband
has long admired his work. They are large scale, made from various materials, and
always nearly impossible to resist touching.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Michael Lucero Yarn Sculpture

Below is an article I wrote a few years ago for the Birmingham Weekly about Michael Lucero's
 exhibit at Faye Gold Gallery in Atlanta. These sculptures are still
some of my favorite work by Lucero.

 Worth the Trip
Michael Lucero at Fay Gold in Atlanta

The ceramic sculptures of Michael Lucero have been challenging the customs of the medium for almost 30 years. His imagery and forms have been inspired by everything from pre-Columbian and African art to contemporary popular objects, and most of the time he has combined suggestions of many cultures and traditions in the same piece. His work has always been somewhat outrageous.

Until May 31st at Fay Gold Gallery in Atlanta Michael Lucero exhibits a new body of work that demonstrates his predilection for uniting the primitive and the well-executed, the crafty and the modern, the humorous and the frightening. “The Cast”, as the show is named, is a group of cute, cuddly creatures—kitties, puppies, babies, elves—all covered in yarn. At the sound of it one would certainly be reminded of an elementary school project, but Lucero has managed to transform regular old stuff into irreverent, yet strangely elegant fine art.

The unpretentious use of kitsch in his materials and visual language is not new for Lucero; he has been exploring and embracing the dominion of no-so-fine craft since he began making art. Once again he manages to combine a hodgepodge of influences (this time he references silly crafts, patterns from various cultures, and modern popular figurines and toys) into a singular vision. Over each goofy ceramic character (two to four feet tall) Lucero meticulously glues brightly colored yarn in swirling patterns with selected areas of interwoven designs that seem to reference Chinese, Medieval Celtic and Italian archetypes. The historical allusions are evident, but not obvious. What stands out is color and a sort of controlled ferocity —a nutty profusion of seemingly random, but articulately placed configurations.

The visual impact of the objects’ yarn surface is undoubtedly sensational, but underneath are hand-built ceramic formations that would be worth a look regardless of their fa├žade. Those well-versed in ceramic construction would applaud the technical feat of most of the pieces, with their huge heads atop spindly bodies. The bulbous and exaggerated forms play up the already sappy subject matter, amplifying cutesy kitties and doggies into slightly deformed and ridiculous beings. While they still retain their humor and lightness, their outlandish distortions intensify these qualities to be seen as freakish and scary. Lucero is careful not to deform his creatures too much, though, and viewers may (perhaps guiltily) find them still endearing and delightful.

In previous work Lucero often used a bar code as a calling card. Sometimes placed prominently, but often on the rear-end of a seated ceramic figure Lucero always made his signature clear with this self-conscious allusion to consumerism. On the fannies of “The Cast” is the word “Lucero” laid out in big cursive yarn letters that span the backside of each piece. On companion pieces (two innocent-looking beasts seated side by side) “Michael” is written on one butt, and “Lucero” is on the next. This is a magnificent example of Lucero’s fearlessness. As if it weren’t enough to make kitties out of yarn, he signs his work in big flowing letters like a child or amateur painter, letting us know how far he can and will take his rebellion against supercilious customs of the high art world.

Michael Lucero’s vision is extraordinarily his own and very much distinguished in the ceramic medium for its bravura and freedom. Even compared to his previous work his exhibit at Fay Gold is fresh, wacky and dazzling.

Friday, September 9, 2011

New Movie about Sustainable Farming

As a supporter of sustainable farming and a participant in several local organic food co-ops, I am looking forward to the release of this new movie.

Movie Description from the Website:

Americans’ right to access fresh, healthy foods of their choice is under attack. Farmageddon tells the story of small, family farms that were providing safe, healthy foods to their communities and were forced to stop, sometimes through violent ac-tion, by agents of misguided government bureaucracies, and seeks to figure out why.
Filmmaker Kristin Canty’s quest to find healthy food for her four children turned into an educational journey to discover why access to these foods was being threatened. What she found were policies that favor agribusiness and factory farms over small family-operated farms selling fresh foods to their communities. Instead of focusing on the source of food safety problems — most often the industrial food chain — policymakers and regulators implement and enforce solutions that target and often drive out of business small farms that have proven themselves more than capable of producing safe, healthy food, but buckle under the crushing weight of government regulations and excessive enforcement actions.
Farmageddon highlights the urgency of food freedom, encouraging farmers and consumers alike to take action to preserve individuals’ rights to access food of their choice and farmers’ rights to produce these foods safely and free from unreasona-bly burdensome regulations. The film serves to put policymakers and regulators on notice that there is a growing movement of people aware that their freedom to choose the foods they want is in danger, a movement that is taking action with its dollars and its voting power to protect and preserve the dwindling number of family farms that are struggling to survive.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Marion Peck's Paintings

I've admired Marion's paintings for years. I first saw her creepy-cute work at Olga Dollar Gallery in San Francisco. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Will Cotton's Paintings

It's hard not like the work of Will Cotton. There is something for everybody; it's naughty, pretty, well-crafted, dramatic, new and old at the same time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Article About My Artwork

Dori DeCamillis
Labor of Love

by Brett Levine 
Reprinted from BMetro magazine, September 2011

Creatively, Dori DeCamillis can only be described as multifaceted.  As an author, she has published two books.  The most recent, “My Steamboat”, recounts her childhood in Colorado, while her earlier “The Freeway” is the story of living, creating and working on the road as a painter making and selling works at outdoor art fairs.

DeCamillis’ peripatetic past is behind her now.  She has settled in Birmingham, working and teaching at Red Dot Gallery which she owns with her husband Scott Bennett.  “For so many years I had been a slave to my work,” she remarks, “that when I decided I wouldn’t do any more outdoor festivals it gave me the freedom to explore larger projects over longer periods of time.”

“I started considering the intersections between painting and ceramics several years ago,” she notes.  “At first I simply wanted to blur the distinctions between the work and the frame, but then I realized that I was remarkably interested in the ideas of pattern, repetition, and ornamentation.  I just had to be certain,” she laughs, “to use the ideas in a way that was representative of my own voice.”

This exploration resulted in “exhibit a”, a series she began that had significant, unexpected consequences.  “Since I am not from Alabama,” DeCamillis explains, “I often saw places in the state like an explorer, a biologist, or a historian.  What I realized,” she continues, “was that Alabama was full of so many remarkable, unexpected, amazing places.” 

She embarked on a five-year journey, during which she researched, considered and created twelve large-scale, identically sized works that meshed her loves for both ceramics and painting.  The subjects were drawn from the state, but many, such as Splinter Hill Bog, or the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuary, were largely unknown even to longtime residents.  “I saw the sites I was depicting as being important, but my approach could be described as depicting significant fragments of each.”  Using her experience in literature and journalism, she coupled each work with an explanatory text.  “I’ve been an educator for many years,” DeCamillis remarks, “and I became really excited about the opportunity to not only make these works, but to collect and convey information about each of these exceptional places.  I even taught a seminar with Alabama schoolteachers,” she enthuses, “so the project ended up being both personally significant and really educational.”

DeCamillis notes that as a result of the classes she teaches at Red Dot Gallery, the practice of teaching remains integral to what she does.  “Professionally,” she laughs, “I’m only really engaged with academia in relation to how it positions me in the market.  My creativity is driven by a personal need to creatively express ideas rather than by a notion of timeliness or fashion within the art world.”  This emphasis on accessibility is crucial to DeCamillis’ approach to creating work.  “Many years ago, I was actually an installation artist,” she remarks, “and I thought about what it would mean to actively engage in the contemporary art world.  What I realized,” she continues, “was that I simply couldn’t make works that were so esoteric that they left most people scratching their heads!”

Instead, DeCamillis blends an extraordinary attention to intimacy and detail with subject matter that is recognizable, but not necessarily simple.  “I’m not necessarily an allegorical realist painter,” she smiles.  “Not every work is trying to illuminate a fable.  Sometimes I’m happy to understandably tell a story.”

Viewers will have the opportunity to see for themselves in October, when ‘Exhibit A’ opens at Red Dot Gallery.  DeCamillis will be speaking about the works, and viewers will have the chance to  explore parts of Alabama with which they may be completely unfamiliar.  This does not mean that DeCamillis is content to depict the same subjects again and again.  “I’ve begun working on a series that is deeply personal,” she says softly, “because I am always interested in exploring new ideas.”  For now, however, Exhibit A remains her focus.  “You know,” DeCamillis observes, “I remain inspired by those works because the people who care for these places actually work like artists.  They do what they do because it is a labor of love.”

Sunday, September 4, 2011

China Excavation

I love this image of a chariot and horses being excavated in Luoyang City, China. The remains are from the Zhou Dynasty, 770 BC to 221 BC.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

My Mom's an Artist, Too (And Good!)

My mom, Karen Leslee, is an artist, too, and I photographed some of her new work when I was home last month. She reassembles ripped-up magazine images and dried flowers. Very proud daughter here.