Art NotesArts & Culture

The Lyndon House’s 41st Juried Exhibition

Crème de la Crème: The clearest body of evidence that “Athens is an art town” will be presented this week, as the Lyndon House Arts Center unveils its 41st annual Juried Exhibition. A true testament to how many artists are concentrated in the area, a record-breaking number of entries were submitted for consideration in  this year’s anchor show. Of the astounding 933 works entered by 366 hopeful applicants, guest juror Jock Reynolds, director of the Yale University Art Gallery, whittled his selections down to 228 pieces by 171 artists. Offering an impressively well-rounded representation of the town’s best talent, the walls are brimming with everything from paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, collages, mixed media assemblages, collages, sculptures, videos, fiber art, ceramics, metalwork and more. 

Reynolds lends fresh eyes and a world of experience as a juror. During a decade-long career as an associate professor and director of the graduate program at the Center for Experimental and Interdisciplinary Art at California State University in San Francisco, he also co-founded New Langton Arts, an alternative space for artists. He became executive director of the Washington Project for the Arts in D.C. in ’83, moving on to director of the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, in ’89, and finally on to his position at YUAG in ’98.  

The exhibition is thoughtfully arranged, with stylistically or thematically similar pieces often presented together in a complementary fashion. Reynolds’ intention here is to heighten viewers’ pleasure and appreciation by magnifying threads of coherency between frames. In a show with over 200 artworks to get lost in, this burdensome process not only establishes order and increases continuity, but keeps any feelings of being overwhelmed by the show’s sheer magnitude at bay. His attention to detail cannot be overlooked, since following founder Nancy Lukasiewicz’s recent retirement, the center’s search for its next curator is still underway.

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“Santa Fe” by Amy Watts

Straight ahead when entering the gallery, your eyes will meet a nook of works heavy with geometric forms from Jennifer Kirkpatrick, Tyler Wolff Leslie, Rusty Wallace and Jon Vogt. Upstairs, Lucy Calhoun’s painting “Riding Horse, Staying Sane,” a fish-eyed view of two figures clinging to a black horse through rolling pink and green hills, joins the herd within three neighboring works by Amy Watts: the hidden Cubism-influenced “Blue Horses,” a vibrant cowboy roping bulls in “Santa Fe,” and the ever-loyal “Sacajaweah’s Horse” beneath a rainbow sky. Mo Costello’s black-and-white photograph of five black dogs curiously peering out from a car in an abandoned landscape is not far placed from the three dogs accompanying an elderly woman for a sunny walk in Terry Rowlett’s oil painting. Farther down the wall, Adam Kurtz’s rust-colored “Sawfish,” made from a hedge trimmer and water heater tank, and Durwood Pepper’s eccentric deer, bedazzled in rhinestones, brooches and a pink feather boa, are mounted side by side as if they’ve arrived from the same folk art planet.

During the opening reception on Thursday, Mar. 24 from 6–8 p.m., recipients of various awards will be recognized. Reynolds assigned 10 merit awards, four merit prizes and a handful of honorable mentions, plus longstanding named recognitions including the L. David Dwinell Award in visual art, the Ed Lambert Award in fiber art and the Jim Strawser Award in photography. In recognition of Lukasiewicz, The Lyndon House Arts Foundation has established a new award for fine craft. Additionally, the Lyndon House Arts Center Choice Award will offer an emerging artist a solo exhibition in the Lounge Gallery. 

The 41st Juried Exhibition will remain on view through Saturday, May 7. 

Emerging Artist: While visiting the Lyndon House, be sure to make your way to the Lounge Gallery for Spence Townsend’s solo exhibition, “Chelsea Patternz and Other Thangs,” a collection of four large paintings derived from two different bodies of work. Townsend, who received a BFA in painting from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2005 and is set to graduate with an MFA in drawing and painting from the Lamar Dodd School of Art later this spring, weaves engaging stories onto each canvas through a fantastical lens. While many of his scenes—which are well worth digging into at—are left to the viewer’s interpretation, most are equal parts humor and imagination. Vividly colored and pulsing with energy, they draw influences from beyond fellow artists. 

“I feel like literature and music have an equal, if not larger, influence on my work,” says Townsend, citing Kurt Vonnegut, B.C. Pierre, Sylvia Plath and David Foster Wallace as a few of his favorite authors. “Reading stories helps me to formulate point of view, perspective and temporality, which all relate to visual art,” he says. “Likewise, imagining my favorite songs in visual form is a vital exercise for my painting practice. It’s helpful for me to think, ‘how would this voice look?’ or ‘what color would this cello be?”

Though the majority of Townsend’s paintings are narrative in nature, “Blind Carbon Dating” and “Pilgrum” are a pair of spontaneously generated mashups full of witty cartoonish characters—Lil Wayne as a caterpillar grins and says “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice,” while a Darth Vader PEZ dispenser claims “I’m your step-father.” 

“There are a lot of pop culture references, and little phrases that I find funny or odd,” says Townsend. “Often in my sketchbook when I’m brainstorming for narrative ideas, I will make ridiculous lists of these types of things on the tip of my tongue. For this series, rather than refining the list into something coherent, I simply ‘painted the list.’”


“Rehearsal” by Spence Townsend

In addition to being a visual artist, Townsend has been performing music for most of his life. Following several years of touring in the punk rock circuit, he’s made three solo recordings, the most recent of which, Aesop Songs, is a companion piece to a series of paintings that illustrate Aesop’s Fables. Much of his research conducted during graduate school has been an exploration into the crossover between art and music, a seemingly natural extension of his ability to bounce back and forth between practices.

“I tentatively started this project during my undergraduate studies over 10 years ago. At this time, I asked volunteers to listen to a piece of music and respond by making a drawing with crayons—one drawing was done by Ian MacKaye from the band Fugazi,” says Townsend. “During grad school at UGA, I’ve particularly been building on the work of Paul Klee and Mikalojus Konstantinas ÄŒiurlionis. Through using the program MAX/MSP and midi, I’ve been able to use my bass guitar as a real-time color controller for my computer monitor. This has been a strategy for directly relating the music I write to the colors I use in my paintings. It’s still a pretty basic system at this point, but it’s been a really helpful exercise and I plan to develop it much further.”

A reception with Townsend will be held in conjunction with the Juried Exhibition on Thursday, Mar. 24, and his show will remain on view through Saturday, Apr. 30.