Bloomington/Normal a Hidden Camelot (Part 2)

This is an ongoing series where I write about the creatives living in the twin towns of Bloomington/Normal, Illinois. See previous entry here

 
Painting by Seth Gordon of Downtown Bloomington | oil on canvas | Available from Main Gallery 404

Painting by Seth Gordon of Downtown Bloomington | oil on canvas | Available from Main Gallery 404

If you follow the yellow brick road, I mean the Constitution Trail in Bloomington, at the very end of the cemetery, you will find Dorothy.

Dorothy Gage was the niece of the wife of the author of The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy died at infancy. The Baum's had sons and Mrs. Baum was enamored by her little niece and was devastated when she died. To consul her, Mr. Baum renamed the main character in the book he was finishing, The Wizard of Oz, to Dorothy. That is one of the legends surrounding the original American Fable.

If you follow Veteran's Highway through Bloomington, you will pass by the only Denny's in town. On any given day late into the night, Seth Gordon is wizardly working away on a Wacom tablet designing digital art which will be cover images for a podcast called Changing Reels, which focuses on films created by or featuring minority professionals or creatives in other countries. The cover images are usually interpreted version of stills from a movie, and he is attempting to render them in a comic book art style.

Photo of Seth Gordon by Menendez taken last year during a First Friday in downtown Bloomington.

Photo of Seth Gordon by Menendez taken last year during a First Friday in downtown Bloomington.

Seth went to college for video game development and worked professionally for about seven years in the industry before taking a break. One day he just decided to leave his day job and become a painter.

Connecting with the art community relieved the pressures and anxiety he encountered after working in the field of video gaming for 7 years. Recently he has received support for a personal project and he has started programing again. His executive producer is very supportive and most of the groundwork was done.  It has taken him about  8 months to just to debug and finish the engine for the video game for his new project but now he has reached the fun part which is coding gameplay elements.

Seth Gordon's digital art covers for Changing Reels.

As I rode my bicycle this afternoon across from the golf course a mallard decided to cross the street with her one and only duckling. I stopped to let them pass and as I watched them disappear into the bushes, I turned right to find grown men in shorts searching for a lost golf ball and when I turned to the other side of the street where the neighborhood pool is, there was a group of women carrying offspring and children running across the street to the apartment buildings. I had to stop again to let them pass and wondered if the world was trying to tell me something. I followed Vale street and passed by the only Cherry Blossom tree on the block which has blossomed in the middle of summer. I decided I wanted to take a photo of it and stopped to talk to my neighbor. 

Photo by Menendez of the Frasser's Cherry Blossom tree.

Photo by Menendez of the Frasser's Cherry Blossom tree.

Casey Frasser, her husband Eric, and three children moved to the purple two story house in the corner about a year ago and although we always say hellos and the children liked to come visit the turtles I had in my front porch, I really never knew too much about them. It turns out that Casey's hometown is Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Her hometown theatre is where "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was first heard over 75 years ago. I asked Casey if she was an artist and at first she said no and then realized that she has been building intricate woodworks and custom frames. The mother of three children under the age of 7 she keeps pretty busy. Her husband is a craftsman and has built furniture for their home.

Casey and two of her children. Photo by Menendez.

Casey and two of her children. Photo by Menendez.

Two intricate woodworks Casey saws in her garage.

Casey's custom frames are available to buy and may be built specifically for your artworks and photography. For inquires, reach out to me directly.

Bloomington is also home to this Coca-Cola building which was built in 1905. It was converted to artists studios about 10 years ago. In the midst of the scent of a memory of bubbling bottles of Cokes you will find several artists working away on their magic, I mean craft. Jan Brandt is one of those artists. We published her recently in THE NEW FEMINISTS issue.  

Jan Brandt  | Photo Credit Victoria Saint Martin

Jan Brandt  | Photo Credit Victoria Saint Martin

Jan Brandt is a multifaceted artist working in mixed-media, textiles, printmaking, and painting. Applying a feminist approach, her work ties art and science together, boldly defying and skillfully blurring the delineation of the theoretical distinctions between art and craft. In her flamboyant and intriguing assemblages and installations, Brandt seeks to offer new interpretations of biological concepts giving a condensed, macroscopic, and larger-than-life view of carbon-based cellular growth. The three-dimensional hybrid assemblages in Brandt’s BioLab series are stitched, embroidered, and constructed using recycled fabrics, handmade pompons, and wooden embroidery hoops—the latter representing petri dishes out of which intemperate scientific experiments mutate, multiply, and expand. These quirky and somehow unnerving “biological experiments” seem to escape their habitat, slowly but surely invading their surroundings. We rather expect these visually appealing, colorful, organic-looking structures to spontaneously proliferate and spread out until they completely fill all available space. 
— Lorena Kloosterboer

One of Jan's professors was Gary Justis who now shares a studio across from Jan in the same Coca-Cola building. Jeff Bess and I visited him today.

Gary Justis is a graduate of The Art Institute in Chicago (1979) and professor at Illinois State University. He creates living digital art displays capturing the aura of his subjects. I asked him what his technique was but like a true magician, he says it is a secret. He did reveal that it is sort of like capturing the reflective light sources as they try to escape. He says that he uses photoshop and other software to control the outcome.

Gary demonstrating his technique. Photo by Menendez.

Gary says his photographs are an extension of explorations in sculpture, kinetics and light. He has a material-based design processes in fabricating a variety of machines that move and find mechanical expression in real time. In the mechanical processes he uses photography, video processes and projected light/images. 

His studio is filled with all sort of machinery and equipment with cut metal pieces everywhere I turned.

Portrait of Gary Justis standing by one of his working tables as a photograph by the window from long ago looks on. Photography by Menendez.

This exploration of capturing moving light gives Gary a glimpse into a new realm where a visual medium might yield images that have their origins outside our conscious awareness. Some of the subjects have a sentient quality. He says these light sources take him closer to realizing the human desire for creating life dissimilar to our symbolic order of things.

The photographs and videos are not computer generated. They are digital captures of real-time setups. He uses analog procedures (involving LED, incandescent, refracted and reflected light) finding strategies of capturing images which suggest simulated life forms, objects and structures. He is trying to capture unfamiliar subjects that lie on the edge between still visual order and material displacement discovering new realms.

Other artworks found in his studio are metalic masks and there are also gigantic stuffed sculptures made of bright colors.

Gary Justis is one of the artists featured in the upcoming group exhibition Woman as Warrior at the Zhou B Art Center August 18th in Chicago. His work is in the JP Morgan Chase Art Collection as well as other public and private collections.  

One thing I learned about my diaspora to Bloomington/Normal is that no matter whether you follow the yellow brick road, your heart, or click your Converse sneakers three times, you will always find your own personal Emerald City and I seem to have found it by following my first love; photography. 

Next week we are going to check out whether the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Stay tuned.


Didi Menendez wrote this article. You may find her by looking behind the screen......

 
THE NEW NUDE | Issue 86 | Curated by Walt Morton
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