Exhibition Opening, Artist Demonstration, and Meet & Greet Saturday, June 5th from 4-7 pm at the J. Petter Galleries.
A lifetime interest in art led Helen Gotlib to study at the University of Michigan's School of Art & Design where she divided her time between printmaking and scientific illustration. This led her to develop a process-oriented drawing style characterized by extreme detail. Gotlib traveled extensively. Her observations of the people and customs of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East influence her perception of the human body and its complex range of expression. This interest manifests itself primarily in the vast body of figurative drawing, painting, and print-making work she has produced over the course of the last decade in her shared studio with partner Dylan Strzynski.
Dylan Strzynski is a Michigan artist whose mixed media work combines drawing, painting, and influence from his background in printmaking. He is inspired by the woody marine landscape of the north where he grew up and the area surrounding his home in rural western Washtenaw County. Focusing on landscape and vernacular architecture, his work addresses concerns about the environment and poverty by telling stories characterized by mystery and subtle humor.
Dylan tends to see himself as more a drawer than a painter, even when working in tightly rendered modes, as a sort of cartoon expressionist. Matching media and content is important. Energy is the ultimate concern and he tries to work in ways that encourage spontaneity and deliberate mark-making. In producing artwork, image-making in particular is a continuum. Ideas reoccur; images repeat, transform, take on new meaning and develop in unexpected ways. Sometimes older ideas wait for the next discovery that points to a new project. Many of his pieces take on the raw appearance of the outsider. Yet his themes are not entirely clear. Strzynski's pieces are filled with self-referential meta-subjects whose meaning lies somewhere near the edge of direct understanding. This complexity places his work squarely in the realm of highbrow, so-called “fine art.” Yet surface and material suggest a visionary spirit. As a result, he has come to occupy an odd space that is neither entirely reserved for academics nor primitives. Ultimately Strzynski sees himself as a postindustrial cave painter gathering the tribe together in the warm stinking glow of the scrap lumber fire to recount the exploits of the pre-apocalyptic man.
In Helen's work, she explores how much of human communication is nonverbal. Plants obviously cannot speak, yet they can be as emotive as a silent figure. Emphasizing the expressiveness of botanical and human structure rather than conventional beauty is what drives her work. She attends numerous drawing sessions with live models, working with a living breathing human being rather than a photograph is essential to capturing pure emotion. Gotlib's botanical pieces are taken from real still-life arrangements. She often records the life cycle of a bundle of flowers from vibrant life, through to the delicateness of the dry final state.
Gotlib's process uses wet and dry mediums both additively and subtractively in order to create a weathered atmosphere. Once she has captured the essence of the subject she will continue working the piece independently of the model using a variety of unconventional techniques. Layers of ink followed by layers of gouache are often rubbed away using a scrubber brush to generate texture. In other cases, Gotlib will spray her drawings with a vigorous jet of water from the garden hose to create liquid effects.
Most recently, Gotlib is immersed in an extensive exploration of a deceptively nuanced and emotional subject - flowers. By following the life cycle of flora, but focusing particularly on dried, dead, flowers, she has managed to create images of unexpected beauty and power mirroring the complexities of her figurative work.