VIEW FROM THE STUDIO: TERRENCE ADEYANJU
Terrence Adeyanju’s first remembered moment of artistic inspiration occurred when he asked his mom to write the letter “K” on a piece of paper and she thought he said “cake” and drew that instead. He was amazed by her drawing and copied it over and over again. That love of art continued through his childhood and, despite a brief hiatus in high school, proceeded with his graduation from MATC in graphic design. Adeyanju started working as a graphic designer at an apparel company after graduation but overwork and lack of freedom soon resulted in a nervous breakdown. He turned back to art, the work of his soul, and started drawing relentlessly on hundreds of sticky notes. They were visual footnotes to help himself heal and opened the door to one of the most important cathartic methods a human possesses: inspired play. Soon a large collection of drawings had gathered and he turned to what he knew best, digital art; specifically the program Illustrator. He began to develop these sticky note seeds to produce work whose fruit is universal. The subjects of his work, mainly a single or double portrait or figure, are sliced like a cake to reveal an inner mystery. One portrait is cut and separated to reveal a swan emerging, another contains a Hokusai-like wave and in another, the infinite depth of the night sky. Many of his prints are black and white, but when hue is used it is a variation on a primary color scheme. Influenced by old matchbook covers, the saturated colors celebrate the subjects and create a glow like a freshly lit birthday cake.
His work station resides in his apartment and is surrounded by family photos, his and other’s artwork and items of inspiration. Most of his creations are commercially printed but he has started to make screen prints which add to the tactile and personal quality of his work. He also muses about turning his drawings into paintings one day. As I looked at the piles of sticky notes on the table, I realized, perhaps more than any other artist I know,Adeyanju’s studio is really in his mind. His work comes from an inner need to create and provides us with true psychological nourishment.
Terrence Adeyanju is an artist living and working in Madison, Wisconsin.
VIEW FROM THE STUDIO: JARON CHILDS
As I enter the studio of Jaron Childs, I notice that the walls are sky blue and cut in with white paint. He explains that this is a new studio which will soon be completely white. Boxes and objects that have yet to find a place line the walls. There is an area where a completed painting on an easel sits near other paintings in progress. I sense this is a corner of focus, an oasis in the transitional time of a move. The painting, titled “Geyser” has a lone standing figure looking down as though in deep reflection while walking through a watery and light filled atmosphere. It is based on a photo Childs snapped fifteen years ago in Iceland.
Before we start to discuss the work, he excitedly leads me through the space to another door and opens it. The sides of the entry are brick and mortar, as though there was a hole cut in the wall at some point in history and another secret extension was added. On the right of the long room there is a mirrored wall (this was once a dance studio) creating the sense of an expansive space; this seems ideal for an artist who’s work often depicts reflective bodies of water. I see myself in the mirror and become, for an instant, the person in the geyser painting, reflecting on a new experience through the lens of an artist. When viewing Childs’ work, one could get the feeling you’re looking at a photo, until you step closer. The surface is made of many thin transparent layers of oil paint giving each painting optical depth, which your eyes wade into; it is alive, dances, whispers and plays. Some areas of the painting are extremely minimal while other areas are highly worked. I think of the drawings of Ingres who created pencil portraits of sitters who’s faces are nearly photo-realistic but who’s clothing and hands are drawn with a simpler and looser line. Childs transforms the base substance of paint into mood and light, snapshots of time in nature. Photos act as capsules of memory, the work is a meditation on light, space and kin. I look forward to seeing his upcoming work and how this new, reflective studio informs its development.
Jaron Childs is an artist living and working in Tomahawk, Wisconsin.
VIEW FROM THE STUDIO: AKIRA MABON
A bedroom is a private space, a place of rest and contemplation. By surrounding herself with her work, Akira Mabon has constructed an environment that she lives in and creates from. The life and elements of her room seem to energetically cling to her collaged and assembled pieces. Clothing and jewelry are attached to the canvases and merge with paint to create a reality that is both tangible and surreal. The figures in her work are painted and literally clothed, shielded, protected and adorned with fabric that is cut and assembled; a real pocket and button share the same space as a smoothly rendered hand, an earring dangles off of a delicately crafted lobe.
One work in progress shows a double self-portrait, both faces gaze out at us inquisitively. Mabon explains that she was the victim of sexual harassment and the fabric that covers the pained figures is the actual clothing she was wearing when the incident occurred. She says her work is a way to heal and talk about what it’s like to be a black woman in America. Her work also explores issues of racism, sexism and her Jamaican heritage. One piece, which I admired in the halls of MIAD (she is a recent grad) is called “The present day of a Tignon wrap”, a large painting of a black woman who is about twice life size, wrapping her hair. In 1786, under Governor Esteban Rodriguez Miro, Louisiana enacted the Tignon law to force women of African descent to wear a head wrap because, as Historian Virginia M. Gould states, “Tignon law would control women who had become too light skinned or who dressed too elegantly, or who, in reality, competed too freely with white women for status and thus threatened the social order.” Instead of the Tignon wrap being a badge of scorn, women of African descent turned it into a fashion statement and a symbol of a transformative spirit, as represented so powerfully and beautifully in this piece.
As I was leaving, I noticed a storage unit with canvas drawers and wondered how much of the enclosed wardrobe would soon become part of a new creation. On the face of the drawers was the start of a drawing in charcoal. Mabon explained that this unit would soon become a work in itself and I pondered how life and art interweave.
Akira Mabon lives and works in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
About contributing writer: Todd Mrozinski
Todd Mrozinski acquired his BFA in painting and drawing from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 1997 where he was the recipient of a Fredrick Layton Scholarship and attended The New York Studio Program. He was the 2015-16 Pfister Artist-in-Residence and curator of The Pfister Pop-Up Gallery. He is represented by The Woodman/Shimko Gallery, Provincetown, MA/Palm Springs, CA. Todd is is a contributing art writer for Urban Milwaukee and teaches drawing and painting for MIAD’s Pre-College and Continuing Education Programs. He and his wife, Renee Bebeau, have a studio in The Nut Factory in Milwaukee, WI.