Many people find contemporary art difficult, especially if it is abstract. We baffle at the colors and shapes wondering what the artist meant. What was their inspiration? What am I suppose to get out of this? Some of us may turn to a title for guidance, but many artists leave that purposefully ambiguous too. So what are we, the perplexed and befuddled viewer, to do?
The McColl Center for Visual Art (a Knight Arts grantee) offers one rather simple albeit rare solution — Open Studio Saturdays and the opportunity to talk to contemporary artists. At least one Saturday a month artists in residence at the Center open their studio doors to the public, offering visitors the chance to learn about the creative process. With the goal of making contemporary art more accessible, Open Studio Saturdays are an attempt by the McColl Center to demystify the creative process and increase the value of artists in our society.
The McColl Center opened more than a decade ago in what was once an Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. The Gothic-revival structure had been abandoned for many years and damaged in a fire, but Hugh McColl and Bank of America with the Arts & Science Council saw the potential for an urban artists’ community. Today, the center houses nine artists’ studios with 5,000 square feet of gallery space. It is a place where artists work and engage the community with art.
My visit to the Center this past Saturday opened my eyes to the richness of contemporary photography and the work of Joann Sieburg-Baker. Walking through the “Summer 2012 Exhibition” on the 2nd floor, I was captivated by the landscape photographs of Sieburg-Baker, but I didn’t quite grasp the significance of the photographed hedgerows and pine trees. Sieburg-Baker’s studio door was open though, and I got the chance to ask her about her work.
Talking to her I found out about her background in architectural photography and her love of geometry and color. This conversation helped me clearly see these interests in her work, and suddenly I began to pick up on the geometrical shapes, tangible textures and contrasting colors in her photographs. Looking back over the landscape photographs of “Wisteria, Bardini Gardens, Florence Italy” and “Pine Tree Cathedral, Johnston County, NC,” I saw the architecture she finds in nature.
So get out there! Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity the McColl Center offers and talk to an artist. ind out first hand what their work is about. Some may find it hard to express themselves in words because after all they have chosen to communicate visually, but most are more than willing to help you understand. In fact, most are bubbling over with enthusiasm for their subjects and you will find it contagious too. The next Open Studio Saturday is July 14th and will feature a lecture by Dr. Kellie Jones.
The McColl Center for Visual Art: 721 N. Tryon St., Charlotte; 704-332-5535; open to the public Thursday and Friday, 2-7 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.’ and by appointment.
Open Studio Saturdays are scehduled for July 14 and 28, August 18, September 22, October 13 and 27 and November 10. A docent-led tour is conducted at 11:30 a.m.