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Renovated Reputations: Paintings and Fiction inspired by Vintage Portrait Photographs

With touch screen technology, social media, and high definition television, the traditional artist must find ways to captivate an audience in a digital age. Kenney Mencher‘s, Renovated Reputations: Paintings and Fiction inspired by Vintage Portrait Photographs, forthcoming exhibition at the ArtHaus gallery is, certainly, a show that piques my interest.

In reviewing his work, there is definitely a progression in both style and content. The Renovated Reputations should be a treat to individuals not familiar with his work and impressive to those that have followed him over the years. Much of my excitement is seeing him take his strengths (storytelling and fine art painting) and creating compositions that are engaging with a striking energy that is difficult to deny. I’ll post more after seeing the show, which opens on Friday, April 8th.

Over the weekend, I went to Needles and Pens located in the Mission District of San Francisco, CA. It’s one of my favorite spots to get a an art pick-me-up. From doodles to zines, Needles and Pens reminds me that DIY is a wonderful and necessary art movement. It’s, certainly, an important one. There’s a lot of value in other people’s visual musings of this chaotic world. Sometimes, all I really need is something straight forward and inspires me to pick up my journal or sketchbook.

Pebbles by Brooke 10'
Pebbles (Folded) by Brooke 10'

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Illustrators and Designers have a special place in the art world. Their job is to convey a very specific message. Most, if not all, of the time, it’s someone else’s message! It’s a real treat walking into stores like Needles and Pens because I can see the art that has a sense of humor or acknowledges that I, too, get sad and lonely. At times, ecstatic and overjoyed. Even though the above piece may have not been made with me in mind, it sure felt like it was when I picked it up and unfolded it. Things don’t always have to be philosophical or ridiculously abstract for me to enjoy them (although i do enjoy that stuff too). There are those occasions when I yearn to be comforted. A good drawing will do that for me.

There are people out there that think print is on it’s way out. I went to a vintage paper fair and someone said, verbatim, “Paper will be obsolete”.

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo! I say!

Paper will not be obsolete. Certainly not with people like Brooke or Carissa Potter. The list goes on but I won’t because I’m getting awfully tired.

Bottom line: I (still) love drawing and very happy other people do too.

I’m a huge believer in seeing art everywhere. Many people believe art must be an object (i.e., painting, drawing, etc.) exhibited inside museum and/or gallery walls and reserved for some elite group’s viewing pleasure. The contemporary artist must be well-rounded though (i.e., staying apprised of the arts and technology). Look at Takashi Murakami. Fans of Hip Hop artist, Kanye West, are probably very familiar with Murakami’s art and design for album cover, Graduation. Yet, I’m wondering if these same individuals know Murakami had a series of sculptures exhibited at the Palace of Versailles or that his work is auctioned off by Sotheby’s to very wealthy collectors. Probably not.

Having the technical skills and a fine arts sensibility to execute graphic design and illustration that inevitably becomes a part of a culture’s visual language makes for one powerful artist. I like to believe that graphic designers and illustrators have that fine arts artist in them. Like Murakami, Aaron Lawrence is well on his way to designing himself into the Bay Area’s visual landscape.

So, how did I found Aaron Lawrence? Well, I was sitting at The Summit cafe (which is a fantastic and unique cafe/gallery/tech space and oh so fitting for my discovery) in San Francisco’s Mission District. As always, I was thumbing through the books and zines displayed in their library. I found a piece of wood with a well designed print on it. It told me to find its creator – Aaron Lawrence.

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Now…if he can only create more of that fine art. Crossing my fingers. Enjoy his answers to my Art 10 questions.

* * * * * * * * * *

1. What is your favorite (art) word?

Collaboration

2. What is your least favorite (art) words?

Cannot

3. What keeps you going when you’re in the studio?

Everything. People, architecture, nature, other art – there is inspiration all around, if you look.

4. When do you know you’re done in the studio?

Time schedule or when I finish a piece.

5. What words do you love to hear at an art show (your show or any show)?

Inspiring, fun, and had a good time.

6. What words do you hate to hear at an art show (your show or any show)?

$10 cover

7. What is your favorite curse word?

Shit

8. What profession other than being an artist would you like to attempt?

Helping the poor.

9. What profession would you not like to do?

I saw this TV show where this guy’s job was to squeeze the shit out of baby chickens. I don’t want that job.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Welcome.

You can learn more about Aaron’s work by visiting his website.

A special treat for you – image of  next month’s SF Guardian’s Christmas issue! Thanks, Aaron!