This is the story of a summer of artists, 22 total.
And they all have the blues. Or, as Buddy Holly once sang, the summertime blues.
There must be a time in everyone’s life when the heat beats out its own rhythm, when the summer moves so slow they find themselves singing the blues.
This is that time at Caffery Gallery. Sort of.
“I invited 25 artists to show in the group exhibit this summer,” Mary Ann Caffery says.
She’s the gallery’s owner and curator of this exhibit, which coincides with the LSU School of Art’s Alfred C. Glassell Jr. Art Gallery’s “A Summer of Blues.” The Louisiana Art & Science Museum and the LSU Museum of Art also featured exhibits with music themes this summer.
So, Caffery decided to do the same.
“I told the artists they could interpret the theme any way they liked,” Caffery says. “When you restrict it, you inhibit creativity, so the show didn’t have to be the blues in music or in mood. It could be the color. It was up to them.”
And in the end, 22 artists brought their blues to Caffery Gallery, where the blues don’t necessarily have to be something sad.
But some kind of sang the blues, anyway.
Dennis Siporski celebrated a milestone birthday this year. He doesn’t mention the exact birthday in the titles of his abstracts, “What is and What Should Never Be” and “When You’re Strange,” but he does incorporate the number six into the mix. A hint, perhaps?
He also places a skull as the focal point of “When You’re Strange.”
Caffery can’t help laughing. Siporski’s lament only adds to the fun of this show, which includes work by another artist named Dennis. His last name is Demcheck, and he photographs birds through a process he calls digiscope.
“He takes photographs through a telescope, and he’s able to capture details of birds down to individual feathers,” Caffery says.
Demcheck’s photos, titled “Painted Buntings,” has done just that, capturing the birds’ colors, especially highlighting its brilliant blues.
And in the midst of all of it is a blue mirage. Ann Russo’s “Blue Mirage.”
Russo is known for her stained-glass works, but this piece is something different. She’s still working with glass but in a different way.
“Blue Mirage” is a reflection on different levels.
“Since I was a young child, I have always been fascinated and yet puzzled with mirages,” Russo says.
She works in the gallery, so she’s here on this particular day.
“Every Sunday we would drive from New Orleans to Raceland to visit my grandmother,” she continues. “ It always seemed like such a long drive, and I wondered when we would ever cross that horizontal band of water on the highway. But we never did. It was always ahead of us, and I later learned that it was a mirage.”
That’s her reflection on childhood.
Then there’s the idea of the mirage, an optical illusion caused by the reflection of light through layers of air.
“‘Blue Mirage’ is about light and reflection, of what appears to be near and falsely appears to be real,” Russo continues. “The intense blue color field is my experience, layered light and dark, blue color and the lack of it, the simulation of glass. The bright band of color in the midst of the blue reflection has something to do with longing, waiting and joy.”
Finally, there’s the reflection of her work process. “Blue Mirage” is a monoprint, a single print pulled from an oil painting done on glass. Russo learned the process from an artist in Robert.
In the end, it almost looks like stained glass on paper, reflecting Russo’s stained-glass pieces.
And it all comes together to reflect the show’s theme of “Summertime Blues.”
Now, Rancy Boyd-Snee has taken a more direct approach to the theme in her reflection with a cosmic abstract tribute to jazz singer Billie Holiday in “Lady Sings the Blues.”
“In ‘Lady Sings the Blues,’ I wanted to share my visceral response to the soulful sincerity of jazz vocalist Billie Holiday,” Boyd-Snee writes in her artist’s statement. “Imaginary cosmic activity represents the voice and melody, the grid, the faithful consistency of the beat.”
Boyd-Snee credits music, particularly jazz, to be her personal, spiritual core.
“The visual metaphor for the music is inspired by the early Hubble photographs from space, moons, stars, planets, breathtaking swirls of gases and galaxies,” she writes. “All this is set off by the steadying influence of the grid — sometimes seen, sometimes hinted at. The predictability of horizontals and verticals is, for me, is indicative of the rhythmic percussion of jazz accompaniment.”
Finally, there’s the glass mosaic “Inheritance from Heaven,” created by the gallery owner, herself.
Hawaii served as inspiration for this piece. Caffery never thought about including the state in her artwork until a recent visit. She’d been spending time documenting Louisiana’s disappearing barrier islands, which were inspirational in themselves.
But the brilliancy of Hawaii’s sky and water captivated her. It was a blue she’d never seen anywhere else — a blue like that seen in heaven.
And now it’s part of the “Summertime Blues.”
Participating artists: Charles Barbier, Lindsay Denehy, Marsha Barkemeyer, Anne Bigger, Mary Ann Caffery, Rancy Boyd-Snee, Dennis Demcheck, Lisa Devlin, Barbara Donovan, Kjell Flanagan, Henry W. Gautreau Jr., Rosemary Goodell, Frankie Gould, Therese Knowles, Elma Sue McCallum, A.J. Meek, Paul Neff, Ann Russo, Agnes St. Amand, Dennis Siporski, Dixon Smith, Van Wade Day.