Michele Schuff’s highly anticipated new show opens on February 2nd at Sandler Hudson Gallery in Atlanta. To explore Michele’s work is to discover a deep and indecipherable sensitivity masked by layers of wax and pigment. Indeed she may only have scratched the surface of her immense talent in a show that promises to take us to a new galaxy “On The Edge of Forever.” Having had a sneak peek inside her studio a few months ago, I am intensely curious to peer through the polished lens of Michele’s telescope. Knowing her work, I don’t expect to unearth any dark abyss, but a world full of light and wonder and awe. Her show runs through March 17th at 1000 Marietta Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30318.
Since Project Art Lounge began in 2013, a majority of the artists we support have been women. Michele Schuff, Silvia Sinha, Kamila Najbrtová and Pola Dwurnik are among the artists featured in exhibitions and on www.projectartlounge.com.
The fact that these artists are women really didn’t matter in their choosing as much as the fact that they make great art. Since the 1970’s there has been a lot written about how the “western male viewpoint” in art history has largely ignored the careers of Great Women Artists. In the 1980’s, the Guerilla Girls broadened the discussion of gender bias to highlight how sexism and other forms of discrimination impact art, film and pop culture.
While female artists like Marina Abramovic, Diane Arbus, Tracey Emin and Nan Goldin have achieved considerable fame, only a handful of living women artists including Yayoi Kusama and Cindy Sherman are recognized in the top-ranks of the art world according to Artnet’s Top-100 Living Artists. Despite considerable progress, the subject of sexism and sexual exploitation portrayed by female artists through their work reflect an ongoing reality that requires continued attention.
In a political year dominated by discussions about women and power, it’s worth reflecting on the contribution women artists have made to this important debate. Unlike their male counterparts who often brand themselves as pinnacles of individual strength, many of the strongest voices among female artists have emphasized strength through collaboration and collective action. At the forefront of the movement was the Fight Censorship Group created by artist Anita Steckel, which was as much about freedom of expression as it was about putting forth a feminist agenda.
Like the Fight Censorship Group and the Guerrilla Girls, new groups are keeping the conversation going. At a time where public discourse is increasingly dominated by social media, a refreshing example of real world collaboration is The Fainting Club, an “old boys network for women” founded by L.A. based artist Zoe Crosher. The Fainting Club brings together women artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians and chefs to celebrate their contribution to creative diversity. One recent event references the seminal 1979 artwork “The Dinner Party” by artist Judy Chicago with partygoers participating in a wikipedia edit-a-thon to add 39 new names to our collective historical record.
At the end of the day, by celebrating women – whether consciously or not – Project Art Lounge is happy to support the vision and stories these artists have to share. Their legacy, like the contribution of all women in art, politics and other realms of public life is worthy of our support. In the months ahead, Project Art Lounge, which recently relocated to the New York area, will be creating new ways to connect artists, collectors and supporting institutions. Stay tuned and join the conversation.
On the first anniversary of the exhibition LIGHT BREAKS, Project Art Lounge visited Michele Schuff in her studio in Atlanta. In addition to a whirlwind of gallery visits and film showings, we also had plenty of time to talk about Michele’s artistic evolution and her ambitious plans for the future.
When you think about the bustling art centers in the US, you probably think about New York and Los Angeles. What few people realize is that there are a number of other large and mid-sized cities that enjoy top rankings among artists and critics alike. With an energetic community of artists, galleries and collectors, Atlanta is often found at the top of the list. Given it’s moderate cost of living, affordable studio space and proximity to excellent art institutions, it is no secret that emerging artists love Atlanta.
Last year she left her job as Historic Collections Manager at the iconic Fox Theater in Atlanta to commit herself full-time to her artwork. Before leaving the company, Michele was instrumental in getting a 50 thousand dollar grant to help the Fox Theater “go green” with environmentally friendly lighting. Let’s hope her collectors are equally generous.
Thanks to the ingenuity and architectural creativity of her partner Brian, Michele now has a newly renovated studio to call her second home. This is where we sat down to talk about her work.
Michele’s medium of choice is encaustic painting. Her studio is full of bags of wax, pigment and resin that she heats and mixes in a laborious process before applying it to wood and canvas with a hot iron, knives, brushes and molds. Her technique has evolved over the years to the point where some of her paintings are three dimensional sculptures and installations. In her 2007 work “Lux in Tenibris” (Light in Darkness), Michele created a multitude of lanterns out of wax and hung them by piano chord in a darkened room of Atlanta’s Whitespace Gallery adjacent to several celestial paintings in deep blue. As art critic Jerry Cullum wrote in an essay about the show, the “repeated image of lights that are either stars in a night sky or illuminated vessels floating in a richly luminous dark” suggests the presence of an “inner light” which is apparent in much of Michele’s artwork. It was this persistent and fragile warmth that was at the heart of the LIGHT BREAKS exhibition a year ago.
Michele is a dreamer, whose artwork is informed by introspection. Her paintings, with titles like “Lori’s Dream” or “What is Mine”, are as much about a state of mind as they are about the stories that inspired them. During her 2013 show “Measure for Measure” at Georgia College and State University’s Blackbridge Art Gallery, Michele described how “a space outside of time might exist when one is entirely engaged in some kind of creative work- where everything drops away and that one can tap into a completely alive, creative state of consciousness where time becomes irrelevant.”
In her new studio, Michele has plenty of space to explore big ideas, which is good, because she likes large scale works. A couple of large format pieces hang in the Raffles Hotel in Istanbul, Turkey and we agreed that would be a great place for a Project Art Lounge retreat as soon as we can find the time. For now, Michele is busy planning her next steps.
Like other artists, Michele has at times contemplated tossing her art in the trash bin or onto a big bonfire “as a cathartic exercise to liberate myself from the past”. She’s also thinking about venturing into new mediums and smaller formats. In the past, she has created beautiful works on paper and mixed media, including an exciting new project that reveals Michele’s wild and crazy side. Without giving too much away, Michele says she’s “burning for a fresh start”. Burn permit or not, Project Art Lounge is anxious to see what Michele comes up with. If you are interested in learning more about her work, you can visit Michele Schuff’s Artist Page on Facebook or her profile on Project Art Lounge.
As the days get shorter we appreciate all the more how light enlivens us. The name of the exhibition LIGHT BREAKS is inspired in part by the creative power and energy that emanates from light and how it is used in art. In his poem “Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines” Dylan Thomas evokes images of light to symbolize life, passion and self-awareness. “Dawn breaks behind the eyes,” Thomas says, where “tips of thought” reside like “glow-worms in their heads” until, finally, “light breaks on secret lots” and “logic dies.”
Our perceptions of light and the passing of time are inherently connected. Dawn and dusk are like bookends separating the lightness of day from the darkness of night. Michele Schuff – one of the artists featured in the exhibition LIGHT BREAKS – explores notions of time and space in her last exhibition, Measure for Measure: “I imagined a space outside of time might exist when one is entirely engaged in some kind of creative work- where everything drops away and that one can tap into a completely alive, creative state of consciousness where time becomes irrelevant.”
As seen in the artwork of Michele Schuff, as well as with Silvia Sinha and Kamila Najbrtová, glow-worms are clearly in their heads and “tips of thought” are evidence that their art is still very much alive.
For the full text of “Light breaks where no sun shines,” visit Poets.org.