Beauty in Imperfections

When Heather Drury entered Bellarmine University to study painting, she wasn’t thinking that her journey would lead her to studying and teaching Japanese culture at the corner of Eastern Parkway and Bardstown Road.

But here she is today, managing StudioWorks, the working art production space and public gallery side of nonprofit Zoom Group. It’s the inspired way Zoom Group illustrates and practices its mission: To help adults with developmental disabilities choose their vocation and reach their full potential.

“Land Marks,” opening Friday evening, is the latest group art show at StudioWorks. This exhibition is focused on recent landscape art created by the studio’s regular artists, expressed in several different forms – realistic or abstract, fiber or paintings or bowls.

Bowls? “They’re Japanese tea bowls inspired by the idea of wabi-sabi, finding beauty in imperfections,” Drury says. “They’re really awesome.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey spent a week taking lessons on Japanese culture and art, which introduced the concept of the ceramic tea bowls to their curious students. “They have very earth-toned glazes; they’re super, super gorgeous. Almost every artist made one.”

StudioWorks employs five staff members, all of whom have some knowledge of major art forms. Guest teachers also add to the students’ knowledge base. “We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but we all have some sort of background,” says Drury.

One of the artists featured in “Land Marks” is painter Mary Lea Hall. “She was doing more abstract, color-blocked kind of things, this really interesting series inspired by Oriental rugs for a little while,” Drury says. “She’s never really done a lot of realism … [Lately] she’s done this really great 180 where she’s shown so much growth in her painting; she’s learning new techniques and it’s just mind-blowing. She has two paintings featured – actually, her painting is featured on our [promotional] card, which is awesome – so I was excited to be able to give her the opportunity.”

“I think that’s one of the things I like about this show,” she continues. “A lot of people do landscapes all the time, but there’s a couple of artists – Micah Chandler, who I’m sure you know – that have grown a whole lot in the last year or so, and the landscapes have been what they’ve been drawn to.”

A few of the artists who spend their days at StudioWorks have achieved a level of recognition around Louisville, including pop culture painter Chimel Ford and realist Micah Chandler. The latter’s recognition comes not only from his work but also from the fact that he is impossible to miss at seemingly every event in town.

Do their artists influence each other? Like anywhere else, Drury says, “Some do and some don’t. I think some artists are pretty set in their ways, what they’re doing and how they do it, which is super awesome. But then there’s a lot of people who are far more open to learning new things, who are looking over other people’s shoulders to figure out what is going on. And there’s a whole group in particular that seems to really feed off of each other – and it’s really interesting because it’s everyone’s own style and take on whatever the subject matter might be.”

“We certainly try to promote the artists to work together and to collaborate, if possible. But also, if somebody’s strong in one area, to try to share that with other people.”

The common ground provided by recent interest in landscapes helped assemble the current show. It was also a nicely convenient way to highlight a few of the dozens of artists who come through StudioWorks. “Sometimes when you just do a few people here and a few people there, it will be years before somebody has a chance to show something,” Drury says. “So we try to throw group shows when we can, and this year has been a pretty big year for that so far. The growth that we’ve seen this year, it’s like, ‘We have to show this somewhere because it’s so great!’ It’s been really awesome to see people’s transformations with art.” VT

“Land Marks” runs from June 26 through August 21 at 2008 Eastern Parkway. The opening reception will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, with special guest The Comfy Cow providing ice cream.

Courtesy photo.