8xONE at AVA Gallery: What You Get Is What You See
Once a month, they meet to share a pizza that someone plunks down onto an old, low filing cabinet in a third-floor studio at AVA Gallery. The informal early dinner is accompanied by a brief discussion of current politics, or movies seen. After a half hour or so, someone says “Let’s look at paintings.” And they do. Their own.
Since 2002, a small group of artists—currently eight in all and thereby the name 8xONE—have met at AVA Gallery as a “critique group.” They present their work or works-in-progress to their colleagues for review, each painting garnering approximately 15 minutes of scrutiny by seasoned fellow artists. They remark, encourage, suggest, and support, but not just with platitudes.
Asked what mutual influences might have occurred among members of the group, Kate Cone was one of several who responded that they had been encouraged to “work larger.” Anne Cogbill Rose credits colleague Joseph Saginor with introducing her “to large gessoed paper rolls . . . This enabled larger paintings without being intimidated by the cost of large stretched canvases.” Likewise, Jonathan Rose credits Joe with use of grommeted tarps measuring 5’x7’, causing Rose “to identify subjects worthy of the tarp.” (See Rose’s “Ox” in this exhibition). Some remarked on the “busy-ness” of David Fisk’s paintings. He responded with “bolder marks and larger fields of color,” which in turn “may have nudged other members to brighten their palettes.” And while the styles of the artists diverge, Rachel Jordan believes “. . . there has evolved a general consensus on what makes a good painting. Successful paintings are met by the Group with shouts of ‘don’t touch it.’”
And sometimes the artist being critiqued takes in the criticism, and changes . . . nothing at all.
To what do the members attribute the group’s success? There are reasons specific to the group, such as several having studied years ago with the late artist Clifford West, the physical space and availability of AVA Gallery, individual talents such as Jim Jordan’s background as an art history professor, (“I often bring examples of past art into our discussions”), the fact that all are painters.
But there is more that seems to characterize this group in ways that might (dare we hope?) lend themselves to other life endeavors: constancy, trust, a cooperative spirit, a recognition that observing others’ challenges, and possibly helping to meet them, is a way to grow oneself. “[W]e might be inspired by someone’s bold experimentation or risk taking, or by their commitment to working through a visual problem . . .” writes Joe Saginor. There’s a celebrated interdependence that always provides space for the individual. Charles DePuy appreciates the group “for taking my frequent flights of fancy seriously and for tailoring their critiques to my specific intentions and not to a common standard.” David Fisk says, “The glue . . . is dedication to the goal of creating successful paintings, however each person defines success. Everyone has something to contribute and gain. That keeps us coming back.”
Back to the pizza. I asked: “Happenstance or an integral part of the process?” (An aside: in the wholly different discipline of the law, monthly professional meetings of attorneys under the auspices of the American Inns of Court are flexible on content but have one non-negotiable rule: there must be a shared meal at each meeting.) This group of painters appears to enjoy the breaking of bread and socializing for its own sake and as a lubricant to the more serious art critique that follows. David Fisk thought it important to add in a second email: “I forgot about the wine that accompanies dinner. Maybe loosens the tongue and thickens the skin a bit.”
(Photo, top, Rachel Jordan, Red Table with Hornet’s Nest, oil on canvas (left) and Anne Cogbill Rose, Snowman, acrylic on linen)
What You Get is What You See, work by eight painters belonging to an artist critique group named, “8xOne,” is currently on view at AVA Gallery in Lebanon NH through November 12, 2021. The group includes painters Kate Cone, Thetford, VT; Charles DePuy, Lebanon, NH; David Fisk, Post Mills, VT; Rachel Jordan, Hanover, NH; Jim Jordan, Hanover, NH; Anne Cogbill Rose, Thetford, VT; Jonathan Rose, Thetford, VT; and Joseph Saginor, Cornish, NH. The members are all current or retired professionals who work or have worked in the fields of science, architecture, higher education, travel, and psychology.
The critique group will be in the galleries for an in person and Zoomed talk on Thursday, October 28, 5-6PM. Zoom link will be posted on AVA Gallery’s website on Wednesday, Oct 27.
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.