Both artists, Tecari Shuman and Robert Black, are profound observers of the world around them. Their choice of subject matter differs but the results of their reflections are equally interesting. Both are architects who have multiple other skills, including art, which has united them in the exhibit, “Brothers in Art,” at the Compass Arts Center in Brandon through Dec. 7.
Landscape is a key to the paintings that Shuman shows. Many of them look like windows into nature. With titles like “Fences,” “Rainforest,” and “Color Field,” our initial impressions are affirmed. There are also several of Shuman’s woven baskets and carvings on display. “Weaved Seaweed Basket” is an extraordinary sculpture with a bold, open pattern that incorporates driftwood and bulbous seaweed. It could be a museum piece, so original is its conception and form.
In the painting “Fireflies,” the dots of raised color darting over the surface almost lift off the paper in a Jackson Pollock-like fashion. “Indian Dance” has an iridescent bronze background. Painted with a wide brush loaded with multiple colors, the strokes seem engaged in a frenetic, ecstatic expression of joyous life.
“Fields of Fire,” a study in deep reds, orange and green, brings to mind Mark Rothko’s famous studies of pure color. In “Mickey Mouse,” the bright colors twist and turn, pulsating off the luminescent background. Mickey’s “ears” pop up here and there throughout the painting, lending a sense of zany fun to the entire piece.
Shuman shows an extraordinary range of work in the exhibit. “Pain,” a powerful, pulsating piece in bold red and black, gives the sense of being in a prison with no way out. “Mysticism,” in tones of green, gold and rust, is richly evocative. It feels evanescent, as if the soul is moving through space.
The moods of the paintings express the complexity of the life that Shuman has led, as a landscape architect, a health center director, now wheelchair-bound with post-polio syndrome and Parkinson’s, but ever in touch with his inner creative spirit.
Black is an inveterate experimenter and student of life, as is fully evident in the works that he shows here. Black’s collaged photographs often represent an urban or human-made world. His keen eye for color and form rearranges a world we thought we knew in unexpected and original ways.
In a series of photographic street pieces, Black enlarges the original image to such a scale that we are surprised at what we are looking at. “Check Mark,” a bold yellow and white energetic stroke turns out to be paint on pavement, a detail of a streetscape that fills the frame. “White Cross” is exquisitely textured, and only upon close inspection do we see that we are again, looking at a surface we usually walk upon. Varied bits of asphalt visible in these pieces almost become a mosaic. The focus on the enlarged detail urges us to look at ordinary reality more closely.
Many of the hand-cut photo collages clearly express Black’s social consciousness and deep commitment to being a positive force in the world he inhabits. “You Add Up Life” is a composite of images from various cultures, pulled together by a ubiquitous flock of pigeons strolling across a pavement, as if strolling across time.
“Coexist” is a large masterful collage that takes us on a trip through various modes of transportation and takes its name from a decal on a Vermont auto. A sense of humor pervades the piece, with outsized children taking in the entire scene, a wide-eyed diva, a hand putting coins into an Italian parking meter, a car covered with graffiti, and an older couple along for the ride.
All of Black’s images, from his studies of bricks, which show the incredible individuality of each one, to his humorous collages incorporating a “shadow man,” to “Peace” featuring one simple hand-cut Japanese calligraphy in granite amidst a field of sumptuous flowers, bespeak his love of the world and everything in it.
A chance meeting at Gourmet Provence, one of Brandon’s treasures, brought Shuman and Black into contact. Shuman, living with Parkinson’s Disease, was ready for new input into his life. Black, an irrepressible optimist, provided paints and paper, thus opening an entirely new way of relating to the world for Shuman.
This extraordinary show is a result of their collaboration and a true testament to the values and importance of human connection and generosity of spirit. I posed a few questions to each of the artists, so that they could share in their own words, what creating art means to them.
B. Amore and Tecari Shuman
B.A.: How has your work as a landscape architect influenced your painting?
T.S.: Colors are important to me … I don’t know exactly why, but they are. It goes back to my landscaping days. I noticed that certain colors just go well together — just feel right. Working in the landscape, I become connected to Nature. Through this intimate relationship, I discovered that I am nature … that we’re all nature.
B.A.: You speak of Rutherford, an Arapahoe Road Chief, whom you met in California. Could you describe his importance in your life?
T.S.: If not for Rutherford, I don’t know if the paintings would have happened. In my art I’ve always kept quiet, kept my art hidden. But because of him, I’m willing to come out to take more chances. My connection with him — that I don’t think I even quite understand nor perhaps ever will — has made me more able to acknowledge who I am.
B.A.: What role does art play in your present life?
T.S.: In this age of virtual reality, we are constantly being bombarded by the outer world of technology and media telling us what not to do, what’s wrong with us. But when I let go of that world to reconnect with nature, I learn to trust a different force, what I call “Earth Mother,” who comes through me and expresses herself in my art. This comforting feeling guides how I create my paintings. I learn to trust my self, my inner nature, when I start to paint. I hold a color next to another and find whatever feels right.
B.A.: Do you preconceive a work or does it “happen”?
T.S.: In a strange way, my Parkinson’s helps too. Sometimes I put the brush on the paper and the Parkinson’s tells me what to do with it. Suddenly sweeping lines, swooping drips and other forms appear before me on the paper. As this happens, new images dance before my mind’s eye, and each painting finds its own spirit. My fingers on the brush unfold the rich, wet colors until I arrive at a point where there is no more to do and the painting is done.
B. Amore and Robert Black
B.A.: Your art stems from many sources. Could you speak to some of them?
R.B.: From my earliest memories I have always been fascinated with the material world, yet knew somehow in my heart-of-hearts that there was more to life than just what I could see, hear, taste, smell and touch. Intimate contact with nature as a child, coupled with inspiring teachers in school and my Dad’s example of working hands-on with any materials moved me to become an architect as my life’s principal work. These same influences are keys to my art.
B.A.: What other ways have you expressed yourself in the world?
R.B.: Teachers, both at school and at home, instilled in me both my desire and my ability to follow in their footsteps to become a teacher myself, whether of my own children or other students — to awaken in them an innate sense of their own talents and value as a unique human being.
B.A.: How did you come to make photo-collages?
R.B.: I have always loved collage! It is a metaphor for life … a process of bringing together seemingly disparate pieces into new and heretofore unseen relationships. My work with collage springs from two basic impulses: a love of capturing pieces of the world through photography and the mystery of improvisation.
In making a collage, I choose from among thousands of photographs I have taken. I then hand cut each one, culling the elements in each photo that appeal to me. Persevering through multiple recuts and rearrangements of the individual pieces, a coherent work begins to emerge.
B.A.: What role does your community service work play in your art and life?
R.B: As a facilitator, I work with diverse groups of people to create together a living community conversation. In this way, we resolve our differences and help each other to discover our own abilities for new collaborations and possibilities for actions not seen or realized previously. As an artist I seek to tap the deepest impressions of my own humanness to create imaginative manifestations from this impulse of spirit and share it with others.