Sunday, June 29, 2008

robert spooner: the art of sport in fly-fishing

When you begin to study art, and its locality divergences, it becomes very easy after a time to generally spot works of the west versus that of the east. And it so happens that often in my mailbox, I may get a card from an east coast gallery opening along with an invitation from one of the west - and it is funny to see how art is represented and marketed in both locations.

But to stay on top of what's really up and coming in the art world, I also study submission calls. About two months or so ago, there was a fairly large national competition call for equine art. I immediately thought of three to four people (in the west) who might have an interest. Equine art is fairly specialized (and a high commodity in Kentucky horse country - particularly in horse portraiture), but as you get up into Montana and Wyoming (to name a few) it's not that much of an rarity - still for us here in the east, equine art isn't regularly hanging on most metropolitan gallery walls.

That was when I realized Abend Gallery Fine Art in Denver, CO sent me a notice that they were featuring some pretty exciting equine works by Norman Cable (promoted just after the Belmont Downs race) and I was thinking - there you have it, that's another example of art in the west! I was reviewing the fact that in my circles, it's not often you see equine art in the form of horse racing, but more often that you see it in the wild form of horses running through a canyon, standing still in the stable, or more rarely in the setting of a rodeo, which Abend is also offering by showcasing Carolyn Miller's work.

But what Abend's done that's really interesting and exciting is to curate a variety of action works (Indian powwows, hockey games, circus performers, white water rafting) into a compilation called the Art of Sport. And within Art of the Sport is a very specific example of "Western Art" offered in Robert Spooner's fly-fishing works. Now fly-fishing can be enjoyed nearly anywhere, but in my (growing) experience, I almost always see the few works I have seen in this genre coming from the west (excepting increased concentration on the sport from the Maine and Canadian regions). Spooner's done a conceptual study of river life that's very noteworthy, suspenseful, and coincidentally humble.

Spooner's adaptations come from observation. He's the guy in the corner watching, waiting, watching, painting, teaching, and watching. I once heard it said at an Academy Awards event that actors do much of the same to hone their craft and that you simply can't BE a character actor unless you spend much of your days observing others. With Spooner, there's nothing unglued, distressed, misproportioned, or metaphorically symbolized. Spooner exemplifies Edgar Degas statement, "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." Spooner's oil works, including my personal favorite, Downstream Cast, Play'n Hookie, and Silver Stream are featured above.