Tag Archives: Utopia/Dystopia

From The Director: Utopia/Dystopia

Installation view from "Utopia/Dystopia", painting in foreground by Polly Little

Installation view from ‘Utopia/Dystopia’, painting in foreground by Polly Little

Juried exhibitions are interesting from my perspective as a gallery director. There is much less control of the outcome in an exhibition like this. Typically, I get to choose each artist—and many times, each specific piece—that will be included in a show. From the beginning, I have an idea of how the exhibition will come together and how it can be installed to become an interesting thing unto itself. However, in a juried show I have no control over what will be displayed, only how it will be  displayed.

The usual exhibition at Main Street Arts has its beginnings in seeing a specific piece by an artist and slowly building the idea for the exhibition around that. The place that I end up may be different from where I started but it is this organic process that keeps things interesting for me from year to year.

The current national juried exhibition, Utopia/Dystopia features 40 artists from 15 different states selected by our juror, John Massier—visual arts curator at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo, NY. The idea for this exhibition came to me last year during the strange spectacle that was primaries and started out only as “dystopia”, with no brighter side. As a little time passed, it became important to add in “utopia” as the counterpoint with the hope for an exhibition that presented competing visions of the future. The resulting exhibition brings the realization that the themes of utopia and dystopia can be left to interpretation.

Installation view of 'Utopia/Dystopia', Painting by Sarah Peck in foreground

Installation view of ‘Utopia/Dystopia’, Painting by Sarah Peck in foreground

There are of course pieces in the show that are always read as depicting  dystopia (i.e. things that are on fire or demonic figures) and then there are those that could be both. Endless Pool by Anna Pleskow could be read either way, I see both isolation and serenity. Fretful Mickey by Jennifer McCandless  is meant to be “a dystopian Disney that is hot, crowded, and the only thing to eat is a giant turkey leg” (a quote from the artist) but I could also see this as an alternative version of the Disney classic that is perhaps even more captivating.

(left) "Endless Pool" by Anna Pleskow (right) "Fretful Mikey" by Jennifer McCandless

(left) “Endless Pool” by Anna Pleskow (right) “Fretful Mikey” by Jennifer McCandless

Even though I had a complete lack of control in selecting the work for Utopia/Dystopia, I am very happy with the selections made by our juror. It is an eclectic mix that makes you laugh, scratch your head, and maybe even get a little creeped out! Stop in before June 30, 2017 to see the show before it is gone.

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Mandi Antonucci

I like to think of myself as a crafter of visual stories.  I attempt to create drawings that provide more questions than answers, more ambiguity than certainty.  My intention is to leave the viewer with an open ended narrative that allows one to fill in the blanks from their own personal experiences.  

"Swarm"

“Swarm”

I grew up in Syracuse, New York with an unconventional family that instilled in me an appreciation for bird watching, collecting antique typewriters, and art.  My relationship with art was formed inside the walls of the Everson Museum where my grandfather served on the Board of Directors, and by watching my grandmother create ornate pieces with needlepoint.  These two factors served to inspire my great love for art history and attention to detail.  

"Family Tree"

“Family Tree”

I received my Bachelor’s degree in Studio in Art and Art History from Nazareth College, and my Masters in Art Education from Rochester Institute of Technology.  For the past 13 years, I have been an Art Teacher at Batavia High School.  I love my job.  It’s a unique opportunity that enables me to be constantly in the company of other artists.  I love the give and take of ideas, and the constant progression of concepts and materials that come with being an educator.  My students keep me on my toes, pushing me with their talent and insight to become a better artist while I help them to find their own artistic voice.  Nearly everyday, they give me hope for the next generation of creative thinkers.

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I like to invite my students into my creative process.  Aside from talking through my concepts and symbolism, many of them have become my subjects for my portraits.  They never seem to mind when I ask them to make weird faces or pose in a certain way.

"Queen of Crows"

“Queen of Crows”

My work as a whole is best described as Pop Surrealism, though I try my best not to label myself too strictly as I don’t want the identification to become a limitation.  While I will use a variety of materials, I generally use mostly colored pencil and graphite.  I love the control and versatility of my colored pencils; I love the feel of a sharp pencil and the look of a sharp edge. However, I also love the way in which colored pencil allows me to build subtle layers, like a recipe for the perfect color.

I generally don’t have a finished concept in my mind when I start a piece.  Rather, I like to start with a story in mind, or a picture I have taken, and let the creative process dictate my direction.  My best ideas come from the act of making, so it’s not uncommon for me to have five or six drawings in various states of completion as I work.

In progress

In progress

My work explores the themes of mental illness, loss, and the fragility of life.  I like to think of my drawings as a visual memoir of the struggles and achievements of myself and the others I share my life with.   My drawings often include the human form in some way, whether it’s with portraits or hands.  I am drawn to the automatic sense of emotion that comes with portraying the human form.  I want my work to tell a symbolic story of the strength of the individual while still leaving the details to the interpretation of the observer. My drawings attempt to show the vulnerability of my subject, their precarious and fantastical reality, and the effects their mental state has made in their lives.  

"The Future is Female"

“The Future is Female”

I tend to use a lot of pattern in my work as a design and symbolic element.  I am particularly drawn to the honeycomb pattern because it stands as a reminder that beauty can be born from chaos.  I feel like I’m just scratching the surface as to where I am headed in terms of my use of pattern; I’m excited to see where the process will take me.

 Antonucci04

"Daydream Believer"

“Daydream Believer”

When I’m not at school or in my studio, I can be found at home in Geneseo with my husband and two children, surrounded by cornfields and distant horizon lines.  

"Boy Wonder"

“Boy Wonder”

My work can be found at www.mandiantonucci.com or on Instagram @skywardagain


Stop by Main Street Arts to see Mandi’s work in our current exhibition “Utopia/Dystopia” (juried by John Massier, curator at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center in Buffalo, NY). The exhibition runs through June 30, 2017. Mandi’s piece, “Boy Wonder”, is also available for purchase in our online gallery shop: store.mainstreetartsgallery.com

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Neil Marcello

I was born in Bombay, India, before I moved to Dubai, where I spent my childhood years. Dubai exposed me to the various industrial landscapes, like oil and natural gas production, large-scale infrastructure construction, and shipping ports that helped transform this desert city into the thriving manufactured oasis it has become today. These industrial scenes also left a lasting impression on me that continue to inform the imagery I produce today.

Photo Credit: Joanna Kula, 2015

Photo Credit: Joanna Kula, 2015

I have been making photographs for the past 10 years, during which time my focus and approach to creating images evolved from casual snapshots, towards images that are research based and might take on a critical role that can raise questions.

I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the Indiana State University, where my studies were concentrated in conceptual design and urban architecture. As a photographer I am self-taught, though computer technology, Hollywood films, and filmmaking factored heavily in my understanding of the aspects of image-making, as have the works of Caspar David Friedrich, Charles Sheeler and Edward Burtynsky that influenced me at pivotal junctures in my development as an artist

My body of work takes on an abstract quality without losing the sight of its origins. This is not a deliberate effort in which I go looking to create an abstracted view instead I find it to be inherent in the evidence left behind by our highly evolved consumer society.

CA #014, Coincidental Accretion, 2015

CA #014, Coincidental Accretion, 2015

To record my images I use a medium format, analog camera and film stock that best compliment the subject matter. I print using large format digital printers. This hybrid approach offers me the best of what the analog and digital formats have to offer, while continuing to challenge my sensibilities as a photographer and an artist.

My projects focus on conceptual ideas derived from industrial solutions, often created in the name of progress, that I now view as having become problems that bear examination. When I approach a specific idea, it is usually with the mindset that the viewer needs to be visually captivated before there is any chance of my idea being accepted. If the resulting image holds this type of interest, then it might draw the viewer into further discussion and thought on the perspective about the subject matter. Overall I think my work communicates a contemporary view more than it does any kind of popular view or trend in art.

#1JKS, Beyond the Heliopause, 2012

#1JKS, Beyond the Heliopause, 2012

With my most recent project, titled “Sweet Tooth”, the focus is on synthetic dyes derived from crude oil, and their role in the mass production of candy.

Sweet Tooth Series, 2014-2016

Sweet Tooth Series, 2014-2016

The project’s concept touches on themes of industry, mass production, consumerism and some of the resulting negative effects which may be seen in the piece, titled “Good and Plenty”, featured in the “Utopia/Dystopia” exhibition at Main Street Arts.

The idea for “Sweet Tooth” was born out of a need to find healthy candy for kids trick-or-treating on Halloween in my neighborhood when I was living in Los Angeles. I discovered news articles and a radio show on National Public Radio, that discussed the topic of synthetic dyes being used by candy companies in the US for their production of candy, while using natural dyes in the same candies in Europe.

Having just completed my work on “Mulholland’s Gold”, a project that dealt with the industrialization of water in Los Angeles, I was exposed to the various facets of the oil industry in California. So the connection between crude oil and synthetic dyes only became more apparent in my idea.

Oil #001, Mulholland's Gold, 2011-2014

Oil #001, Mulholland’s Gold, 2011-2014

The process behind “Sweet Tooth” was to place the candy that I was familiar with as a child and young adult, into an industrial backdrop. So I began with making rough sketches on paper to get the initial ideas down.

Good and Plenty Sketch, Pen on Paper, 2014

Good and Plenty Sketch, Pen on Paper, 2014

I would then scan and enhance these sketches in Photoshop to figure out the composition and color schemes.

Good and Plenty Schematic, Digital Rendering, 2014

Good and Plenty Schematic, Digital Rendering, 2014

Once I have finalized the schematic I set about building and painting the dioramas using household goods, broken or used model kits, architectural model building materials and synthetic paints mostly derived from crude oil.

Good and Plenty Diorama, 2015

Good and Plenty Diorama, 2015

Some of these dioramas measured up to 4 to 5 feet in height, width and/or depth, before I photographed them and progressed into post-production to create the final image and print.

Good and Plenty, Sweet Tooth Series, 2014-2016

Good and Plenty, Sweet Tooth Series, 2014-2016

The most challenging aspect to making my art is in how to rethink my fascination with the sublime in contemporary society, and translate this into a unique visual that can continue to attract and engage the viewer in a necessary dialogue about our time.

If you are interested in learning more about my works and background please visit my website www.neilmarcello.com. You can also connect with me on Instagram @neilmarcello and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/neil.marcello/


Stop by Main Street Arts to see Neil’s work in our current exhibition “Utopia/Dystopia” (juried by John Massier, curator at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center in Buffalo, NY). The exhibition runs through June 30, 2017. Neil’s piece, “Good and Plenty, The Sweet Tooth Series”, is also available for purchase in our online gallery shop:
store.mainstreetartsgallery.com