An exhilarating journey of artistic discovery … 100,000 miles and 1,000 destinations in the search for 100 under-recognized American artists for 1 unforgettable exhibition. The curatorial team of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, crisscrossed the nation to find extraordinary contemporary art happening in unexpected places: the woods of North Carolina, the deserts of Nevada, the backstreets of Pittsburgh, the foothills of Arkansas, and the riverbanks of New Orleans. These far-flung artists, and many more, led to the exhibition "State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now," which showcased 227 works, many of which might otherwise have never been seen. "State of the Art," a one-hour documentary, captures the personal stories of seven of the diverse artists that make up a groundbreaking exhibition and redefine the American aesthetic.
From award-winning filmmakers Craig and Brent Renaud and Arkansas PBS, "State of the Art" tells a story of diverse artists driven to create -- with work that is intensely personal, firmly rooted in community, and inseparable from the lives they live. Their work offers a window into not only what concerns Americans, but also what lifts them up.
The Renaud Brothers (renaudbrothers.com) have spent the last two decades telling human-centered verité stories from around the world. They have covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the earthquake in Haiti, the political turmoil in Egypt, and the drug wars in Mexico and Central America. Their most recent feature film, "Shelter," told the inspiring stories of homeless youth living in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Renaud Brothers have won dozens of major awards, including a Peabody in 2016 for their Chicago-based series "Last Chance High." Craig lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, with his family, and Brent is a 2019 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.
Peter Glenn Oakley, Banner Elk, North Carolina – Peter Glenn Oakley's refined, hand-carved marble sculptures invite close viewing. The North Carolina artist's humble subjects include a stack of Styrofoam takeout boxes, a Singer sewing machine and a tower of cassette tapes. In his hand, the marble sculpture becomes a solid ghost of what it references – full of physical presence but removed from the functionality of the object.
Susie J. Lee, Seattle, Washington – Multidisciplinary artist and tech entrepreneur Susie Lee adds a new dimension to portraiture studies with her series of video portraits. These portraits – of workers in the oil and natural gas "fracking" industry in her native North Dakota – are intimate acts of observation, at once uncomfortable and voyeuristic, but also empathetic and relational. They present their subjects in all their human physicality: yawns, scratches, breaths and fleeting expressions that change from moment to moment. Lee recently and unexpectedly became a new mother, and her daughter, Hana Inza, has been both a challenge to, and a wondrous source of, creative expression.
Teri Greeves, Santa Fe, New Mexico – Growing up in her mother's trading post on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, Teri Greeves absorbed a deep knowledge of Native American art forms. She was especially drawn to the intricate beadwork of various tribal traditions. Blending the abstract, geometric tradition of Kiowa beadwork with the more pictorial style of the Shoshone, Greeves has developed her own visual language. She stitches beaded imagery to two-dimensional surfaces and to everyday objects from the non-Native world.
Carl Joe Williams, New Orleans, Louisiana – Carl Joe Williams’ paintings – colorful, musical, improvisational – reflect the character of New Orleans, where the artist was born and continues to live. Williams uses everyday objects from the streets of his neighborhood to create images that hover between realistic depiction and vibrant abstraction.
Vanessa German, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. – Poet, performer, photographer and sculptor Vanessa German creates works that explore the power of transformation and healing. Her intricate mixed-media sculptures reclaim objects and words to symbolize the oppression of African-Americans for generations, creating serene and surreal figures that call to mind religious icons.
Linda Lopez, Fayetteville, Arkansas – Linda Lopez's ceramic objects almost appear to grow and propagate. Her squat, globular forms sprout rounded appendages and elaborate trellis-like crowns. Lopez's work takes inspiration from her mother's imaginatively fragmented English describing the world around her, which helped create for the artist a place in which everyday objects became magically alive. They are displayed in carefully orchestrated arrangements with a distinctly domestic atmosphere.
Justin Favela, Las Vegas, Nevada – Drawing from the material culture of his Latinx background, Justin Favela creates sculpture that questions the line between art and everyday life. His large-scale work incorporates the familiar materials of piñatas: multicolored tissue paper and cardboard. Born and raised in Las Vegas, the artist also uses visual elements of casino culture in his work. The attention to surface, the obsession with glitz and the outsized nature of his sculpture all point to characteristics that define the visual experience of his hometown.
Funding for "State of the Art" was provided in part by the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation Inc.