I could feel the icy air whipping through my hair and sweater as I eagerly made my way to the gallery on the evening of January 7. I was assured that despite the cold, there would still be an exciting turnout; we had just entered a new year of possibilities which would include stirring new artwork and inspirations. Fittingly, dk Gallery’s first show of 2022, entitled “Inspired”, would be an all-encompassing celebration of the visual and musical arts with a spotlight on the Georgia Symphony Orchestra.
My eyes were immediately drawn to the center of the room though, where harpist Julie Koenig was plucking away on her beautifully detailed instrument; I would later end up stopping just to watch her play numerous times that evening. The artist lineup for this show was the largest one I had seen yet with the list consisting of Holly Irwin, Kay Vinson, Adam Thomas, Lorra Kurtz, Claire Dunaway, Barbara Nerenz-Kelley, Brenda Sulmonetti, Ginger Oglesby, Jessica Eichman, Jeff Surace, Shannon Johnson, Steve Dininno, Elizabeth Chapman, Wyanne, Jennifer Gibbs, Shellie Crisp, Jennifer Rivera, Laura Surace, Wendeline Matson, Catie Radney, Amy Cobb, and Jared Knox (you can take a breath now). As the name of the show suggested, each contributor featured work inspired by other well-known artists whom they admired. I was surprised as many of the pieces were dissimilar to the artists usual styles.
One such artist whose work I did not recognize upon first glance was Lorra Kurtz’s. Her pieces have continuously had a habit of catching my eye due to our mutual love for bird’s nests and I am usually able to identify her distinctive style. For this show, however, her pieces were much more abstract with a mingling of neutral colors and interwoven lines. I had so many questions for her and she explained that this style was something entirely new for her. Kurtz was inspired by abstract expressionist Perle Fine and utilized elements from those pieces to explore her own capabilities with abstract work. Fine was known for mark making, which is an abstract technique that allows the artist to communicate their own visual vocabulary with layers of marks, lines, or dots. “I feel movement and strength in her pieces,” Kurtz said. “I have been exploring mark making so studying her work gave me the perfect segue into creating the pieces for this show.” I ended up staring at these pieces for a while as Kurtz had revealed to me that her mark making came from her recent travels to the midwest. She managed to create a map of where she went and communicate it in her own personal way– my favorite detail was the squiggly lines representing stairs.
I managed to catch Holly Irwin before she left as I was incredibly curious about the artist she chose for this show. Her pieces depicted women’s faces, similar to her well-known portrait work, but the features were more defined which strayed away from her usual abstract style. Irwin had an almost child-like excitement as she began speaking to me about her chosen artist Amedeo Modigliani, and it ignited my enthusiasm for someone I had never heard of until that moment. Modigliani was an Italian artist who had a tragic love story with his lover and muse Jeanne Hebuterne. He was constantly painting nudes, portraits, and would sometimes draw over 100 sketches a day. A smile crossed my face as I thought about how Irwin has a tendency to sketch that much, and this was followed by her finishing my thought– she relates to him in that regard. Modigliani’s work is characterized by the elongation of the human form, especially with the neck and facial features which is very compatible with Irwin’s style. “I love the long features like the nose and neck,” Irwin said. “I did my best to recapture Jeanne.” As I examined Irwin’s pieces, I realized I desired to look like Jeanne.
Later on in the evening, I ran into artist Steve Dininno whose candid city life paintings had resulted in me getting lost in the limitless detail. After delighting me with a few stories of when he worked with The New York Times– because I could not resist asking– we finally made our way to his art. In his thick Long Island accent, he told me the story of his selected artist, Martin Lewis, who was an Australian painter and printmaker famous for depicting New York City life during the Great Depression. “Lewis’ drypoint work is the gold standard for the medium so, naturally, it’s been a subject of study for me,” Dininno explained. “Probably of greater impact is his handling of black and white nocturnal imagery (mostly of NYC)... no matter what the medium.” Dininno revealed that he also had a special connection to Lewis as he taught his technique to American painter and printmaker Robert Angeloch, who then later taught Dininno. His exhibited work depicted that same nocturnal, black and white city scene. Despite never having been to New York City, the pieces had a familiarity to me and they made me briefly want to join those faceless figures in their monochrome world.
The last artist I had the chance to speak with that evening was the ever lively Amy Cobb. As versatile as always, she had chosen two artists to base her inspiration for her paintings and pottery– Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keefe. Amy has always sought to interweave her Christian beliefs into her work and is able to communicate a subtle, yet powerful message with each piece. She was attracted to Kahlo’s work due to how she would beautifully depict suffering through her bold brush strokes. One of Amy's pieces mimics those of Kahlo by having a grieving woman surrounded by crows– this is a reference Kahlo’s portrayal of animals giving her comfort after her several miscarriages. “This is a deep kindness of God,” Amy stated. “He creates the world and places a variety of creatures in it to give us joy, kindness, companionship, and help along the way to recognize His heart of love toward us.” O'Keefe's inspiration was apparent in Amy's clay works, one of them being a mold of a cow skull that was cleverly entitled “Gratefully Dead.” She explained how O’Keefe saw beauty in the skulls she would find during her trips to the desert. She connects this to the idea that the cost for freedom is letting go of one’s own plans and trusting that God has always had a better plan– to find life, one must lay down their own.
Amy's message of beauty and pain lingered with me for the remainder of the evening, perhaps because it encapsulated what dk Gallery’s January show felt like. Times were, and still are difficult, and yet people still find it in themselves to go out on a cold evening to see something beautiful. Once again, we were all in masks and hesitant to stand close together, but I could still see folks’ eyes light up when talking about the artists they so adored. dk Gallery has always felt like home to so many people, but on this particular night, it felt like an oasis. We were able to gather together and celebrate artists from all across various times, styles, and locations through the captivating work in the gallery. The evening served as a reminder that art is a gift that continuously gives, excites, and heals.
Written by Molly Brown