Tag Archives: Up-and-Coming Artist

SHYLAMAR “SHY” ANDREWS

By Jason Campbell

Going into my meeting with Shylamar “Shy” Andrews I had nothing to go on. No website full of his artwork to reference, no Facebook page to lend insight into his personality, and really not much of any idea of his style of work (provided by Cordell). In fact, the only reason Shy is a part of this issue at all is the chance encounter he had with Cordell at the Cornhill Arts Festival. All I knew was that Shy was an intriguing young man who made an impression.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Artist Shylamar "Shy" Andrews

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Artist Shylamar “Shy” Andrews

I try not to script my interviews, but I like having an idea of what the artist is about and then let the artist steer the direction of the conversation. In that regard, I guess I was somewhat prepared to meet Shy.

Sitting in Spot Coffee, seventeen-year-old Shy shared his sketchbook with me. Since he’s still in high school, at the School of the Arts, this was the only body of work we had to go on. He has not yet been part of any exhibits or festivals. Shy’s artwork is a mixture of adult cartoons and Dali-esque surrealism inspired in part by comic books, anime and his own extremely vivid dreams. If you’re my age you may remember an early John Cusack movie “One Crazy Summer” in which his caricatures come to life, leaping off of the page. Shy’s drawings have a similar feel to them, but the tone of the pieces lean towards an experienced, more polished approach. Most of Shy’s drawings are done in ballpoint pen ink and explore themes of demons, violence, sex, and chaos, but also of peace, or more accurately, spirituality. The cartoonish styling recedes to display strong artistry and amazing creativity. As I kept retracing the lines of the drawings with my eyes, I would notice another element within the piece. His art keeps your eye moving and is unlike most anything else I’ve seen locally.

As we continued our conversation, Shy abruptly switched topics to music. He deftly handed me a cd that he made for me to take home. I was taken a bit by surprise for two reasons, first, I had no way of knowing he made music, and two, that he had prepared this cd for me. His gift made a real impression on me, and I think my reaction may have affected him as well. Although I’m not a huge hip hop listener, I do have an appreciation for it. After all, I did grow up during the explosion of Wu Tang, Dre, Snoop, Tribe, Pharcyde, etc. and basically everyone I knew was listening to one of these. Upon hearing this, Shy grinned and told me “I think you have soul, I think you’re gonna like my cd.” My curiosity grew by the second.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Shylamar Andrews

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Shylamar Andrews

Shy spoke of his desire to be multi-dimensional – drawing, rapping, and making movies. Each medium provides a different outlook into who he is as an artist, but also serve as outlets for his various creative ideas. I asked Shy what art meant to him, if he could compact all his energies into a single idea, and to my surprise, he did (kind of)! Shy stated that art is its own energy that can change environments by spreading different views. “Art has deep roots as it is the basis for all other fields. If you think about it, everything is a form of art, every object was created by someone; it doesn’t matter what it is or when it was made. Art has the spiritual energy to enlighten, to heal the mind so that the body may heal.” Shy likened the power of art to that of a shaman – the ability to access spirits to do good or evil. When I asked Shy what he wanted people to take away from his spot in Art House Press, he told me “That’s up to you – I want you to do your thing, to use your artistic sense to portray your impression of me.” He wanted me to take the wheel and he was truly willing to leave it all up to me. I’d say that’s a pretty ballsy approach for such a young dude, but that’s part of the enigma of Shy, who appears to be an old soul in a young man’s body.

Shy started to fidget a bit and said, “Let’s walk.” Um, ok, another abrupt switch. We started on a walk to Manhattan Square Park. Here I felt like I learned the most about Shy. He seemed a little constrained or uncomfortable in the coffee house and seemed totally at ease as we walked in the perfect summer evening.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Shylamar Andrews

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Shylamar Andrews

He told me a bit more about some of his life experiences: like getting hit by cars (yes, plural, as in more than once) and living in the various parts of the city. Shy said he’s from all over the place – that he’s lived in just about any section of Rochester you can think of. I wondered how that could be for a seventeen-year-old, but I figured that would be too personal for him to share. Shy related his story of being chased through a neighborhood by a group of dudes as he walked a girl home. “Into the hood again, dodgin’ hooligans…” He mentioned that eerie feeling you get when you walk into an area that you know is bad just by the way it makes you feel.

We talked about injuries and how people react to them, both mentally and physically. Much of this talk revolved around staying positive and not letting the demons win. Shy’s perspective comes down to spirituality, and advancing in the face of negativity. “I circ’ round the block just to humble the conscience, exhale the bullshit to rid the air of nonsense…” The theme of “earth, wind, and fire” was a recurring one. Shy had mentioned it a couple of times over coffee, and then again while we walked to the park. I think for Shy “earth, wind, and fire” represents the strength of the spirit to overcome the elements of life. To be one with nature and not try to stand in the way of its progress, even when that progress is at your expense. Stay positive. I can’t think of a more important lesson for any age – life happens, and sometimes that hurts. It’s how we react and learn that dictates the future outcome, not the fact that we got knocked down.

To be at Manhattan Square Park near dusk with only a handful of people dispersed throughout, the park felt simultaneously peaceful and admittedly a touch foreboding, but Shy seemed as happy as could be.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Shylamar Andrews

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Shylamar Andrews

As we sat on a bench our conversation changed course to kung fu. That may sound silly considering this is supposed to be about Shy and his art, but kung fu is a martial art. Going back to Shy’s spiritual outlook, kung fu actually makes a lot of sense. Martial arts are practiced to unite one’s mind, body, and spirit. It is through discipline and practice that one may elevate as high as desire and intention may lead, and also to learn patience. The main components of kung fu philosophy are breathing, relaxing, and focusing. In those terms, kung fu is very much an art form – ways to connect to your emotions and understand them, so as to live your passion. There are many excerpts attributed to kung fu such as “be like water, and like wind, and flame, and earth, and stone” , and “the internal reflects the external”  that recall Shy’s earth, wind, and fire references.

Dusk faded into the summer night’s signaling the end of our interview. I asked Shy if there was anyplace I could drive him – I felt weird leaving him at the park by himself. From his place of elevated consciousness he thought about the offer for a moment and then said plainly, “Thanks but I think I’ll just chill here for a bit.” I asked again just to be sure he really wanted me to leave him sitting on a bench in a nearly deserted city park, but he said, “Nah, I’m just gonna stay here and practice some kung fu.”

So, I took the short walk back to the car and started home. Listening to Shy’s cd I was really impressed with how skillful the arrangements are for a young person working on his own. I would liken Shy’s delivery to a combination of Guru’s narrative style (from the old Gang Starr records) and Q Tip’s  (from Tribe) positivity. “My kinetic charge moves nations, building many positive relations…

As I listened to Shy’s lyrics, I harkened back to our earlier discussions. Unbeknownst to me, Shy had managed to work most of his songs into our conversation in an easy, unforced manner. I simply started laughing to myself as I drove home, not knowing if I just got played, or if the consistency of Shy’s stories to his songs made them more believable. Though the stories and songs were relayed slightly differently, the main details were solidly aligned. The fact that this young man can express himself so effectively in two very different mediums, with little or no training is simply amazing. I think Shy’s potential is infinite. As long as he is able to focus his energies in a positive direction Shy can achieve anything. Many times we only hear negativity regarding our city’s young people – violence, drugs, drop-out rates, etc. The success stories seem to get passed over and as a result they become the exceptions. It was my pleasure to meet with Shy and share a bit of his story so that a positive light may be shed on a talented young man living in “Roc City – not known to give pity.” I can’t wait to go to an art opening featuring Shy’s artwork, buy his music or watch his movie so I can say, “I met that dude and we talked about kung fu.”

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Shylamar Andrews and his Artwork

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Shylamar Andrews and his Artwork

ART HOUSE PRESS MAGAZINE FLEW OFF THE SHELVES!

127 Pages, 30 Artist Articles, 6 Writers, 3 Photographers… ALL ROCHESTER!

Art House Press Magazine met with a booming response!! All of the magazines flew off the shelves! We are now working on the second issue!!! Stay tuned!

Distributed to:

Barnes & Nobles Pittsford Plaza, Parkleigh, Cornell’s Jewelers, Java’s, Arena’s, Spot Coffee, Pour Coffee, Memorial Art Gallery Gift Shop, Starry Nites Cafe, Makers Gallery & Studio, Scratch Bakeshop, Rochester Brainery, Axom Gallery, Joe Bean Coffee, Upper Crust Cakery//Glen Edith Coffee Roasters, RoCo, Root31, Scott Miller, Gallery Salon, Village Bakery, West Elm, Del Monte Spa & MORE COMING!

Melissa Huang

BY JASON CAMPBELL

Artists are sometimes regarded as being a little “off”. Spacey, flaky, and even “in their own world,” are descriptions one may hear associated with those who create art. It was quite refreshing to hear Chicago native Melissa Huang refer to herself as an “art nerd.” She graduated from RIT and loved the fact that the level of nerdity is palpable there. Melissa’s favorite aspect of her role as an assistant with Roslyn Goldman is the research involved in the appraisal of art, where she happily “geeks” out and learns what the appropriate value of a given piece is.

Photography by Margarita Tsallagova - Melissa Huang

Photography by Margarita Tsallagova – Melissa Huang

An artist’s journey is rarely (if ever) a straight path from point A to point B. It tends to be more of a round-a-bout route that allows for introspection, discovery, and personal growth. Melissa Huang is really no different in that regard. She knew she wanted to pursue painting from an early age and when the time came to select a college program she had to (kind of) trick her parents into studying art at RIT. Enrolled as an illustration student, Melissa quickly realized that the list of courses in the program held little to no appeal for her. Her natural instincts led her to painting, where she immediately felt at home. Not to say that the process of painting fit like the glass slipper in the Cinderella story, though. Melissa told me that her initial approach was pretty stiff and a bit methodical. She realized that she was covering every canvas in the same way: starting in the top left quadrant she would work her way around, clockwise, filling in each area in turn. Typically, painters will work in one of two ways – lightly filling in the background area and working towards the main subject, or doing the reverse. In my experience it is uncommon to see an artist work in a four-square approach. I would have guessed that that approach would be noticeable in the final product, and maybe by a lesser artist it would be. Definitely not in Melissa’s work – the amount of realistic detail and blending of colors are all the more impressive knowing what she was working through.

Photography by Margarita Tsallagova - Melissa Huang

Photography by Margarita Tsallagova – Melissa Huang

Melissa also stated that her earlier works had a subdued palette lacking the bold, vibrant hues that many of her classmates used. Restricting one’s paint palette is a learned practice, usually adopted to achieve a mood, or retrain the brain to see colors differently. Now, many artists will commonly gravitate towards certain colors as a safety net. Yet, the more complex colors do not come from a tube, they come from mixing and experimenting. Part of learning how to paint is learning what happens when you don’t like what you’ve put on the canvas. Some artists will remove the paint in that area and start again. Others will let it dry and paint over it, or re-work the colors while they’re still wet. Melissa didn’t do any of these. Once an area of canvas was painted it was done. She couldn’t go back to it. My personal favorite part of our talk was listening to her relate this bit of information. Most artists will work a piece to death before they can say it’s “done,”, in many cases well after the point of completion. For a young painter to apply paint and be unable to go back to it – to ever so slightly gently retrace the brush stroke, or darken the shadow, or brighten the highlight…could have been maddening.

Like any evolving artist, Melissa is working through her tendencies because she wants to improve her craft. She has started to work multiple canvases at once to force herself to work in a more layered approach. By applying paint of the same color to different pieces the ideas of start and end points are eliminated. I think working on more than one piece at a time is quite difficult and I know I’m most productive artistically when I have a chance to get lost in the process. By only working small areas of multiple pieces at a time I lose the rhythm by constantly starting and stopping. I applaud Melissa for identifying what she perceives as her weaknesses and attacking them in a deliberate and productive manner. These days, she is lamenting the onset of the cold weather, though – it extends the dry time for oil paints and limits the amount of work that can be done.

A source of frustration for Melissa is the relative lack of male subjects in figurative art. I think this is actually where our conversation started and naturally carried into a lesson on the ‘F’ word – feminism. There is a double standard regarding the male figure that has nearly rendered it non-existent. Obviously, there are museums full of paintings and sculptures of nude males from some of the world’s best known artists. In modern times, though, the presence of male nudity is almost taboo. Melissa was trying to remember if there was more than one or two male models in all of her studio classes. She knows there are so many interesting lines in the male physique that it’s silly to paint only the female form. And not that every figure painting has to be a nude, but she acknowledges displaying a painting of a male in any state of undress in a home is a commitment by that person.     

Much of Melissa Huang’s current work features porcelain dolls and crystals. Melissa is a long-time collector of trinkets in general, and crystals in particular. Interestingly, she does not collect them for their claimed spiritual powers, although she is interested in learning what those are. Melissa just thinks their structures and colors are intriguing and make for a compelling subject, especially in the manner she uses them: mostly in place of faces. The dolls take on an almost haunting appearance when in place of the lifeless eyes and expressionless mouths there is a clear cave-like void lined with crystals. Where a face would be isa myriad of repeating geometric shapes. An old friend of Melissa’s deemed the work “violent feminism.”You can see Melissa’s work on Instagram here: instagram.com/melissahuangart/ and on her website: www.MelissaHuang.com. These portraits of people and dolls are executed with an ultra realistic style that adds true dimension and depth to her subjects. Moreover, any of the intended and/or hidden meanings are secondary to the skill and vision with which Melissa paints.

"Self Portrait" by Melissa Huang, Oil on canvas, 40"x30", 2012

“Self Portrait” by Melissa Huang, Oil on canvas, 40″x30″, 2012

As a picture framer I am frequently asked, “How much do you think this worth?” I always give the same response that “I have no idea” because it is a learned skill set that takes years of training, of which I have none. Melissa has been gaining experience in the field of appraising with Roslyn Goldman and enjoys the research associated with the job. First, you have to catalog all of the essential information you can about the particular work: title, artist, size, substrate, condition, etc. From there you search through several different price databases depending on what the price will be used for. For example, is it for insurance purposes? For auction value? Is it part of settling an estate? There are different guidelines for each set of circumstances. Hearing Melissa talk about the process made me think of shows like CSI. The details of the job either make or break your enjoyment of the process and if you’re one to immerse yourself in data and process, art appraising may be for you!

Photography by Margarita Tsallagova - Melissa Huang

Photography by Margarita Tsallagova – Melissa Huang

Melissa and I met for a little over an hour and we touched on many different topics. We talked about how art has helped Melissa learn history – she is able to correlate important dates with the art movement of that time to form her own timeline. Melissa also told me of her not-so-successful attempt at meditation through yoga. Painting is a much more accessible path to zen where each piece becomes a self-portrait in a narrative sense. Melissa also gave me a crash course in how appraisals are determined and how much she enjoys that process.  I found Melissa Huang (pronounced like Wh-ong) to be quite engaging and somewhat shy at the same time. She is almost the embodiment of yin and yang; opposite entities that, when combined, form a cohesive union. Melissa’s work depicts the same idea – dolls are usually thought to be soft and pretty; however, her version has a cavity for a face filled with hard linear crystal formations. Other dolls are shown as naked figures with pomegranate seeds spilling out from the abdomen. At first glance these images seem gory but fruit is associated with life and vitality – a direct contrast to how they are used in these portraits. Melissa’s talent is unmistakable and her style is her own. If she considers herself a nerd at heart, it does not show up in her work. If anyone was flaky or “out there” in this interview it was most assuredly not Melissa Huang!

Marisa Bruno

BY JASON CAMPBELL

I met with Marisa Bruno (pronounced like Mah-ree-sa) on an unseasonably warm fall afternoon. So warm, in fact, that I ordered iced coffee after literally racing to our appointment. Marisa is a recent graduate of SUNY Fredonia and is motivated by the challenge to succeed in the art world. The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity that has opened her eyes to all sorts of exciting possibilities, and proves that her hard work is paying off.

Photography by John Schlia - Marisa Bruno

Photography by John Schlia – Marisa Bruno

It seems as though all young people are force-fed the notion that you have to go to college. While many career paths do require a degree, others simply require training, practice, and less formal learning environments. Marisa always knew she would be an artist, and if she went to college it would be to study art. Judging by her status as an ascending painter it was an education well worth the expense. Bolstered by professors Rey and Bonilla, Marisa was provided a solid foundation of not only sound technique, but also of basic business principles. It was common practice for Marisa and her classmates to work on their artwork until all hours of the night and to also have to prepare business card designs, cover letters, resumes, price lists, etc. Artists have to know how to apply their varied skill sets to: get into shows, to get jobs, to get into graduate programs, and to make money. I was so happy to hear that so much emphasis was placed on real world situations. I would think that students in all disciplines should be required to participate in similar exercises to hone basic writing and person-to-person skills.

Marisa’s interpersonal skills were further refined as a teacher’s assistant in Fredonia. She was afforded the opportunity to talk to a visiting group of high school students and implored them to follow their hearts. ‘If art is your calling then simply do it. Don’t let family or friends talk you out of it. Keep working toward what you want be as an artist.’ When Marisa was a young teen her confidence level was somewhere in the range of the Marianas Trench. That may be a bit exaggerated, but the point stands. Yet, to see Marisa’s work and to talk with her now, I would not have guessed that she had to learn confidence. Many teenagers are awkward in their own right, but highly skilled and very young artists can definitely lean towards the pretentious. Marisa impresses me as a bright, earnest, and sensitive young woman who may not realize how talented she really is.

Marisa’s sensitivity is on full display in her series of paintings titled “splintered”. Life is based on relationships – some are chosen by us (friends) and some are chosen for us (family). How these relationships unfold affect us in many different ways, both positively and negatively. Either way, our actions affect those around us and vice versa. This series of work is centered on the appearances of stress. What does stress look like? At times, stress can disguise itself as someone perfectly in control of everything. Externally, this person may appear to be running like a clock, while she is fraying at the seams on the inside. This is the main gist of “splintered”. Each person is depicted twice: once as a straightforward portrait and then as someone no longer able to maintain the facade of control. The difference in the two studies is striking. At first glance they don’t even seem to be the same person – they reminded me of the old anti drug PSA “this is your brain…this is your brain on drugs”. Her series can also be viewed as how you think you appear contrasted with how others perceive you.

Lately, Marisa has been working on large abstract pieces to learn how to expand her capabilities with paint. It is a whole new ballgame trying to make a complete composition without a real starting point. While working on figures and portraits Marisa has a real sense of what she wants the finished work to be. Every piece evolves through the creative process, but there is still a mental image as the goal. In her abstract works, Marisa likes to simply apply paint. She may use a palette knife or the edge of a board to add or remove paint, a la Gerhard Richter.These pieces are about texture, space, and color, and they eliminate any type of representation of a person or place. Marisa loves the buttery texture of oil paint and is enjoying trying new ways to experiment with it. What she does not enjoy is the toxicity of the materials, not only the paints themselves, but also the additives (oils and thinners) and the finishing varnishes. All of these contain potentially harmful toxins that require proper ventilation and common safety measures.

Marisa credits Amy Vena with introducing her into the local art scene. I believe Amy helped her get into the Sonnenberg Art Show this past summer, where she was able to meet all sorts of artists and craftspeople. Marisa described the Rochester scene as “bigger than she expected it to be” and full of “destinations” such as Hungerford, Artisan Works, Roco, etc. Her advice on getting acquainted with local artists is as simple as saying hello. This goes back to gaining her confidence as well since her younger self wouldn’t have dared to introduce herself as a fellow artist. Marisa feels that art is about connections, not only to other creators but to buyers as well. Art should make you feel something, or remember something. Art should be an experience based on those connections to one’s own life. That experience may differ from what the artist intended and that’s okay, if not more successful. By talking to artists, viewers, and buyers, artists can find out how people really react to their work and that of others. Art is a dialogue that can take many different forms and elicits an entire range of emotions and reactions.

"Lower Incisor" by Marisa Bruno, 2x4 feet, Oils, 2014

“Lower Incisor” by Marisa Bruno, 2×4 feet, Oils, 2014

Art is not perfect. Many times an idea simply doesn’t work. Some days paint doesn’t fall where it should and doesn’t blend the way we want it to. “Trash happens” is how Marisa worded it. Some failures are not based on bad luck or bad technique – some are caused by doubt. When an artist lacks experience the great unknown can be crippling. The fear kills spontaneity and artists becomes hyper critical of their work. This rigid approach then becomes routine and the work suffers. Marisa embraces the challenge of experimenting and accepts the fact that not every attempt is “successful” – unless of course you learn from that trial and garner that knowledge. We spoke of Bob Ross and how we both loved his belief that “there are no mistakes in painting, just happy accidents”. That approach is so freeing in its deflection of stress. Art teachers like to use all sorts of negative ways to put Mr. Ross down and some of that criticism Marisa and I can agree with. Art can take on the air of elitism and Ross was the antithesis of all pretentiousness.

"Movie Night with Emma" by Marisa Bruno, Oil on masonite, 2014

“Movie Night with Emma” by Marisa Bruno, Oil on masonite, 2014

As for Marisa’s future it seems anything is possible. She comes from a family of small business people, including her mother who runs a specialty bakery in Penfield and one on the west side of the city. Marisa works there part-time where she gets a first-hand look at the work involved in running a business and the connections you get to make with the public. Marisa sees herself owning her own business someday but is unsure in what capacity. She is constantly inspired by other artists and their successes, and is excited to see what lies ahead. When you see her at the bakery or at her next art show, be sure to say hello.