Life is complex and simple, full of excitement and the mundane. It is harmonic and chaotic, beautiful and ugly. Life can be over- and underwhelming for many at any given time. WHQR’s MC Erny Gallery is showing interpretations of “Life Itself,” by featuring the printmaking of Christopher “Topher” Alexander and mixed-media works of Kristen Pors.
While Alexander’s printmaking, like “Twins” and “Happy Hour V,” depict everyday scenes and figures, Pors’ drawings and paintings focus on human subjects and plant life. Pors graduated with a BFA in drawing and painting, and studied at the Marchutz School of Art in Aix-en-Provence, France—where she lived for a time before moving to Japan to teach English. While world travels and cultural exchanges had a significant impact on her art, it was pressed ginkgo leaves and plum blossoms from Japan that moved her to integrate flora. Now based out of Southport, Pors is influenced by many disciplines and movements, but remains particularly connected with French artist and post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne.
“He was an extremely innovative artist and I greatly revere his work,” she says. “I feel akin to his painting style and subjects, [as] his work was inspired by, and revolved around nature and natural forms. In addition, he lived and worked in Aix-en-Provence, which is my favorite city. So it would be a pretty good excuse to visit. [laughs]”
WHQR will host a closing reception for “Life Itself” on May 25 but the exhibit runs through June 8.
Meanwhile, encore learned more about Kristen Pors and her contributions to the show.
encore (e): Tell us more about your work at MC Erny—what did you have in mind when you came up with the series?
Kristen Pors (KP): My first group of work, “Figura,” is a series of abstract drawings and paintings, which derived from human forms. My second set focuses on the relationships between pressed-flowers and their drawn representations. In both bodies, my intent is to make expressive compositions by synthesizing natural forms through subtle textures and movement.
e: Can you tell us a little about the process from idea/concept to execution?
KP: The process for, and materials used in, the figural and botanical abstract works were fairly similar. For the figural pieces, I started with gestural drawings of (human) subjects. As I did the initial drawings, I turned the paper as I went, to create well-balanced, overlapping forms. After the first drawings (done mostly in charcoal and graphite), I went back in with additional media (conté, pastel and India ink). My process involves working up textures with a variety of media and mark-making.
Next, I go back in and erase certain areas. I’ll then build more texture. I usually repeat this step several times, while tightening up details. I tend to take a long time creating work because my approach is meticulous. It depends on the size of each piece, and materials being used, but for my current work, I’d say the average time is about 70 hours per piece.
e: Tell us about one or two specific pieces from the show.
KP: “Heartstrings” (19-inches-by-22-inches) is one of my more recent works from “Figura.” I used pastel, charcoal and India ink on paper. I named it “Heartstrings” after an accidental narrative, which presented itself during the process. In the bottom-left corner of the painting, there is an abstracted portrait of two people kissing. Beneath, a person is looking up at them; their heart, attached to strings, is bursting free from their chest. The “Figura” series is fairly structured and deliberate. There’s more of an emphasis on relationships between form and movement, than on pure figural representations. So I always enjoy when parts of figures, or stories, present themselves, unintentionally.
“Sunny-eyed” (16-inches-by-15-inches) is the first in my new body of work, and utilizes pressed black-eyed Susans. I used pastel, acrylic ink, charcoal, and graphite on canvas. The flowers were referred to when painting the initial botanical forms. By creating delicate textures and utilizing a dynamic color palette, essential parallels can be made to the flowers themselves.
e: How did these series happen to fit in with “Life Itself”?
KP: We created the theme and title of “Life Itself,” because it described [mine] and Topher’s work, on both a metaphorical and literal level. My current pieces focus on literal representations of lifeforms, human and botanical. It also describes the interactive process, as well as the dynamic compositions that I aim to make.
e: Did you get a chance to see other work in the show? If so, any stand out to you personally?
KP: I did, it’s great! I especially like his newer pieces, “Bored in the USA” and “American Dream.” These stand out to me the most because of their expressive textures and bold, contrasting colors. It was fun hanging the show with him, too. He has a lot of experience designing and and hanging exhibitions, so I got some good advice!
e: Tell us more about your background as an artist—where you started, formal education, media you’ve worked with…
KP: I was born and raised in Pennsylvania. I’ve had a lifelong interest in art, and hold a BFA from Kutztown University. I work a lot with oil paint, especially when doing plein-air painting. I enjoy exploring, and utilizing lots of mediums in my work, such as graphite, charcoal, pastel and ink.
e: Are you currently working on other works/series you’d like to tell readers about?
KP: I’m still exploring pressed flora in my work, and am applying it in more representational methods, as well as in sculptural forms. I’m also experimenting with making pigments out of seashells and dried plants, to use as paints.