Art is created in a virtually endless list of forms, and seeing how works of two totally different artists complement one another in a joint display can be fascinating. MC Erny Gallery at WHQR currently displays such creations in “The Odd Couple: Unusual Works by Joe Cordaro and Jock Pottle.” Drastically different in content, they’re constructed in surprisingly similar styles, as both artists employ hand-drawn work with digital applications. While the exhibit will remain up until March 10, its closing reception will take place on Friday, Feb. 24.
“My medium would be classified as digital art,” Cordaro states. “However, that’s a wide umbrella. Everything I create is hand-drawn with a pressure-sensitive stylus and tablet, along with high-end software.”
Cordaro is from Rochester, NY, but has been living with his family in the Port City for these last 20 years. His art originally began as pen-and-ink on paper, which he practiced for more than 40 years. Developments of Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter have allowed Cordaro to transfer his work from paper to screen.
“I’m basically working the same as I did when I began putting pen to paper,” Cordaro explains. “I’m not asking the computer to create the art; however, I do take advantage of the computer’s ability to duplicate and arrange elements of what I have already drawn.”
When doing a new piece, Cordaro rarely draws inspiration from a concrete image or idea. He usually begins with a simple notion to satisfy his urge to create.
“I listen to music and apply lines and movement to the digital canvas with no particular shape or purpose in mind,” he explains. “If I’m fortunate enough to create something appealing I’ll import the image to Photoshop, then I duplicate it, arrange it, pass it over itself, until it takes on a life of its own and suggests something to me. At this point, I pick up the stylus and draw it to completion.”
Most of Cordaro’s work in “The Odd Couple” responds to countless sources of pressure and stress that prevent people from realizing their full potential. He says pressure of societal norms often gets the best of accomplishments.
“These norms do not reflect an individual’s reality, which establishes, in many cases, unachievable goals,” he elaborates. “Consequently, we bury our true natures and tend to act out the pressure of trying to achieve a fake normal dictated by the outside world. The images in the exhibit that speak to this are accompanied by prose written by my sister, Donna Rawady.”
Cordaro’s favorite piece in the show is “HB2,” which responds to the discriminatory bill of the same name passed by the NC legislature. As he was drawing, a woman’s body took shape.
“I immediately knew it would blend wonderfully with the face of a male character I had drawn in a previous image,” Cordaro tells. “I put the male’s face on the female’s body in order to illustrate the beauty that can exist in the blending or blurring of genders.”
Unlike Cordaro, Pottle didn’t initially begin his artistic career with drawing. For 40 years he was an architectural photographer in New York. He focused on shooting buildings and interior. “For the last 25 years I was there, I got a studio where I specialized in photographing architectural models, including models for the new World Trade Center,” Pottle says.
After cameras became easier to operate in the early 2000s, architects no longer needed as many pictures of models because of new digital renderings. Once business slowed, Pottle discovered Photoshop and a talent for drawing within the application. He was motivated to continue developing his craft by “outsider art”—a movement in which art is created by someone who has not had formal training in an artistic establishment.
“Most of those involved with outsider art didn’t do any of the work for the money,” Pottle adds. “They just needed an outlet to be creative. The reason I liked outsider art so much is because it wasn’t technically ‘pure artwork.’ A lot of it was folk art that was religious-based, good versus evil, Jesus versus the devil, which is the theme I really latched onto.”
The themes of good versus evil and Jesus versus Satan appear throughout much of Pottle’s highly detailed work. Each piece is often layered with multiple scenes and symbolic characters. “I like to include really quirky things in my work,” Pottle adds. “Sasquatch shows up a lot.”
Pottle enjoys devising original characters, too. The first he created was “The Digging Man,” which showed up a lot in his early work.
“My wife and I came upon a ‘road work ahead’ sign with the icon of a man digging with a shovel,” Pottle says. “I photographed the sign and was able to trace the icon to bring it into Photoshop. I gave him a hat, cleaned him up a little, and made him a little more lifelike.”
While two artists’ work differ greatly in many aspects, each captivate in their attention to detail. It’s enough to make viewers contemplate the work for hours.