A large audience braved the bitter cold to attend a recent panel discussion at the Akron Art Museum. The event focused on the museum’s current exuberant exhibition titled “Beauty Reigns: A Baroque Sensibility in Recent Painting.”
The panel, which met last week, comprised artists Nancy Lorenz, Kamrooz Aram and Susan Chrysler White and was moderated by painter and professor Laura Vinnedge from the University of Akron’s Myers School of Art.
The panel lecture, instead of being held in the museum’s auditorium as it usually is, was set up in one of the galleries of the exhibition. Huge, bright paintings by Ryan McGinness were the main feature of that gallery, and both the audience and the artists remarked on the atmosphere created by talking about art as one sat surrounded by it, an atmosphere unable to be created in an auditorium.
The overarching theme of the discussion was the place of beauty in art. Vinnedge brought up the point that some in the art world avoid “beautiful” work because it won’t be taken seriously enough. In response, Aram asked, how do you even define beauty? The panel agreed that it seemed none of the artists featured in the exhibition are averse to beauty.
The topic of “craft” vs. “art” also remained throughout the night. Aram says that he deals with the difference between “decorative” and “ornamental” in his work, but, he asked, why is decorative a pejorative? Lorenz said that she is unapologetic about working with decorators even though they aren’t considered “artists” by many. Chrysler White believes that there’s a great hybridization of high art and decorative art in work going on today.
Other topics, including influences, the role of beauty in art, and the differences between “high art” and “decoration” came up in the discussion. Lorenz talked about how spending her teenage years in Japan affected her views on craftspeople and her choices of materials and pattern in her work.
The panel was then opened to a question and answer session with the audience.
Though the discussion wasn’t very in depth due to its one-hour length, the lively panel lecture was a bright way to spend a cold, dark evening in Akron. The “Beauty Reigns” exhibit will remain at the Akron Art Museum until April 26.