Throughout June, the Mobile Arts Council’s Gallery @ Room 1927 will feature works by four Mobile-based artists. The exhibitions, titled “Figures of Imagination” and “Ethereal,” have contrasting themes, but are compatible in their focus on figures, extreme detail, and surreal imagery.

Eric Achenbach: “Figures of Imagination,” a body of solo work by Eric Achenbach, deals with the naked identity of humanity through the expression of surrealism and imaginative rendering of figures. Through his exhibition, Achenbach strives to highlight the importance of embracing our raw identities.

“As most of us try to conceal and cover our true selves to conform to societal norms, it is important to express, through art, the vulnerability of our inner nature. We are all humans, regardless of what we believe, and there is a connection that we all share.” 

Eric Achenbach is a self-taught pencil artist. During the pandemic he began to pursue his art seriously, drawing inspiration from South African artist Jono Dry and the surrealist painter René Magritte. Through the support of his wife and family, he has yet to put the pencil back down. 

Since 2020, Achenbach has won multiple awards through the Mobile Arts Council’s juried “Annual Members’ Show.” Due to their high level of realism, his drawings are often mistaken for photography. “Figures of Imagination” is entirely black and white and created in painstaking detail. According to Achenbach, “I hope that my work provokes thought and a sense of consciousness of oneself. I want people to feel, not just view, and be inspired to express themselves through creativity.”

Contrasting to Achenbach’s black and white drawings and photographs, “Ethereal” is presented in vibrant color and a variety of mediums. For this exhibition, three artists were prompted to execute what “ethereal” meant to them. Artists Ben Kaiser, Lucy Gafford, and Vanessa Quintana drew inspiration from researching world religions, pantheons, creatures of myths, and folklore, and exploring different concepts on how ethereality could be viewed.

Ben Kaiser: From Ben Kaiser’s perspective, “To me, for something to reach the status of ethereal, it has gone beyond this world’s standards. It has become a heavenly or spiritual wonder, and with this show, I hope we have created just that. I wanted my work to not only depict figures of a certain renown, but I wanted to capture a sense of delicate beauty. My goal was to show a unique refinement blending flat two-dimensional design and three-dimensional rendering. I also took inspiration from art nouveau styling and stained-glass artistry to give some pieces a more religious art feel. Oil painting is my primary focus and I paint by slowly glazing multiple layers of colors, one by one until the piece not only expresses the emotion I want to convey, but the saturation begins to illuminate drawing the viewer in.”

Kaiser’s work is marked by saturated color, brushless strokes, and a fantasy quality. His works are mostly figurative, featuring oil paintings, layered resin, and some mixed-media sculpture. 

Lucy Gafford: Like Kaiser, Lucy Gafford’s work also focuses on figures, but in a very different capacity.

Gafford states, “My focus for 'Ethereal' is on the spiritual and unworldly. My works feature familiar patterns and imagery with a personal twist - embodying my own dreams, interests, and experiences. I believe the closest thing on earth comparable to the heavens is being surrounded by nature’s splendor, and that is a constant throughout each piece."

Gafford’s trademark quirkiness is apparent in many of her pieces, which are mostly sculptural ceramics. Her contributions to the exhibit include hanging planters, called “Face Plants,” complete with mouths bearing distinctly different expressions. Also included are Jackalope sculptures and nature-themed acrylic paintings. 

Vanessa Quintana: Tying the two previous creatives together, Vanessa Quintana’s surreal sculptures and watercolor paintings bridge the gap between personal and general “ethereal” themes.

According to Quintana, “I would describe ethereal as being spiritual or heavenly, intangible, and otherworldly while having a connection to tangible, natural forms or concepts. It could be celestial, mythical, or debatably real while possessing mystical qualities. My pieces for this show were influenced by religion, folklore, philosophy, and science, and how they all tap into the realm of the ethereal, posing the questions: what is fact, what is unknown, and how is it perceived based on each individual's perspective? My work also presents the pantheistic view that all things are divinely and infinitely connected. The lines blending differing forms are blurred and transformative, representing the link between all things natural in seemingly unnatural ways."

These three artists first collaborated on “The Fantastical Forest” at the Mobile Museum of Art, which is currently undergoing renovations by Kaiser and Gafford. This unique art installation will reopen to the public later this year. Kaiser, Gafford, and Quintana all studied studio art in college. 

Kaiser and Quintana are currently full-time float builders with Mirth Company, which Kaiser manages. Gafford left her previous role as Executive Director at the Mobile Arts Council in May 2024 to pursue working as a full-time artist and is excited to showcase new works in a gallery space that she loves and knows well.

Don’t miss out on viewing these visually exciting exhibitions! They are on display at the Mobile Arts Council’s Gallery @ Room 1927, located at 6. S. Joachim Street, now through June 29th, 2024. Much of the show is available for purchase. A special reception will be held on June 14th from 6 to 9 p.m. during LoDa ArtWalk. 

Regular gallery hours are 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Tuesdays - Fridays and 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Saturdays. As always, this community gallery has no admission cost and is open to the public. The gallery will be closed on June 19th in observance of the Juneteenth holiday.

Jun 12, 2024
Artsy Side Of Life

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