Barking at a Knot: Trying the Impossible

JoAnne Artman Gallery

Sep. 1, 2024 - Oct. 31, 2022

326 N Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, 92651
PHONE 949-510-5481

JoAnne Artman Gallery
346 N Coast Hwy | Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Contact: JoAnne Artman
Telephone: 949-510-5481 | E-mail: [email protected]


There are few subjects in American history that can ignite the imagination as much as the mystery, adventure, and mythology associated with the American Frontier. A romanticized and often misunderstood period of US history, the Old West utilized a vernacular perfect for the dusty and gritty lifestyles of the region’s pioneers and outlaws. Known for colorful expressions of ‘Howdy’ and ‘Yee-Haw,’ the American cowboy was a master of slang, creating a unique dialect replete with rich imagery that reflected the natural terrain as well as their daily tasks.
JoAnne Artman Gallery is proud to present Barking at a Knot: Trying the Impossible, Yee-Haw! Defined as ‘trying the impossible,’ the expression ‘Barking at a Knot’ captures the toughness and charm of the era. Exploring themes of nostalgia, exploitation, appropriation, and progress, artists America Martin, Billy Schenck, and Greg Miller demonstrate the legacy and unwavering cultural fascination with Indigenous North America and the American West.
America Martin draws inspiration from her Colombian heritage and the natural world. Her work frequently features the human figure shown in relationship to nature, with animals and plants used analogously to traits of personality. Martin works in a variety of media including painting, drawing, printmaking, and sculpture, yet her unique use of line and portrayal of form is notable across medium. Luscious, generous strokes of the brush, thick layers of paint and a bold use of line are signatures of her work, with much attention paid to composition. Martin often treats the figure and background with equal importance. Her series of Native American portraits are included in the exhibition; mixing indigenous motifs with her signature style and featuring depictions of the human form as solid, grounded, and in tune with its environment and spirit.
Billy Schenck utilizes specific frames of reference in his oil on canvas depictions of the American West, establishing visual links between notable moments of American and film history, along with the history of visual modes of production. Stark contrasts, use of pattern, vivid hues, and a pop sensibility imbibe the work with a contemporary edge, while taking on some of the most popular tropes of Hollywood’s film industry. Frequent motifs in Schenck’s work include heroes, villains, the seductive femme fatale, as well as alluring imagery of Native American figures, frequently juxtaposed with subversive text or a winking acquiescence via visual symbols or motifs. Schenck sources his imagery from both personal references as well as historical sources such as newspapers and other print media tying his personal narratives to those that came before.
Greg Miller’s mixed media approach ties together the history of Pop Art, the processes of collage and assemblage as well as the concepts of urban decay and collective memory. Utilizing collected paper ephemera, Miller draws on his urban Californian roots to create tangible, evocative, visual narratives across his compositions through both image and text, with moments of poetic juxtaposition and historical allusion. Often using historical texts, illustrations, newspaper and photographs as a base, Miller completes the works with elements of typography as well as the painted form resulting in visual landscapes of great narrative depth. Miller’s unique brand of Americana celebrates as well as notes our ties to iconic imagery that transcends the conventions of the passage of time.

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