A Painter’s Phases

The Life Works of Craig Manister on Display Through March 24

By Emily Zoda

“Painting the Rhythm of Perception,” Professor Craig Manister’s life works, is on display in the Art Gallery this month. His paintings range from the mid-1980s to the present day and show a progression of abstract works and still life.

Manister’s entrance into the world of art in New York in the late-1970s was a change of pace. At the time, art was going through a political revolution, being that it was the time of the Vietnam War, and prevalent experimental media was film for use in photography and film. Much like how our smartphones replace our morning papers, painting was becoming obsolete.

His formation as a painter is particularly interesting given that he was building himself up as a painter from an older generation of artists, who at the time were coming to terms with a new era of art. This best-of-both-worlds dynamic created a certain style to his paintings.

According to the gallery statement by curator Siona Wilson, these social and political aspects of the era indirectly affected his worldview, which is manifested in the quirky keyhole figures seen in his later abstract work.

The first wall to the right of the entrance are his earlier works of all-over abstract paintings. He paints the entire surface of the Arches paper in layers and leaves a texture of glob stroked paint.

This style is most similar to Professor and BFA Advisor, Tracy Jones’, especially in the two pieces that were on display in December for “Practice, Process, Place”, a gallery of BFA faculty work.

Another adapted characteristic of Jones’, is the clear, careful edge of the canvas that he doesn’t paint over and his patient process of abstract painting.

The keyholes are an interesting addition to his style. His piece “Carpet Ride” shows the first signs of his emerging symbols. With a painting style similar to his earlier pieces, this one starts to show shapes and symbols underneath the paint. A harsh line borders the canvas giving the impression of a floor carpet.

His use of keyholes as objects, humans, and statements is widespread in his works from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. He incorporates his earlier style of all-over abstract in one of the largest pieces of an off-centered keyhole on a colorful background.

As the showcase progresses from one wall to the next, it takes an abrupt stop at the end where he displays his latest works of still life. He makes use of an intriguing palette to illustrate how the light reflects on an apple.

Right from the get-go, his works show an unorthodox use of symbols as speech and peculiar keyholes. Wilson contributes the sudden change as Manister going back to the basics of painting.

The rhythm of Manister’s gallery shows an abstract twist of his own, while slowing down to the principals of the classical still life side.

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