Joan Konkel Marries Art and Optics at 530 Burns

Arts & Culture


It begins as a painting, then it becomes a sculpture and under the careful guidance of the artist transcends both to become more than the sum of its parts. Created from the combination of painted canvas and sculpted mesh, the work of Washington DC-based artist Joan Konkel blends the painter’s palette with the sculptor’s sense of shape and a dash of optical magic, and, in Sarasota, can only be found at 530 Burns Gallery.

Grand in scale, the work begins with the canvas, to which Konkel applies her mastery of color in bringing forth great swirls and bands of vivid hues that leap from the wall to embrace but never dominate. Encapsulated in a wire mesh, carefully crafted and folded into undulating and overlapping waves, Konkel’s creation comes alive with a dimensionality and vigor made possible not only through the artist’s craft but her intuition for optics.

Sculpted over the face of the base painting, the mesh rises and falls, varying the distance between canvas and mesh and the angle of the light peering through to the colors below, while overlaps in the mesh create moire patterns to entrance the eye. Manipulating the light through the mesh, Konkel creates constructive and destructive interference in the travelling light waves, which in turn either enhance the illuminative effect or lessen it. This gives the work a dynamic quality, whereby different angles of approach offer distinctly different experiences depending on the light. By adding paint to the mesh itself, a whole new layer enters the equation.

A sculptor originally, Konkel says the shift years ago to her current work was a lucky discovery born of necessity. With her child entering kindergarten, she reveled in the possibilities of newfound independence and getting back to sculpture, but an illness in the family made that impossible. Looking for a way to continue her artistic explorations without the ungainly and expansive tools required for sculpture and found a compromise in mesh and painting. “I wasn’t going to need band saws or table saws and that sort of thing,” she says. “Once you have a limitation, in a way it almost opens doors.”

And opening doors is what Konkel hopes her art will do for its audience, as they experience the fullness and versatility of the work despite its simple origins. “What I hope is that it’s engaging enough that they want to investigate like I did,” says Konkel. “You become more aware in everyday life and have an extra appreciation. There are a lot of magical moments in life.”

With work currently on display at 530 Burns Gallery, Konkel will have a solo exhibition at the gallery opening February 10, entitled Allure of Illusion.

Opening tonight, Splendor of Sarasota celebrates the local artists whose work populates the walls at 530 Burns Gallery, such as Bettina Sego and Linda Richichi. An opening reception begins tonight at 5:30pm.

Pictured: "Lilia's Papaya" by Joan Konkel. Photo by the artist.

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