‘Origins: Tradition and Innovation’ looks back while moving forward

Origins: Tradition & Innovation has been a show on the mind of Mike Flanagan, director of Tyler Art Gallery, for a number of years. This month, it became a reality.

Origins, open Sept. 4 through Oct. 4 in Tyler Art Gallery’s temporary home on the second floor of Penfield Library, features 14 artists’ works, which range from quilting to woodworking to instruments made from recycled materials.

Flanagan has been interested in the convergence of contemporary, traditional and folk art and craft for many years. He’s been researching the topic and artists who have pieces in the area for some time. However, it was with the help of Artswego that, this semester, his vision found a home in Penfield.

“I have to give credit to John Shaffer from Artswego (Director of Art Programming),” Flanagan said. “He came over and was interested in talking about what ideas we were doing for the upcoming year, and this was quite a while ago, and he wanted to collaborate in some way.”

Another addition to this semester’s show was the performance of cellist Matt Haimovitz at the show’s main reception on Wednesday. Haimovitz played a portion of the Bach Cello Suites to open the event and Flanagan thought the performance fit nicely into the theme of the show.

“This artist is a perfect match for this because he favors setting up in non-traditional concert settings,” Flanagan said. “I think in a conceptual that’s related to the casual quality of folk art and a lot of the pieces he does. At some level, they’re based on composer who are looking at folk tradition, as a lot of classical composers did for ideas.”

In an annual schedule filled with regularly-scheduled shows, such as faculty and juried student events, outside galleries are shown only once or twice a year. While Flanagan was pleased overall with how the show turned out, during the installation process he came to the conclusion a little something was missing.

“It has a nice, clean, sparse look but probably one more artist would have really been the right amount,” Flanagan said. “I’m personally a believer in letting the artworks have some space around them to exist in but they’ll be crowded.”

One of the artists Flanagan did find to donate work to the show was Lauren Bristol, a local artist from Syracuse. She is showcasing two of her woven baskets at the Origins show this month.

The baskets, made from Egyptian cotton, are made with bright-colored materials. They reference the human body with their rounded fullness. Bristol enjoyed how the show turned out and the idea behind the show was something she believed was “brilliant.”

“It’s a great concept for a show because really all art came from art before it and what came before it and before it and before it and before it was craft, which was what we use in our daily living, including cave paintings which were the sacred part of the daily living,” Bristol said.

Bristol’s work found an admirer in Ben Bradley, a senior graphic design major, who has been working at the gallery since it opened. He appreciated everything that went into the creating of the baskets and, overall, he appreciated the time and work that went into creating each piece in the gallery.

“I really just like how it’s all three dimensionalism, sculptures and stuff that I can make because I’m more of a graphic artist myself,” Bradley said.