As Lexington Art League director Stephanie Harris walks through the organization’s galleries at the Loudoun House, there’s little doubt that exhibit preparation is underway. Some paintings are sitting on the floor, waiting to be raised to their display positions, and ladders and carts with paint and tape are scattered around.
This exhibit was a originally supposed to be the pop-up variety: a little thing thrown together as a prelude to a larger endeavor.
The Art League planned to use its Fourth Friday event as a prelude to next month’s exhibit, Artist: Body, a re-imagined variation on the League’s once-annual nude exhibit. The Fourth Friday: A Figure Study was meant to draw attention to figurative art through works, live demonstration and participation, with area artists Martin Beck and Sheldon Tapley at the center; just a quick event and a short exhibit.
“When we found that both Martin and Sheldon had such extraordinary bodies of work ready for exhibition, we didn’t want to limit that,” Harris says. “We thought it would be fascinating to have the artists working with the figure in the gallery and then be able to walk through the gallery and see a pastel drawing or a painting or a pencil drawing done by the same artists. It shows the variety of how they interpret with different materials. What happens? How does that change and evolve?”
At the event, which has been rescheduled to Jan. 29 due to a winter storm, some guests will be working along with Beck, creating work from a live model, and Tapley will be working on a painting with a live model throughout the evening’s three hours. Next to that room, The Swells will be playing a set list curated just for the evening. There will be a room with mirrors, where participants can create self-portraits, and a selfie room where people can take those ubiquitous cellphone shots, with a work by tattoo artist Andrea Wiseman as a backdrop.
The latter two really speak to the theme of Artist: Body, which will open Feb. 19 and will focus on self-portraiture.
It all signals that the Art League, which endured a financial crisis that led to a lot of soul-searching last year, is returning to some programs that were staples not only of the organization’s calendar, but of the Lexington arts calendar as a whole.
Fourth Friday became a legendary monthly party at the Art League’s home in the Loudoun House, and the nude was arguably the biggest annual art show in Lexington.
But the Art League let both go in 2014 to allow room in its schedule for projects such as the Luminosity exhibit, which featured a moon-like light sculpture in Triangle Park, and installation projects at historic Pope Villa and elsewhere.
In surveys last year, people said they wanted the party and the nude back, Harris says.
“We wanted to bring it back with a fresh perspective,” says says. The exhibit has been curated by Julien Robson, a former curator of contemporary art at Louisville’s Speed Art Museum. “We certainly have a long history of looking at the figure. With our artistic development committee, we had a lot of voices coming together to say what this could look like.
“Collectively, I think we’ve come up with something that’s fresh and new, but linked to some of those traditional practices that people have been wanting to see.”
Harris says Fourth Friday is definitely back as a regular event. The nude, she says, will be more of a case-by-case question.
“We are not against having the figure looked at every year,” she says. “I think what we want to maintain is that flexibility in our schedule, that we have found is liberating.
“It’s all balance-driven now.”
If you go
Fourth Friday: A Figure Study
What: Party and prelude to the upcoming exhibit Artist: Body
When: 6-9 p.m. Jan. 29. Note: Date rescheduled due to weather.
Where: Loudoun House, 209 Castlewood Dr.