Artist portrays world lost to modern society

Sally Chandler

The question as to whether Facebook, Twitter, texting, video games and other new technologies are causing social isolation in today’s society will continue to be a hot debate among sociologists, psychologists and other academics; now, the issue is seeping into the world of art.

Pecos artist Sally Chandler addresses technology-driven isolation in “The Lost World,” an exhibition set to open in Texas for the first time at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont on April 19 at 6 p.m. The exhibit, which will be on display at the museum from April 20 through June 30, addresses the virtual world that we live in today by showcasing a more physical realm of the past that is now lost to modern society, said art critic, author and guest curator Susie Kalil.

“It’s about things we’ve lost in these times — never to return again,” Kalil said. “We’re so keyed in to the Internet, coding and texting that our memories are changing. We stare at these screens that glow with light almost as if some kind of spiritual force is mesmerizing us. And in that isolation, we’ve lost contact with one another.”

This lost world, according to Chandler, is conveyed through 86 paintings and drawings she has been working on for the past eight years. These collections — “A Collection of Memories” and “The Lost World” — include works of art that give the viewer a glimpse into a universe of endangered libraries, landscapes and animals no longer seen through the eyes of a modern society.

“I tried to capture a world with 18th and 19th century romantic sensibilities,” Chandler said. “It’s almost as if you are stepping into a historical theatre. It’s meant to transport the viewer into a place that stands in stark contrast to today’s digital world.”

Kalil said that Chandler transports viewers of “The Lost World” back in time “using a smokescreen of gorgeous brushwork and colors that act as magnets — drawing the viewer in.”

“She is summoning up a lot of red flags that we need to pay attention to,” Kalil said. “You’re very much seduced by the paintwork and the celebratory nature she applies paint to canvas.”

Chandler said that her work is inspired by a variety of influences from a slower-paced time when it took more than a few hours to travel great distances and when journeys included horse buggies rather than automobiles.

“The Lost World” includes images inspired by the last queen of France, Marie Antoinette; 19th century realist and American author Henry James; Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist Edith Wharton; painter and naturalist William Turner; and prominent social thinker, philanthropist and watercolorist John Ruskin.

“Her portraits portray a time of polite conversation, of people who dressed differently, had time for tea, the theatre and reading books,” Kalil said. “It’s not a negative or nostalgic message, but is more of a cautionary note of things we’ve lost. There’s a whole new generation that doesn’t know anything about history, books, species of animals and plants and simple things like conversation.”

Chandler said she works with children, whom she said are most affected by this cyber cosmos of isolation, on a regular basis to help them to express themselves through art.

“I’m trying to create awareness,” she said. “A child’s signature is their own personal identity.”

Chandler will be working with kids from Odom Academy in Beaumont beginning April 15 to create a 13-foot long and 6-foot high mural at AMSET.

(see this article for more info on the mural)

“We’re going to paint directly on the wall,” she said. “I will be collaborating with them ... getting them to create their own lost world.”

The reception and exhibit are free and open to the public.

“Sally Chandler: The Lost World” is organized by AMSET and funded, in part, by the city of Beaumont, the Wesley W. Washburn, M.D. and Lulu L. Smith, M.D. Endowment Fund, the Texas Commission on the Arts, the late Dorothy Anne Conn, Helen Caldwell Locke and Curtis Blakey Locke Charitable Foundation, C. Homer and Edith Fuller Chambers Charitable Foundation. Antiques and memorabilia are courtesy of Dexter Augier of Finder’s Fayre.

For more information, contact AMSET at (409) 832-3432 or visit www.amset.org.

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