Three years in the making, Wendy Jane Bantam’s new art show to open Friday — online
by L. Kent Wolgamott via the Lincoln Journal Star
Three years ago, Wendy Jane Bantam and Kiechel Fine Art scheduled her first solo show with the gallery since 2006 for April 2020.
For the last year, Bantam created dozens of paintings in a studio at The Lincoln Marriott Cornhusker Hotel to make up the exhibition she titled “Birds and Superheroes (Nature takes over the world).”
Then came the coronavirus that shut down galleries and art museums across the country and led to the cancellation of nearly every exhibition.
Bantam, however, didn’t want to lose the show she’d anticipated for years.
“I wanted to be able to bring it to people,” she said. “Artists want to share; artists want to give back to people. Artists want to tell a story. That’s why I decided to go forward with this.”
And Buck Kiechel wanted to show and, hopefully, sell her art — work, that by chance, is a perfect fit for the shutdown era.
“It’s a breath of fresh air in this miserable time,” Kiechel said. “It should go out in the world right now. You can get lost in a Bantam. Being quarantined in a house would seem to be a good time to get lost.”
So how does her art get shown?
It will start with an online opening Friday. Then the gallery will be open by appointment only for groups of four or less through April 30.
Dozens of people have actually seen the paintings while Bantam was working as The Cornhusker’s artist-in-residence.
“Having worked in solitude my whole life as an artist, it was a lot different to be in the public eye,” Bantam said. “I met people from all over the world every day. They’d ask, ‘What are you working on?’ I’d tell them.”
With some, she offered the opportunity to pull up a chair and sit with her as she worked.
What the visitors saw in progress were literal interpretations of the theme, paintings with brightly colored flowers expanding across fields and Lincoln landmarks — like Zesto, the old 84th and O Street drive-in, and Tam O’Shanter about to be overrun.
The latter paintings are smaller works rooted in a series Bantam created when she got the idea for the show two years ago.
The large paintings that dominate the show originated from Bantam’s Cornhusker residency. They rank as the strongest pieces she’s made in her career.
To choose three, “Rabbit Sails the Seven Seas,” in which a bunny rides in a boat; “The Drinking Tree” a fantasy landscape with birds hidden in tall trees; and the undersea view of three fish “Three Sirens of the Sea,” which comes alive with dynamic flowing, curving lines and layered bright colors.
Other paintings directly lock into the theme. In “Burn it Down (Spiderman in the Redwoods),” Spidey shoots a web across a deeply lined forest fire inferno, while “Aquaman Reverses the Waterfall” finds the amphibious hero swimming to the top of the painting trying to stop nature’s watery assault.
Those pieces are literally contrasted by a series of smaller ink-on-plaster pieces in which Bantam has carved out linear images leaving bright white linear grooves against the black surface. But those pieces stay with the theme and imagery as in “The Seahorse Returns.”
The expansive exhibit, which numbers more than 80 pieces, also contains a suite of small, more conventional landscapes — although they too, often are made in Bantam’s palette of pinks, blues and yellows. And there are a couple of figurative pieces as well — large paintings of faces, one appearing to be a Picasso-influenced portrait, the other as psychological study in reds.
The vast majority of her work should be available online starting Friday morning.
That’s when Kiechel Fine Art takes over the Downtown Lincoln Association’s Instagram account, where it will show images of many of the paintings.
At 6:30 p.m., an “opening” will be livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube through multiple sources, including Kiechel’s Facebook page, the Basement Creators Network YouTube channel and journalstar.com.
The stream will be shot by Panoptic Cinema, the Lincoln-based company of brothers Brent Scott and Derek Maze, who made the indie film “La Flamme Rouge” last year and distributed through the BCN, which shows Lincoln bands performing on a weekly basis.
At 7 p.m., Bantam will be interviewed about her work, with detailed images on the stream.
Appointments for in-person viewing can be made beginning Friday morning. That’s the best way to see the work, Kiechel said.
“You need to be in front of her paintings to really feel it. The impastos, the layers, are lost digitally,” Kiechel said. “We’re doing what we can to present an art experience, safely, online and in person. It’s her strongest body of work in 20 years. We really want people to see it any way they can.”
If You Go
What: “Birds and Superheroes” by Wendy Jane Bantam
Where: Kiechel Fine Art, 1208 O St.
When: Through April 30
Online Opening: 6:30 p.m. on Facebook, YouTube, journalstar.com
In-person viewing: By appointment only, Monday through Friday. For appointments call 402-420-9553. Please leave a voicemail or send the gallery an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and Kiechel Fine Art will get back to you as soon as possible early next week.
If you missed the LIVE version – you can still visit the link directly at kiechelart.com and view the YouTube stream from Wendy’s exhibition page here: https://kiechelart.com/exhibition/wendy-jane-bantam-solo-exhibition/