at  Cohn Drennan Contemporary through may 5th
by Todd Camplin

Once again the University of North Texas is releasing two more Master of Fine Art
students on the world that will inevitably make a mark in the art world. The realistic
figure drawings of Blayer Stiller and the abstract paintings of Michael Blair were
quite a contrast on the walls of Cohn Drennan Contemporary.
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Michael Blair’s influences range from children’s art to that of the untrained artists. You can find
this influence in many Modernist painters like Paul Klee or Pablo Picasso, but M. Blair is taking a
very different approach. Instead of focusing on the image or product of children’s art, M. Blair is
more interested in the way the hand moves to make the marks. Fast unfettered hand gestures
fill the space almost like the action painters of the 1940’s. I have taught Kindergarten through
seventh grade, and from my observation I can tell that Blair is not overly romanticizing the child
artist like the Modernists did, but he captures the motion and movement of the child artist.
The combination of his child like marks come together into a clear, sophisticated adult
composition. His colors are mixed and richer than something direct from the tube child artist.
M. Blair is inspired by children art, but a kid could never create such complex abstract paintings.
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I had written about Blayre Stiller when she exhibited this year in two group shows; the 110 Degrees
show at Cohn Drennan Contemporary  and the Studio Visit 1-1 show at Cris Worley Gallery. But in
her MFA show, she has clearly outdone herself this time. Seeing her work when she first started her
MFA and looking at the work now, Stiller has made that ever important epiphany that sometimes
happens in a graduate program. Her charcoal drawings are crisp, detailed, and full of metaphoric
punch. The bodies of people became patterns, and in my favorite pieces the hair seems to grow
uncontrollably until it consumes the figure. The stark white background only helped to heighten
the realism of the charcoal rendering.
Blayre Stiller doc, Untitled, 2011, charcoal on paper mounted on birch panel, 21 x 21 in
Michael Blair - Untitled 3-13
Blayre Stiller and Michael Blair both show a personal kind of art but expressed in such diverse
directions. Stiller’s personal self-image is laid out for the viewer in such an emotionally profound
way that it is hard not to leave an impression. M. Blair’s feelings are reflected in his movement
and application of paint. I think he is helping to add an approach to the language of painting.
You and I can look forward to seeing these artists show again soon. This show ends May 5th.