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George Fellner Looks to the Future When Designing Buildings and Looks Within When Creating His Art
Architect George Fellner of East Haddam has been passionate about rocks and crystals for years, but it wasn’t until five years ago, when a friend suggested he photograph one from his extensive collection, that his latest artistic incarnation was born.
“I’ve always had a fascination because of their beauty, variety and diversity, as well as the energy inside — from a geological standpoint as well as a spiritual one.”
During his day job, Fellner, 55, focuses on sustainable design as the principal of the Higganum-based Fellner Associated Architects. Undoubtedly, you’ve seen his work — in East Haddam at the Town Grange, Senior Center and Co. 2 Firehouse, and in Haddam at the high school, eco-tourism office and Regional School District 17 central office — as well as countless commercial, industrial and residential projects around the county.
The weekends, however, are reserved for Fellner’s creative exploration. “As an architect, I can play in my passion, which is photography.”
It’s a communal experience for the artist.
“When I pick up a rock or stone,” Fellner says, “it’s almost like I have a dialogue with the subject. What does it have to say?”
His routine is a meditative one.
“My mind starts to wander. I use past references, history, mythology — everything is fair game, including dreams and past memories,” Fellner explains.
He gets his rocks, crystals and even petrified wood from gem and mineral shop shows, like the Tucson Gem, Fossil and Mineral Show, (in February) the largest in the country, and August’s East Coast Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show in West Springfield, Mass.
“Every time I have a new rock, I put on the right music, use all my senses to bring out what [it’s telling me], as if I’m going on a hike,” Fellner says. “I use observation, interpretation, synthesis and fine-tuning.
“I’m on sort of a visual journey, transcending all time-space continuum, an alternate reality.”
Fellner has led numerous photography seminars, but has never received formal training. “Everything I learned about photography, I’ve read about,” he says.
The architect is also well-versed in classical studies, and draws upon the great artists, theologians and scientists.
Vetruvian Man is Leonardo DaVinci’s well-known 1487 pen-and-ink drawing of a naked man’s arms and legs in two positions — bound by a square and a circle. It’s based on Roman architect Vetruvius’s idea that classical architecture is derived from man’s proportions — and perfectly melds the principals of art and architecture.
“The Vitruvian Extraterrestrial,” Fellner says, is a takeoff of DaVinci’s concept — with a twist.
It is an alien’s vision of DiVinci’s drawing: a flame-orange arachnid. This otherworldly figure, Fellner muses, “looks sad, it looks monstrous. But there’s beauty in the sadness.”
Fellner says he derives his inspiration from “multi-belief systems: Celtics, Judaism, Christianity. All belief systems have a common denominator, they’ve concluded there’s a higher power, a notion of the soul or inner spirits.”
“I also bring in ancient fantasy, future fantasy, planetary-scapes and future-scapes.
“Tapestry of a Pharaoh” is created in a relatively new style, Fellner says he’s been developing. Primarily chartreuse-colored, it is anchored by a thick ivory and gold diamond overlaid with a lapis, filigreed “X” in the center. It is a hypnotic image.
The artist also uses photography software to manipulate a photographic image digitally on the computer.
“Symmetry is a recent development, about 10 months ago,” Fellner says. “I take a root image, copy it and repeat it on a vertical and horizontal axis, recombine it and juxtapose them. It’s kind of what the cubists did.”
So what the viewer is looking at in “Tapestry” is four quadrants which have been copied and flipped to create a symmetrical image.
“The beauty of the rocks is already there. I just pull it out,” Fellner says.
Some of his pieces, like “Lakota Prophecies,” tell a story. It may be difficult to comprehend that the figures in the photograph are actually minerals, rocks and crystals. At the bottom left is a buffalo facing a tall Native American at the right. The scene portends what will eventually become of buffalo living on the American plains.
The image Fellner chose for the postcard of his eo show is a departure from his other selections, with its metallic sheen and hyper-pastel colors.
This, Fellner’s newest method, is a photograph printed on metal-infused dye.
“‘Maya Stellar-Tronica’ is my favorite one right now,” Fellner says. It reminds him of Mayan art, which he says, is “from another planet — not of this world.
The artist explains the three principal elements: ‘Tronica’ is evocative of space ships, circuit boards, microchips.”
“On another level, it’s a pipe organ playing ambient-type music.”
“‘Stellar’ is her maiden name, she’s a female robot.”
This, as with the other metal-infused pieces, are large and limited-edition. Only 10 prints of “Maya” were made.
Fellner has found a way to unite his two pursuits and to balance them, like the ying and yang of Chinese philosophy. “To do good architecture, you really have to sweat,” Fellner says, “and that’s true of life, or law or art.”
“Photography is a nice balance to building codes, zoning, money and budgets.”
eo’s artists participate in this unique exhibition…
An Exchange with Sol LeWit
Jan 23, 2011, 11:00 am–Mar 31, 2011, 5:00 pm
The story of Sol LeWitt’s exchanges with other artists is widely known. Though most artists engage in this process at one point or another, LeWitt seemed fully committed to it as an artistic code of conduct, a way of life. Eva Hesse, Robert Mangold, Hanna Darboven, and Robert Ryman are just a few of LeWitt’s celebrated contemporaries with whom the artist exchanged works. Such exchanges were not limited to well-known artists — LeWitt consistently traded works with admirers whom he did not know but who had nevertheless sent their work to him, as well as amateur artists with whom he interacted in his daily life. LeWitt’s exchanges —- he responded to every work he received by sending back one of his own -— fostered an ongoing form of artistic communion and, in some cases, a source of support and patronage. The Sol LeWitt Private Collection retains all of the works he received, as well as a record of what he offered in return.
For LeWitt, the act of exchange seemed to be not only a personal gesture, but also an integral part of his conceptual practice. In addition to encouraging the circulation of artworks through a gift economy that challenged the art world’s dominant economic model, LeWitt’s exchanges with strangers have the same qualities of generosity, and risk, that characterized his work in general. This kind of exchange was designed to stage an encounter between two minds, outside the familiar confines of friendship.
If we consider the process of exchange as another of Sol LeWitt’s instructional pieces, then the rational (or irrational) thing to do is to continue to exchange work and ideas, if only symbolically, with him.
This exhibition, a curatorial project by Regine Basha, springs from a call to those who share an affinity with Sol LeWitt’s legacy as a conceptual artist, to those who knew him and those who did not—to anyone who has ever wondered, “What would Sol LeWitt like?”
Cabinet and MASS MoCA issued an open call for gifts to Sol LeWitt in any form of an image, an object, a piece of music, or a film, books, ephemera, and other non-perishable items (e.g. wine) for a two-part exhibition taking place at MASS MoCA and at the offices of Cabinet (300 Nevins Street in Brooklyn) from January 20- February 19, 2011. A publication documenting the contributions will accompany the shows and will be presented at the conclusion of the project to all participants.