It was worth every one of the 825 miles

Browsers at Manifest last Friday

I drove to Cincinnati last week to attend the book party at Manifest celebrating the two annuals they’ve just published—INPHA 1 and INPA 2. The books are an overview of examples of what Manifest considers best in current contemporary photography and painting. These are beautiful books, packed with incredibly accurate reproductions of work from around the world—for INPA 2, out of 1310 entries from 452 artists, Manifest’s jury chose 118 works by 72 artists. As the organization says of the painting annual on its website:

As a carefully designed book, the INPA enables Manifest to assemble a diverse array of works from around the world, without the limitation of physical availability, gallery space, or shipping logistics. Manifest’s book projects support our inquiry into the creative efforts of artists working today and serve to document the exceptional results for posterity, distributing artists’ efforts outside our gallery’s geographic radius.

I’ve been thumbing through my copies every day since I got home, and I’m still finding surprises and incentives to get back to the easel. It was a slightly absurd distance to drive for a two-hour event, about 825 miles there and back, but I stayed the night at Rush Whitacre’s studio in Beverly to divide the distance, and that turned out to be half the fun. I pressed apple cider with Rush and his friend Butch on Thursday night, until midnight, and then drove to Cincinnati with him the next day. We got together right after the event at Suzie Wong’s for a late dinner with Jennifer and Randy Wenker, and laughed our way through two more hours.

Part of my motivation in going down was to meet the staff at Manifest and I was able to talk with Jason Franz, Tim Parsley, and most of the others who work there. They were all gracious, asked me to autograph their book, and listened respectfully when I kept urging them to franchise what they’re doing, as gallerists, in other cities. One delight was to meet Cole Carothers, from nearby Milford, who has two excellent paintings in the book, and we talked for quite a while about painting. I’m hoping to write something about him here in the future, if he’ll just answer the email I sent him. Hint hint.

Manifest is, in my view, a nearly unique organization that is trying to find ways to honor what it sees as vital in current art making, regardless of its commercial viability and without any academic/theoretic bias toward any particular branch of visual art. I think I’m safe in saying that artists seek it out as the one place they want to be seen almost above all others, in part because of the purity of motive and its agnostic approach to what art ought to be. If the work is good, it gets in, and Manifest’s judgment about goodness seems to me both extremely open-minded and fair, as well as deeply knowledgeable about oil painting in particular.

It was great to finally see how much space Manifest actually has, with plans for expansion even beyond the current galleries and studios. The two primary studios contained a group and solo photography exhibition, and a third space was reserved for continuous video projections. Down the hall I found Manifest’s current artist in residence, Tyler Wilkinson, an enormously talented young artist who had a small and incredibly good grisaille study of Vermeer’s Girl with a Red Hat hanging on the wall. It was wonderful simply being in a place where the magic of painting is so humbly honored.

A heartfelt thanks to Manifest, which represents art in a really special way that ought to be a lot less unique than it is right now. Someone needs to write a handbook on how to do, in another city, what Manifest is doing in Ohio. Hint hint.

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