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Andrew Saftel prints from large scale woodcut reliefs at the Centro de Formación y Producción Gráfica del Antiguo Colegio Jesuita in Pátzcuaro, México. Running time: 10 minutes.
Atlanta Journal Constitution, June 30, 2005
by Jerry Cullum
…Andrew Saftel’s paintings of East Tennessee are also contemporary yet homey. History buffs can puzzle out an entire Southern narrative in the painting actually titled “Down Home,” filled with names like Cumberland Gap and the history of ancestors migrating westward across the mountains.
Saftel’s newest work, though, takes the story a little further back: “250 Million Years ago,” in fact, according to the 2005 painting “Memorial.” In this one, ancient seashells show up next to a Southern farmer. In the futuristic contest, he’s come up with a gorgeously odd symbol for couples who “Grow Together” — a male and a female’s head are replaced by plant tendrils that entwine or at least reach toward each other. One watercolor juxtaposes one of these figures with a carefully rendered hummingbird and adorably cartoonish bees. Interested? You’ve got another week and half to enjoy the stories told by these two highly esteemed veterans of the Southern art scene.
Huntsville Times, 3 April 2005
Tennessee Artist on View
Museum’s ‘Encounters’ region series features Andrew Saftel
by Howard Miller
The Huntsville Museum of Art’s “Encounters,” a series of exhibitions of regional contemporary art, continues today with a selection of recent work by a Tennessee artist who combines found objects and mixed media to express the world he sees. “Encounters: Andrew Saftel” will remain on view at the museum, 300 Church Street, until June 12. The artist will be on hand today at 2 p.m. to lead a gallery walk of the exhibition. That will be followed by a reception sponsored by the Women’s Guild.
Saftel’s works appeal to the eye through his use of bright colors, his execution, and his sense of balance. The artist will utilize elements from the past, but manages to call up visions of the complexity of life today. The exhibit consists of 15 paintings and five sculptures. The viewer can expect to find native plants and wildlife, regional artifacts – even writing and maps worked into the pieces.
Saftel’s training includes studying at the New England College in Sussex, England, although he earned his bachelor of fine arts in printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute in California. He has shown his work widely, and it is in the permanent collections of the Asheville Museum of Art in North Carolina, the Knoxville Museum of Art, and the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville.
A tour of the exhibition led by a trained docent is scheduled for April 14 at 7p.m. Tours are free to museum members and are included in the general admission for non-members. [...] This program has been made possible in part by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Local support has been provided by the Women’s Guild of the Huntsville Museum of Art, Word Motor Co. and Alice Chang.
L.A. Weekly, 29 May 2004
Art Picks of the Week
by Peter Frank
Tennessee painter Andrew Saftel cakes his paintings with information, carving as much as painting diverse signs and symbols onto and into panels surfaced with low-key but luminous color. The myriad markings can be distracting but they never subtract from the look of things. In effect, although they rest on the surface(s), these images, inscriptions and diagrams, all seeming non sequiturs, require us to excavate them from their resting place — and no wonder: They are quotations from history, botany, geography, physics and personal and shared memory, apparently random generations upon a perceptual field, as if Saftel’s mind were downloading at random. This is no surrealist mining of the unconscious, however, but an extended exercise in epistemology. Saftel rides on the way the brain works, unleashing it from cogitative tasks to, er, speak its mind. Saftel’s aestheticizing of knowledge rewards the eye as well as the mind; his colors and textures harmonize everything in a sensual sea.
Art Papers, September/October 1999
by Deanna Sirlin
…Andrew Saftel’s works are also engraved and carved into wood panels, but are painted quite differently from those of the other artists. Saftel’s Wall of Wishes takes its theme from the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, where people put written notes expressing their wishes, desires, and prayers into the cracks. This panel, which Saftel has carved and drawn into, has metal, paper, and fabric embedded in its surface. Wall of Wishes features a schematic of a house. The roof is created with a piece of geometrically patterned fabric; the walls have letters and notes stuffed into the cracks the artist has engraved into the surface of the painting. The painting is a cool blue, with other geometric patterns that echo the patterns used in mid-eastern temples and mosques. The painting is anchored compositionally at the bottom by a panorama of the old city of Jerusalem’s skyline painted quite representationally, an unusual solution for Saftel.
Learn to Grow, another work done after Saftel’s Israeli sojourn, is composed like a modern tapestry, reminiscent of Diebenkorn’s Matissean phase. The palette of this work consists of intense blues, purples, greens, and reds. An onion plant, richly painted on the right side of the painting, has the word “watering” superimposed evocatively upon it. Text appears in all of Saftel’s paintings, both engraved into the wooden surface and drawn with paint. Saftel uses handwriting, Hebrew calligraphy, and set type to give us metaphorical clues into the meaning of his work. His paintings are like journal pages, scrawled with notes to himself, lists of places and ideas which are engraved into the panels. His playful works are well-painted, juxtaposing ideas and images in a complex and satisfying synthesis.
Bluemilk, November 1998
A Journey Home with Andrew Saftel
by Brett Lockwood
What would it look like if you could take a snapshot inside someone’s mind at any given moment? How would you see within one image all the many influences of personal history, ambitions, thoughts and emotions that define a consciousness at an instant in time? Such is the purpose of Andrew Saftel’s extensive body of work, including the acrylic on wood painting, Far From Home shown above.
Saftel explains that, “in many ways, home is a place of mind, not merely a physical place.” The ideas portrayed visually in his work provide him with an abstract expression of his home that no concrete image can supply. In doing so, he attempts “to create a layered atmosphere, that represents simultaneously the way the world works and how people fit within it, on a spatial, historical and metaphysical level.” The product develops into “a type of poem, consisting of words, images, found objects and colors” that is intended “to be accessible to the general public” who can share in his vision. By incorporating elements that are personal to him as well as ideas that reflect the broader context in which we all live, Saftel invites us to engage in a meditation of our personal journeys through life.
With this in mind, Saftel began Far From Home by laying out a variety of “found objects” onto a piece of plywood (including a rusted blade from a well-worn handsaw, rusted bolts, a three-sided hazard sign, a slice from the trunk of an orange tree and bits of stained wood crafted into the shape of a rickety barn), and then tracing the shapes of these objects. Using a router, he then carved a space in the plywood allowing the objects to rest snugly once glued onto the wood. From there, Saftel applied rich bodies of color and an array of images to portray his vision of home, both in terms of geographical location and emotional significance.
Numerous visual and verbal cues within the work communicate Saftel’s concept. There is so much going on within this painting, in fact, that a lengthy catalog would be necessary to enumerate all of its varied components and their relationship to one another within the artist’s theme. The familiar geographic references of “TN” and “GA” above a series of broken lines provide the most concrete reference to where Saftel calls home. However, the pasted map fragment on the far left showing the coast of California and Oregon points to another region close to his heart where he also lived once. In addition, images of the earth are painted upon a circular metal scrap interspersed between splashes of vivid blues and larger areas of softer reds, oranges and ochres.
Also portrayed in the image are “the swirling movements of subatomic particles,” which weave in and out among the larger objects. By portraying these imperceptible components of his own mind along side the inconceivably vast expanse of the universe. Saftel creates an image of the mind that resembles “Voyager 6.5 billion miles from Earth sending back pictures” (a fragment from something the artist heard listening to a public radio program). One of the finishing touches to this piece was the addition of the tall, ghostly — thin chair in the upper left, which is lightly painted in with touches of white. According to Saftel, “the chair in absence of a person sitting upon it symbolizes death and our often-unacknowledged mortality that is part of the eternal cycle of life.” Saftel adds that the way in which these various perspectives and geographical locations converge into one picture illustrates that “we live in both a microcosm and a macrocosm at the same time, and our concept of ‘home’ evolves as we journey through life.”