The Mid-Career Invitational is an annual exhibit that celebrates local and regional artists who are on a professional artistic path. Working as graphic artists, muralists, writers and designers, this year's group includes Gary Bedell, Cole Closser, Doug Erb, Megan Frauenhoffer, and Christine Ruitzel.
An opening reception will be held at The Creamery Arts Center during First Friday Art Walk on Friday, March 6, 2020 from 5pm to 8pm. The exhibit is free and open to the public through Wednesday, March 26th.
Continue reading for artist bios:
Short of being born with pencil in hand, Artist Gary Bedell has spent the majority of his 35 years engineering worlds with boundless imagination. Gary’s creations are both frightful and majestic, and he entices us, like a stranger with candy, to step closer and peer through the lens of his mind’s eye.
A consummate artist, Gary is just as adept with canvas as he is with a drawing tablet. His versatility has become his calling card as he moves fluidly between the worlds of design and his true passion, illustration. With well over a decade’s worth of professional experience, Gary has collaborated with commercial leviathans such as General Mills, Nickelodeon, Disney, Crypt TV, Fantasy Flight Games and ActiVision. He has also teamed up with numerous independent artists, and has been featured the in prestigious I Am 8bit Gallery in Los Angeles. His digital illustrations have been showcased in major publications, including Cereal Geek Magazine, Advanced Photoshop Magazine and Realtor Magazine. Although he possess the ability to work in many different styles and methods, there is an essence about his work that is distinctly his own. Down to his artist’s signature, there is an immutable integrity to his work that makes people say, “I always know a ‘Bedell’ creation when I see one.”
Gary continues to venture into new and exciting territories, using sculpture and writing and illustrating his own stories to create new realms where none existed before and pushing limits of the ones that do--doing this all with his vivid and unmistakable originality.
Cole Closser holds an MFA in Sequential Art from the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont. His first graphic novel, Little Tommy Lost (Koyama Press), was named one of the ten best graphic novels of 2013 by A.V. Club (the Onion), nominated for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award in the category of Best Publication Design at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con, and featured in Best American Comics 2015. Cole's second graphic novel Black Rat (also Koyama Press) met with favorable responses from such publications as The New Yorker and The Globe and Mail, and was listed as a Notable in Best American Comics 2017.
Cole's work has been featured in such publications as Best American Comics from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Over the Garden Wall, Adventure Time, and Regular Show from Boom Studios, Little Nemo's Big New Dreams from Toon Books, Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream from Locust Moon Press, Carousel Magazine, The Dreadfuls from Rotland Press, and Velour: The Drag Magazine from House of Velour.
Cole is an Assistant Professor of Art & Design at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri—where he teaches design, illustration, and graphic narrative (comics).
Cole is generally a nice guy, but don't jive talk him. He enjoys reading books with funny pictures, watching old cartoons, and wrestling alligators. Cole likes cats.
Doug Erb was born in Springfield, MO. He is a graduate of SMSU, now MSU, with a BFA in art. His parents were always supportive and encouraging in his creativity. As far back as he can recall, he was drawn to the bright colors and line work of comic books, cartooning, and illustration, alongside a love of music. He dreamed of working in the comics or publishing field in New York, and though he ended up on the opposite coast, this did come to pass. He was hired by Fantagraphics Books in 1987 and he relocated to Southern California. He stayed with Fantagraphics for little over a year as a designer and art director in what turned out to be a historic period in independent creator owned comics and the acceptance of the graphic novel as an art form. Following his time at Fantagraphics he used his design sensibilities to segue into music packaging design, first with Rhino and Frontier records, later as a full time designer with Sony Music. His love of art and music were united with this profession. Eventually Erb left Sony, feeling the need to explore life outside a daily corporate structure, becoming a freelance designer full time. During this period he produced work for a number of music labels and book publishers.
He moved back to his home town in 2004, his professional career taking a back seat to tending to his family. His father had passed away and his mother was showing the early stages of Alzheimer’s. His creative output at this time was sporadic, non-commercial, and created in various mediums. It was a reflection of the challenges of his new responsibilities. He chose to use his creativity to become a good caregiver. He became steeped in reflection and the why. There was a new depth to his inspirations, the interest and reasoning behind his need to create had taken a turn.
As of 2020, Erb’s journey of questioning, observation, self-challenge, digging through the past, and creating continues. Collecting inspirations through experiences, remaining always reflective, always considering the direction of his creative future. His patrons know him as a seeker and appreciate that his work is built with originality, love, irony and humor. He has reached this point in his career knowing that it’s about the idea.
Influences: Family, Beany and Cecil, Spider-man, Robert E Howard, Captain Kangaroo, Elvis Costello, Berni Wrightson, Love, neighborhood walks, musicians, live music, Film, Springfield Art Museum, flea markets, old things, the road less traveled, Stephen King, John Steinbeck, Gerry Mulligan, Famous Monsters of Filmland, paperbacks, Mark Rothko, Paul Klee, Joan Miro, Shirley Jackson, Sharon Jones, nature, humor.
Moments in time: clerk: Heritage Bookstore, clerk: Liberty Sound music store, MSU Bachelor of Fine Arts, art director: Fantagraphics Books, art director/designer: Sony Music, freelance designer: Rhino Records, Warner Bros. Records, Rubber Records Australia
Travel: The great Midwest, Scotland, Nova Scotia, Australia, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York
My paintings explore emotions that hide between reality and the subconscious. Through the use of fairy tales and invented narratives, the images become a meditation over various emotional states such as confusion, anger, grief, or loneliness. These emotional dwellings are projected around a central heroic figure. The feelings fester and manifest as fantastical creatures: phantasms of animals spirits, doppelgängers, and hybrid monsters. These apparitions become a catalyst for change, empowering or overwhelming the hero. The audience catches them in a critical moment where the next choice seals their fate.
Hidden beyond the fairy tale façade is a personal journey. These painting and drawings explore my own struggles with mortality and loss. Similar to how most fairytales deal with dark beginnings, where characters seek their own redemption, these images help me sift through dark emotions with my mother’s death from cancer. The frequent use of skulls is a motif I use for both death and the mental struggles dealing with loss. Monsters with grotesque mutations become the physical manisfestation of a losing battle, whether that is with personal stories or universal injustices that occur to others.
I investigate these notions through a combination of illustrative detailing, intense color schemes, and dark imagery. A ghostly and otherworldly state is evoked to create the feeling of a dream and intentionally blur the lines between magic and madness. These surreal and lonesome dreamscapes invite the viewers to engage in their own interpretations. As the viewer watches the hero struggle, they must recall their own emotional states, possibly mirroring the dark places that are normally kept hidden deep inside.
As a kid, I doodled horses, but didn’t get serious about art until I met my high school art teacher. She truly changed my life. But after high school, I went through a period of trauma and quit making art. After putting myself back together, I started creating consistently again. I wanted to learn but art school wasn’t affordable for me – so I taught myself with YouTube and online courses. In the past few years, I've had several fine art exhibitions and for a while I thought gallery life was the only way I could make it as a professional artist. Then I stumbled across mural work and fell in love. My most well-known mural is a 300-ft-long mural at SkateWorld in Branson, Missouri. It is also my first mural.
I serve on the nonprofit board of Southern Missouri Arts Connection (SMAC). Through SMAC, I work with others to transform our tourist town into a vibrant place where the visual arts and artists can thrive. Opportunities to create Public art are beginning to open up for me and for other artists in the area. I hope to show businesses that murals can be a more effective and affordable way to advertise than costly billboards.
n 2019, I partnered with The Branson Parks & Recreation department to organize a group of artists to beautify a wall at Murphy Park in Branson. The community and the regional press whole-heartedly approved. The experience has been a great encouragement to artists involved in the project.
My art has evolved into a state of maturity and confidence. I use to paint pieces that I thought people wanted, especially in my hometown which is mostly traditional. In fear that if I painted something that came from the heart it wouldn’t be approved of. Most of the time I create because I just want to make something cool. My thought is that art doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to gifted or be born with the talent to draw and paint. You don’t have to be smart. Your subject matter doesn’t have to be deep. By simply creating something, you’re adding positive energy to this world. Artistic talent is simply a passion one pursues.