By Raymundo Muñoz

This sounds ridiculous coming from an “art writer,” but talking to an artist is almost always preferable to seeing the artist’s work, especially when you ask him/her to describe it. Some relish the task, others abhor it (and you for asking), others turn into shy and cautious cats you have to coax out of some hard-to-reach place. Whatever the challenge, though, it’s worth it. Because while art may be likened to a fine glass of wine we sniff and slurp and swallow (and spit sometimes), the artist comprises much more: the grapes, the soil, the water, the clime, the barrels, and, yes, the vintner, too. Walk that vineyard and now taste the wine–see how much better it is?

Being socially inept to a fair degree, this realization took some time to work its way into me, but it has transformed my appreciation for art beyond mere observations on composition, technique, and execution. Seeing someone squint and stare off into the distance…searching for “the right words”–those skittering little animals hiding just below the horizon of consciousness–to describe what the hell they’re really trying to accomplish is a deep and magical moment.

At the end of the day, art is just a bridge: It’s a way for us to connect to each other and to ourselves. I was fortunate enough to connect with a few artists at Walker Fine Art recently: Peter Illig, Kellie Cannon, Ben Strawn, and Chris DeKnikker. Different as they may be, all are fine in their own ways. Illig’s paintings are smart and striking statements on contemporary society that rely on images of the past. Cannon’s work plays with the interaction of movement in a static environment through staccato line work and hazy, textured backgrounds. The painted wall-mounted English ivy sculptures of Chris DeKnikker splay and spiral in natural-looking ways thanks to inspiration from the art-making of his own child. And Ben Strawn, himself the product of a family of artists, continues spontaneous “conversations” on line, color, and form in his abstract works. All fine works to consider a few feet away with hand-to-chin, but talking to the artists definitely made me appreciate them even more.

So, my challenge to you: next time you’re at an exhibition, don’t just browse–talk to the artists, and I promise you that wine will taste SO much better.

Photos are from the Feb. 5 opening reception for “New Works” at Walker Fine Arts featuring Peter Illig, Ben Strawn, Kellie Cannon, and Chris DeKnikker. On display through March 14. For more information, visit               


Peter Illig’s “Doubt”


Peter Illig’s “Leap”


Peter Illig’s “Male Metaphor” 


Works by Peter Illig


Artist Peter Illig with “Leap”


Works by Ben Strawn


Works by Ben Strawn


Works by Ben Strawn


Artist Ben Strawn


Kellie Cannon’s “Untitled 1”


Kellie Cannon’s “Untitled 2”




Artist Chris DeKnikker with his “Loose Ends”