Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Art Seen: Artistic challenge ‘found’ in KPC gallery

“Works from Found Objects” is as the name suggests, a show of a number of individual works that include found objects. What isn’t readily apparent is that the objects hail from a single source.

Drew O’Brian was cleaning up the Kenai Peninsula College machine shop and made an offer to Joy Falls, another faculty member, who teaches sculpture and ceramics. She was thrilled with the idea of utilizing some of the mostly metal objects in her own art, as well as offering them up to the other art faculty members. The culminating project stands as a cohesive faculty exhibit on view in the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery until Nov. 13.

Cathleen Rolph’s singular contribution is a totem-sized “fetish.” It is called “Oath Taking Figure and Sacred Trust,” and is a joy to absorb. She has driven large nails and spikes of many styles and types into a wooden post that feels as if it is splitting from the pressure of it.

The abstract “face,” however, feels quite serene and compassionate. It reminds me of Francis Picabia mechanical drawings from the Dada era; especially the effect of the red paint applied to the inside of the post where it is split apart, so that it is visible and protected, all at once. Also Picabia-ish are the multiple gears surrounding the “neck” area.

Celia Anderson, currently appearing to be the most prolific of the bunch, has become increasingly political and heartfelt with her work. She tackles issues as serious as poverty, genocide and AIDS, but presents them with such cunning aesthetics that you don’t feel preached to or hammered down from the weight of it.

In “Darfur,” dyed material is the base. The process is called arashi shibori, a Japanese technique of creating the fabric surface by folding, wrapping and binding it on a pole, and then utilizing a reductive method termed “discharge dying.”

To this she has added rusty chain and a good-sized broken bone that was amazingly also acquired in the machine shop scavenge. The center of the piece is the pure black of the material, providing a polarizing and psychological dimension in relation to the subtle Conté crayon drawings of skeletal shapes on the right side. The work is beautiful, the message, unsettling.

Similarly, in the acrylic on canvas “Holes in the System,” the colors and brushstrokes are luscious and inviting, yet the yearning in the subject’s eyes is painful to witness.
He looks as if he is being squeezed by the top and bottom edges of the canvas. His pockets are turned out and empty, and metal discs flow to either side and right off the canvas to the surrounding wall space.

The discs could symbolize money or coins, and have the movement of an energy flow, outward and dissipating. The darkness surrounding him and the constricted composition evoke a desperate feeling.

There is an ominous tone to William Heath’s “Monument,” as well. The colors are cold and crisp. The machine in the photograph seems to tower over us, even though the image is of moderate size.

I get the sense that all of the artists are uncomfortable with these difficult times, and that there is an underlying tension with hints of angst to be found among the otherwise pleasing arrangements.

During World War I many writers and artists were aware of a growing discomfort with the way things were headed, and it showed in their work. Dadaism was an organized effort to throw the world’s deeds back into its face and ask “why?” thereby exposing the nonsensical nature of war and violence, and the political machinery that creates it.

Ellen Chambers’ cozy constructs in this exhibit inform me that although there are sharp differences between many of us, we are all interconnected and can find some sort of balance if we learn to work together. We just have to stop taking sides.

Zirrus VanDevere is a local mixed-media artist and owns Art Works gallery in Soldotna. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.

No comments: