Wednesday, September 8, 2010

“Paint –Clay - Fiber” at the McFadden Gallery

Three women using three media from three different career paths in the arts have come together for one cohesive exhibit at the Malone Campus McFadden Gallery through October 8th. To really see the works as one unit, requires walking up and down the long hallway several times as the pieces are interspersed with each other. Sometimes in group shows, the works of each artist are separated and displayed in one area for each artist, but in this case, the pieces are relevant to each other in one form or another and are much stronger being separated by work, not artist. A viewer can appreciate each work on its own merits without interference from a similar work close by. To make my viewing relevant to any readers out there, it is easier to discuss the pieces by each artist as one group however.

But first, let me share an interesting observation. Having been chided for being a bit obvious with my notebook (goodness knows I fade into the background without one…..) I will continue to carry it openly and with as much “importance” as I can muster in certain situations. Why? Because it made people who would otherwise have walked on down the hall, oblivious to the art, stop and mimic my careful reading of the tags and statements. Quite a few people would wait for me to move on to another work, then walk over to scrutinize what it was I was writing about. Their body language seemed to indicate that they were intrigued by my actions so what the hell, I put on quite a show of squinting, scribbling, head tilting and doubling back so as to give the impression that this is something worth seeing, not just glancing at in passing. Which it is of course, don’t get me wrong, it is a show that requires reading of the tags and standing back to get the full flavor of a pattern. By the time I left, several clusters of students and adults were truly looking at the work on the walls with some thoughtful consideration. I could have been writing a grocery list for all they know, but by acting as if the art is not just for filling space, perhaps some new awareness was born. Perhaps I should employ a stage name and get a phony press pass. Until then….on with the show.

Ellen Dieter has 6 pieces on display, Laura Donnelly has seven and Emily Vigil has 8. Emily is “paint”, Laura is “clay” and Ellen is “fiber”. Let’s start our visual journey with Emily Vigil’s works since she may be a bit occupied about a month from now. You may recall her recent installation at Anderson Creative called Constellations of Women, which was comprised of smaller units of imagery combined to make one large statement. A similar concept is used in this show. Her exhibition notes posted here references different vantage points and how we are capable of viewing our surroundings from multiple ways. The canvases on display are groupings of smaller units that are then connected sometimes physically edge to edge, sometimes by color, sometimes by content, sometimes by all of these and at times seem almost capable of being rearranged from one grouping to another. I was reminded of legos in the sense that some sets come in a kit for a specific object to be created, yet one can also take the various parts and combine them at will to make new things. I found it rather fun to go from one canvas group to another and back, mentally taking a piece of one and putting it someplace else. Not a bad way to introduce a young child to the joys of visual art. A few standouts to mention, “Closer, Closer, Closer” in my opinion, referenced New Orleans and the rising flood waters. The twin bridges are much like the two that span the Mississippi River. I enjoyed the murky atmosphere of the imagery. “Reverberation” is richly textured with warm and cool reds and purples giving the work a feel of both night and day at the same time. “Accumulation” has a section with an aerial perspective (not the art kind, but the airplane type) which has strong connections to the work of Wayne Thiebaud, one of my all time favorite artists. It will be interesting to watch how her work develops over the next 18 years.

Laura Donnelly works in clay but also mentions that inspiration can come from anything at anytime. Her mother was a quilter so the art of craft is ingrained in her blood. As I have mentioned in past postings, I personally hope to never touch clay again, I find it frustrating and time consuming, but when somebody can do it both well and creatively , I can respect that and appreciate it. The wall hung piece “Flying Geese” to the non-quilter would be a bunch of triangles and people would be looking for some reference to birds. Flying geese is a quilt square pattern based on triangles. Fabric is included in the piece as well to help make the connection. I found it witty and goodness knows I like that sort of thing. A set of oversized (supersized?) ceramic thimbles sit in a case nearby. They are patterned and textured and reminded me of a canister set for sewers. I never could master the art of wearing a thimble and sewing at the same time so most of mine are decorative too. One of my favorite pieces in the whole show is called “Pass the Salt”, which again contains witty references for those in the know. The piece consists of ceramic plates on a canvas with some fabric pieces along one edge. The fabric patterns are reminiscence of the affect that salt has when added to a watercolor wash. The glazed images on the plates start geometric then become very curvilinear…could this be the affect of too much salt in the human body? Notice too how a design is woven through the 4 plates that echo stitching. I hope others who looked after me found the same connections.

Reaching my limit so on to the large textiles of Ellen Dieter and the intricacies of her masterful weaving, another class that gave me fits for an entirely different reason. Loom weaving is difficult and to create such subtle shifts in color and rich textures if amazing to me. According to her statement for “Woven Passages” , the overall series centers on the transitions found in the lives of women worldwide. She creates this message not through pictures of women or events but through shapes and patterns and colors. Small diamonds woven in the overall tapestry are made from larger threads and added volume that are incongruous to the underlying pattern much like a disruption within the flow of life. Female forms are visible but referenced by geometric shapes not images so the women are part of the pattern, part of the fiber, and part of what holds everything together. A second series entitled “Just Passing Through” uses ribbon type forms for a more festive and energetic feel. The overall format is squarer while the earlier series is long and narrow. Embedded diamonds of different threads are still a part of the concept perhaps referencing the fact that as women, we adjust to life’s disruptions, don’t care as much the older we get, and will party on regardless of what happens! I enjoyed my journey down the hallway and am glad to have found this gallery space. Hopefully more people will discover it as well for the exhibition space it truly is worthy of being.

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