Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Domestic Observances at Anderson Creative

Domestic Observances: Experiencing the Everyday Sacred  
Brittany Steigert and Liz DeBellis have mounted a joint exhibition under a shared conceptual umbrella in a new storefront space at Anderson Creative Gallery.  Owner Kevin Anderson is still searching for the right voice for this area of his gallery/workshop/studio but what better way to test the market than with two young artists “new” to the professional level art scene with a body of work ready for public presentation.

Brittany has 6 large works and 18 small paintings mixed in with the 12 pieces by Liz. Because they share a common perspective and subject matter, this display method works to the advantage of both artists. Each woman has one work on view that was done in their own style, but in the media of the other. Such a project could be construed as gimmicky if done by artists that were not so interconnected by school and friendship and life in general, but these two young women manage to make it work since each piece fits into the overall show. A large mounted wall statement brings to our attention a litany of emotions and questions regarding their roles as women in today’s society. I can relate to much of what is said about trying to find the balance between begin a professional and a domestic goddess, between being a mom and a business person, and between following expected pathways and stepping off the trail to explore regions unfamiliar. Unanswerable questions will always persist throughout one’s lifetime and for artists, these tend to be a great motivator for creativity. Sometimes we must hide our desired role to fit into another so the concept of stepping into the stilettos of a fellow artist every now and then can seem pretty enticing.

To give each artist their due review despite the combined concept, I wish to write about each woman on her own merits. I am more familiar with Brittany’s work having seen her solo show at Studio M earlier this year. This show has quite a few gems as well. I made mention in a previous post that her strength and skill lies in her ability to render a simple metallic object or a cluster of such relics, in a manner that captures the light, the luminosity, the details and the reflections of complicated surfaces. The 18 small works are snippets of a time past, when sterling silver was still a standard wedding present and ones collection of formal objects signaled a level of social status. Those days are long gone however, so her tiny tributes to time’s past are lovely to explore. Personal favorites were “Beehive Jars”, “Tiny Pitcher” and “Sugar and Creamers Composition#1”. The boxy black frames are typical of the era depicted and totally appropriate; anything more formal would overshadow the images.

On the window shelf are two ceramic pieces comprised of wheel thrown pieces listed as stoneware conglomerates. The impression is one of petal-like pods growing in coral-like forms. Most intriguing however is “Apron Pantsuit”, her contribution to the shared philosophy, a visual melding of the two garments as one cubist inspired structure. Where some areas may be a bit raw, the section with a spoon in a pocket is wonderfully rendered. The use of lame and sheer mylar fabrics also contributes to the sectional success of this piece. I confess to not understanding the use of sheet music beneath the sheers, thinking it more appropriate to find vintage fashion advertisements, pages of the Wall Street Journal or even old recipes considering the tone of the statement. The standout piece in this show is entitled “The Group” and is a masterful depiction of luscious tomatoes painted on and onto a cutting board. With the exception of the added ornamentation, this work truly glows. 

Liz DeBellis’s contribution to the shared conception is called “Domestic Bliss” and full of layer upon layer of intertwined markings including a sewing pattern, stamps, and what may be the words in a diary (called “journals” now-a-days so as to not be so lame).  Her one sculptural piece is called “Not by my Strength” made of shapened gauzelike fibers with some woven areas and old 35 mm film. The remainder of her works in this show are fiber based, not to be confused with quilts per say, but more in the genre of wall hangings.  A grouping of 5 midsized pieces hung salon style made me wish they were one large piece, connected by sheer lames or oversized zippers.  The block panel inspired works incorporate batik fabrics, mono prints, pattern pieces, paper doll references and the obligatory stitchery with added embellishments, even a strip of snaps reminiscent of a onesy. (True domestics would know what that means). On the backsides are sweet colored calico prints in assorted panels as well.

Her other pieces are larger and explore a variety of surface treatments. I was not quite sure of the fabric extension in the piece “The Bias of Nature”, vacillating between it begin a birth canal or a dress form stand, deciding upon the latter when viewing “Intentionality in the Modern Age”. This work uses an oversized dress pattern and original screen printed fabric incorporating birds, flowers and hearts, the hearts being anatomical, not symbolic. A good show will inspire its viewers and I was so wishing to see a three dimensional dress made out of this fabric as part of this same piece, perhaps with the gauzes and lames incorporated as well, mounted on an actual dress form.  From her other large construction, “Further Up and Deeper In”, the screen printed teacups with plants would make gorgeous designer throw pillow prints or a fabric pattern for Hampton style homes, very simple yet so sophisticated.

On view until December 4th, the small paintings, wall hangings and an assortment of prints would make wonderful Christmas gifts for beginning art collectors who don’t have big budgets. Several pieces are already sold so don’t miss out on owning something by two of our future success stories.