Monday, October 20, 2014

Spreading the Word…”Out of Print” by Pam Neff


The Little Art Gallery in North Canton is currently showcasing the creative genius of artist Pam Neff. “Out of Print” : An Upcycled Exploration of Books and Text into Configurations of Fine Art is the full title of this solo show that fills the gallery side to side, top to bottom and right down the middle with one of a kind pieces that will entertain and enlighten the viewer on multiple levels.

62 individual pieces are on exhibit with several of them arranged in groups that seem natural to have to purchase all of them, and the red dots were numerous. Some works are made of multiple units that are all one work, therefore one must take the time to read the titles and tags to fully appreciate each piece as it is meant to be seen. And to NOT take the time to read the titles (in a show based on books and texts) would be a shame. So much intellectual creativity is hidden within them…..which is just one more layer of this show. It is well documented that to really appreciate subtle humor, one must be fairly intelligent. So goes our first layer….society associates “smarts” with books…bookworms and nerdy types are depicted with their noses in scholarly documents, always reading… Neff has played upon this stereotype through her use of titles, imagery and materials…and sometimes even form, to relay her message. A viewer can look at the creations as simply artwork on a wall or they can truly read into each one the volume of information found within their reconfiguration. She challenges us to think.

Overall, the gallery is a visual collage of creams, blacks, and beiges, awash in double entendre and no matter what direction one turns, assaulted by parody, satire and textural text.  Some works such as “Tom Swift and his House on Wheels” (which is a book), is mounted on wheels, the concept is simple, the presentation straight forward, and funny.  So too are “Facebook”, “Rock Paper Scissors” and “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”. Other works require some effort to truly appreciate their meanings such as “Weapons of Mass Creation”.  Featured on the cover of the gallery program, this piece is one of her most compelling. With the title in mind, view the piece overall, it is a fish, a Christian symbol, but stand back a bit and one can see an angel as well. Above her head or its tail, is the word “prologue” meaning before or in the beginning….. do I really need to visually spell this out for you? (Yes, that was intentional).

Before I forget, the reason I chose “Spreading the Word” as my title is not so you all go out and tell others to see this show, but it would be the title I would have given her “Push Broom” piece propped in the corner. The handle of a broom has been inserted into a converted dictionary whose pages have been cut and fluffed into bristles. As soon as I saw it, my title clicked and that was all she wrote, I was out the door. Only three works are untitled, all the same type of folded paper manipulation but in three different sizes, hung together, and sold separately. I am calling them the “Mums” because the intricate curvilinear folds look like the petals of a mum plant and also because…..Ha!! “Mums the word” as the saying goes….  I just can’t allow any untitled pieces, especially in a show based on books….ever see an untitled book?

The dictionary pages were quite popular and selling fast. I bought one too after debating and changing my mind several times over which one. The pages are A through F of a dictionary with an image on each one that is of that letter…case in point, I bought “Art” whose pictorial image is of a painter’s pallet. Originally I was set on “Brushes” until I viewed the works from across the room….how could I have missed it the first time? I had to buy “Art” because it is a work of art, about “art”…and I know it is art because it says so right on the picture…so it must really be ‘art” right? This way nobody can ever accuse me of not buying art…because I bought “Art”.   See what I mean about Neff’s depth of though? Other dictionary pages feature collage images for letters R, T and P.

If you have been to her gallery space at 2nd April Galerie in the arts district, you would have seen her pieces featuring the small scale wooden artist’s manikins. The titles are witty such as “In the Middle of a Good Book” and “A Real Page Turner” but so too is there an underlying innuendo…books are made of paper, paper comes from wood, wood comes from trees and the little guys interacting with these books are made of wood….you do the mental gymnastics on that one.

A few pieces to mention for their obvious attention grabbing structure are “Out of Circulation”, a wheel of old paperback books large enough for a person to pass through and “Statue”, an absolutely gorgeous dress-like (hmmmm…..) creation that plays upon the idea of memories and dreams (and play). The exhibition as a whole must have been a challenge to install so that each piece could be featured in the best possible light (because there are actual lights [lamps] in this show too).

Neff has even made a series of bookmarks, free (one each please) for the taking. I can only imagine what else her right side would have envisioned if she knew I have several old typesetter drawers sitting in storage….I wonder what type of work she could make with them.

Time to put this chapter to bed and end the story here…..   Rarely do I end a blog with a recommendation of a show being a “must see” but this is one of those times….and it is a “must read” as well. Take the time to appreciate her genius, and I don’t use that word lightly either. Skimming through to the end or just looking over the cliff notes of the program will short change you on an enriching engagement with the written word.

October 16 – November 9, 2014
North Canton Little Art Gallery in the North Canton Library
10am – 8pm Mon - Thursday
9am – 5pm Saturday

1pm – 5pm Sunday

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