Monday, November 2, 2009
By Tom Wachunas
The title of the current exhibit at The Little Art Gallery – “Sheer Obscurity”- presents a bit of a conundrum. Is the art intentionally dark, or its meaning deliberately arcane? Or is it simply a poetic, even cautionary announcement of the art’s “personal” qualities, thereby preparing us for art that is more meditative than merely decorative or “entertaining”? I favor the latter reading, while considering the act of meditating on art quite entertaining nonetheless. In any event, I find the show’s title to be an effective hook on which to hang some observations.
Ken Carter makes hand-blown glass objects. Michele Waalkes makes (for the most part, here) pictures from photo transfers on to translucent as well as opaque fabrics. Hence, both artists work in “sheer” mediums. And both artists share subtle palettes that effectively make their works exude an earthy spirituality.
Carter’s glass pieces are, at their most fundamental level, connected to traditional functionalities of the medium – vases, bowls, and bottles. But those functions seem secondary to the pieces’ truer natures as independently engaging objects – intimate glass sculptures inhabited by an archetypal spectre of timelessness. Many of them look as if they were made from molten geological strata – viscous, swirling, and still gently seething and breathing under their polished patinas.
That sensibility of breathing is intrinsic to most of Waalkes’ pieces, too. Many of them are sylvan visions of interlacing tree limbs that shimmer and shift ever so slightly the longer you look at them. Some appear to go impossibly deep into the picture plane. Into the woods indeed, these are not so much mysterious forests as they are elegant invitations to simply explore and marvel at nature’s intricate, lyrical depths. Other images are fascinating juxtapositions of arboreal motifs with classical-looking architectural settings and quiet interiors – a kind of humanity-nature morphology.
Viewed in the aggregate, these works could well address a wide range of narratives and sensations both private and universal. And so it was unsettling to me to witness two other individuals come into the gallery during my 40-minute visit. They blew through the exhibit in 3 or 4 minutes, never getting any closer than about 4 feet from any single piece. With such a careless embrace, how could anyone possibly see, or perhaps even hear what message might await them? Their loss, I thought. Good art deserves better. Allowing ample viewing time seems a paltry sacrifice to make when the pay-off is the abiding serenity and unique, palpable pleasure for the eyes that this show so richly provides.
Photo: “Sheer Obscurity” (publicity art) from The Little Art Gallery/ left: “Alluring,” Fibers, by Michele Waalkes; right: “Encalmo Doughnut Bottle with Stand,” by Ken Carter. On view through November 17, gallery located in the North Canton Public Library, 185 North Main St., North Canton (330) 499-4712, extension 312