A Crowded Spectacle…(Part 2)
By Tom Wachunas
“All artists lift from everything that interests them and always have – from earlier art, other work that’s around, or sources outside art.” - Joyce Kozloff -
Let’s get metaphorical. Much of this exhibit makes me hear music. It’s a concert of ‘performers’ – singers and instrumentalists, if you will – influenced or inspired by centuries of art history to stage an elaborate production in many acts.
Some works suggest the elegant drama of opera, such as Janet Baran’s hauntingly beautiful “Waiting” (First Place winner in the mixed media category). The empty chairs in this room are upholstered with the printed image of a bedbound man hooked to monitors and IV drip. A lone Starbucks cup sits atop the table. The back wall is covered with the repeated word WAITING painted in thick relief – a muted wallpaper of patience and patients. Similarly, it’s not a big stretch to consider oil portraits such as Frank Dale’s “A Hat With A Veil,” Heather Bullach’s “Iraqui Girl” (Second Place winner in oil and acrylic category), or Michele Blate’s colored pencil “First Taste of Winter” as quietly gripping arias.
Some works are imbued with a classical precision of technique, like James Bennett’s drawing, “Olifant.” As the virtuosic bow work of a master violinist would articulate a difficult, intricate solo, so too Bennett deftly wielded a pencil to achieve the stunning textures and tones in this rendering of an elephant. Equally virtuosic is the tiny (9”x11”) but arresting oil painting, “Virginia” (First Place winner in the oil and acrylic category), by Erin Wozniak (shown in part 1). A portrait approached through the back door, so to speak, this unusual perspective is sharp and unwavering in its candid poeticism.
Threaded throughout this eclectic show is a healthy dose of modernist as well as postmodernist sensibilities. Some exude a riotous, cabaret theatricality, as in Isaac Stanley’s endearingly silly “Vainglorious Spectacle” (Honorable Mention in the oil and acrylic category) showing two llamas in party garb, and a very funky “Self Portrait” assemblage by Robert Gallik (Honorable Mention in the mixed media category). The funk factor is similarly at work in Gary Howes’ scruffy wood sculpture of a naked male ping pong player splayed out in mid-slam, called “Ping Pong Passion – A Tale Of The Table Tennis Tally Whacker.” And “Sea Worthy” by Mitchell S. Murphy is a wildly ornate, fantastical mixed media sculpture of a boat that looks like it came from the mind of Willy Wonka.
Bold-faced parody and appropriation are alive and well in Linda Faulkner’s version of Munch’s “The Scream.” Faulkner’s electrified “The Siren” is a kind of Desperate Housewives redux version. And Judi Krew got impressively busy with her animated inventory of art history’s most memorable figures and faces in her “Occupy Art.” Imagine a crowd that includes, among many others, Mona Lisa, Whistler’s Mom, Wyeth’s Christina, Botticelli’s Venus, and a pipe-puffing, bandaged Van Gogh rubbing elbows at a Wall Street demonstration. Among the more solid abstractions are the elegantly composed, dramatic “Austin City Limits” by Wanda Montgomery, and Randall Slaughter’s “Gardening at Night” – both mixed media.
Back to the metaphor thing. There is certainly an ‘easy listening’ element to the show, as expressed in the watercolor entries. No surprises here, though their presence might be considered as traditional respites from tackling some of the relatively more discordant contemporary works.
Of those, “It Flew Away In The Granite Sky” by Annette Yoho Feltes is particularly enigmatic and visceral. As much a relief sculpture as it is a ‘picture,’ it’s an awkward if not dreary work – a sad song at once strangely childlike and almost savage in its eerie suggestion of lost innocence. It’s the intriguing bits of refined cacophony like this one that keep the show truly engaging, honest, and above the ordinary.
Photo, courtesy The Little Art Gallery: detail from “Waiting” – mixed media by Janet Baran