Monday, May 21, 2012

A Malone Melange

A Malone Melange
By Tom Wachunas

    While there’s no specific theme to the eclectic group show currently showing at the McFadden Gallery in Malone University’s Johnson Center, there is a unifying element among the five featured artists. Three are Malone Fine Arts program alumni, and two are Malone Fine Arts undergraduates. In a short statement accompanying the show, curator Rick Huggett (whose work is included in the exhibit) wants viewers to have some fun guessing which artists are the grads and which are the undergrads.

     I’ll never tell. And for those not acquainted with the artists, it wouldn’t necessarily be obvious in the looking. Along with Huggett’s pieces – some seen before, some new -  there are works by Heather Bullach, Amanda Gaumer, Emily Mills, and Angela Welch. All of the participants, ‘students’ or not, offer substantially engaging visual and conceptual experiences.
    Hopefully some of you might recall past ARTWACH commentaries on the work of Rick Huggett, as well as Heather Bullach. If not, there’s always Google. And Amanda Gaumer has here provided just enough of a teaser with her strongly accomplished ceramic vessels to make me want to see more. Likewise, it’s the arresting works by Emily Mills and Angela Welch that cause me to regard these two painters somewhat like diamonds in the rough and on the verge of sparkling futures.

    In some ways, the landscapes by Emily Mills demonstrate a painterly understanding of color and form that gives them the look of Monet/Cezanne hybrids (though her gutsy “Garden” brings to mind Thomas Kinkade on steroids). In some of them, she brings an intriguing dimensionality and tactile magic by attaching shiny colored wires to the surface, tracing the contours of the land forms. But it’s her ambitious and large oil, “Remnants,” that is most remarkable. This work is a marvelous interior anatomy of a cavernous, abandoned factory or warehouse, replete with earthen tones subtly illuminated by the diffuse daylight pouring through the white windows deep in the background. The contrasting angles and textures of upright pillars, ceiling girders, and planked ceiling make for a stunning, intricate perspective on linear rhythms.

    Angela Welch is more abstract in her pictorial language. She’s clearly fond of natural, organic structures and energies, and paints them with a calligraphic fluidity that brings an emotional intensity to her “scenes.”  Her “Deep Roots Cultivate Morals” is an intriguing visual counterpoint to Mills’ “Remnants,” equal in scale and, for all of its relatively eccentric, even decorative content, every bit as compelling in its own right.

    Here’s hoping both these young painters make their way on to the larger local exhibition scene soon, and with increasing regularity. They’re ready.

    Photos: Top -  “Deep Roots Cultivate Morals” by Angela Welch / “Remnants” by Emily Mills

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