By Tom Wachunas
“…I like these pieces to have their own mystery, an unknown quality that makes them familiar, perhaps, not recognized. Whether seen as individuals or part of a group, a system, I think of these pieces as part of a larger environment.” - Beth Lindenberger –
“…My central theme considers science as a neutral or neutralizing structure; a kind of blank metaphor which allows me to let things be in the work…” - Jack McWhorter -
EXHIBITION: Gathering Signals, work by Jack McWhorter and Beth Lindenberger, at The Little Art Gallery, 185 N. Main St., North Canton. (330) 499 – 4712, Ext. 312, THROUGH SEPTEMBER 23.
Throughout at least the past several years, a typical format for mounting two-person shows at The Little Art Gallery has been to join an artist who works in two dimensions with one who is a 3D “craft” artist, usually in either jewelry or ceramics. In such shows, while there has often been a sincere curatorial attempt to present works in disparate media as somehow thematically connected or unified, actually seeing such connections can just as often be a perceptual stretch for the viewer.
But in this particularly tantalizing exhibit, curator Elizabeth Blakemore has clearly articulated an appreciation of the similar conceptual and thematic elements that inform the works of the two artists she has paired: painter Jack McWhorter and ceramic sculptor Beth Lindenberger. As Blakemore observes in the gallery brochure for the show, both artists share an intense interest in hybridized and morphed natural or scientific structures as metaphors for seeing the known world in an expanded way. “Gathering signals, rather than specific objects,” she writes, “opens up the potential to re-think how they [the artists] see or know a familiar object in nature and give it another kind of physical presence.”
The physical look of Beth Lindenberger’s small clay objects is derived from the natural world of pods and seeds. Elegant and precise in their workmanship, they have at once all the authentic presence of laboratory specimens or museum fossils and the subtle intrigue of things exotic, strange or even alien. But don’t take that description to imply cold lifelessness.
True to her statement for the show, Lindenberger’s objects successfully transcend their specific visual references to “familiar” natural forms by effectively suggesting associations with (and certainly celebrations of) growth, regeneration, or mutation. In that sense, they can be viewed either as singularly engrossing episodes or, collectively, as chapters in a larger continuum of processes through time – symbols of pure potential in an evolving narrative of change.
That same sense of transient forms and/or temporal processes is very much alive in the oil paintings on canvas and paper by Jack McWhorter. On a cognitive level, the basic substance of his paintings in this exhibit is fairly consistent with the work presented in his 2010 one-man show at Malone University. For those of you wanting a helpful reminder, here’s the link to that review: http://artwach.blogspot.com/2010/02/molecularities-and-other-quarknesses.html . This is not to say there haven’t been some striking developments since then.
Particularly notable in that way are the newer (2012) paintings on paper. Here, McWhorter’s lively palette employs relatively more daring combinations of hues further enhanced by heightened translucency and luminosity. He has become ever more attuned to the nuanced freedom of gestural mark-making and engaging, painterly panache that working on paper can so uniquely support. The vivacious brush work seems to let his configurations – a kind of diagrammatic or even calligraphic allusion to botanic and other natural phenomena - emerge with fluid playfulness. Call it a lyrical brio.
Photos: (top –to-bottom) "Standing the Cold" and "Shellfish" - oil on paper by Jack McWhorter / clay piece by Beth Lindenberger