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Small Sculpture in Texas ©1993, 2000 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Creating A Separateness

Some group sculpture shows — even those with fine work — can be so boring. This show in Brookhaven College's gallery has one piece per sculptor, and it qualifies big time.

Each work was curated by a different teacher, so there's no continuity, rhyme or reason. I've seen many shows in the expansive foyer. Some had presence; others filled the space or held their ground. This is mostly just here, with pieces scattered about. There are fine sculptures by Tracy Hicks, Frances Bagley, Nancy Chambers and other local artists, but individually, each tends to get lost.

After perusing everything else, I settled into the far corner of the exhibition, where I could see only Tre Roberts' wall. Tre is a good friend, and I wouldn't be here at all if she hadn't called, asking my opinion of her Masters thesis piece.

A writer and former critic herself, she was careful not to request to I write about it. She just wanted an opinion. I don't feel obligated to write this. But I liked the challenge. Besides, if I'm going to drive forty miles from the inner city to the far north 'burbs, I should at least get a story out of it.


Roberts had worked on this untitled piece for three years. I remember seeing it winding around her back yard like giant laundry three years ago. And again later, as a pile of awkward textures seeking shape. I wanted to finally see it whole.

Curving away from the rest of the work in the show, it creates a separateness where there is only this wall. I settled into a windowseat in the far corner, looked and listened. Several tapes murmured from speakers hidden in the walls of the 6' tall by 20' long, rough textured semi-architectural object. In the background, I heard students chattering, and laughter echoing in the halls.

My ears were intrigued by the slowly separating sounds of a female voice reading oddly gruesome poetry over a pervasive, wild mix of crickets, tiny bells, frogs and other nature-like sounds emanating from within the wall. A male voice listed elusive phrases. Other voices joined then fall away. But I like it best voiceless-free of the low-fi vocal distortion, with only the clear, sharp marsh sounds speaking.

Physically, the wall is a long, rough, parenthesis-shaped arc that reminds me of an old, worn, densely textured and congealed carpet stood on its edge. Enclosing, the wall is like bright red stucco with three black, round top triangular blank entry ways marked on the inside and grays with splotchy pinks on the outside. The triangle blacks on red inside look too much like the mine entrances Roadrunner always gets through and Wiley Coyote always slams into.

The "holes" are on the inside wall. On the outside of the horizontal arch-especially viewed through the clean, sharp, dark angles in the shadows beneath Brookhaven's nearby stairway-looks like walls of an ancient cave. It is a long, rounded grey, silver and charcoal expanse of steel wool and lint textures with barf pink splotches along one end. Binding in- and out-sides of the leading edge, facing the rest of the show, is a tall patch of thick, tree-bark textured dark charcoal-colored paper. Glistening nails hold the tattered patch floating with tiny bits and pieces, making it the most interesting texture of the work, albeit abbreviated and somewhat discontinuous.

Looking up, bits of dark metal screen are visible along the ragged upper edge. Looking down from the adjacent open stairway, I hoped to see more screen, wood frame, other underpinnings and electronics that must be there. Instead, about five inches down from the top edge (invisible from the floor), a black strew of dropcloth looks very much out of place and texture.

I don't think I've ever been so annoyed by the space a work of art occupied. I tried to ignore the wide expanse of bright maroon, orange, blue and green striped rug that clashes violently with the simple color and thick textures of the wall. A giant, dark green cylindrindrical planter just inside the parenthetic wall echoes the wilderness sounds , but in all the light and melange of colors and textures, it's just in the big way.
There's too much light in here, too.

I try to imagine the wall installed in some cool, dark, quiet space, with a dark or neutral floor, dark walls, dramatic yet subdued lighting and no windows -like UTA's gallery. Tre mentioned a remote possibility that it might be shown again, but the piece is large and unwieldy, perhaps less delicate than it looks, but hardly sturdy. And installation would be difficult.

As sound sculpture, it glows. As a physical presence, it establishes itself as a place, creating a remote separateness-a space away and apart from the rest of the too disparate show. With sensitive lighting and compatible environment, it could be an eerie presence.



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