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Failure & Success in XV, The MAC's
15th Anniversary Member Show
Rita Barnard Coming to Crossroads mixed media 2009
Monumental in its details, Rita Barnard's piece for The MAC's Fifteenth Anniversary Members show in August 2009 was much less monumental viewed at distance. The gray tiles behind the buttons, accented by those buttons, spells a shadowy "XV" with the buttons playing only a tiny cameo role. Up close they are magnificent in varying textures, circles and size, and that's probably the level the artist dealt most with it.
Rita Barnard Coming to Crossroads mixed media 2009
At a distance, however, the view is disappointing. It says what it says, but that's not much. In others of her work — see her member page from the link above for examples — the details become the piece, so this must have been a disappointment, late in the hurried deadline game, when she may have realized this one didn't work like she'd hoped. Amazing up close. Not so, away.
Lynn Kelly Puzzle of Fifteen Bird Sections acrylic on canvas
Another piece that early attracted my attention — probably because of the bright colors (The bird part obviously was never convincingly realized, and it could have helped.) I briefly enjoyed the electric juxtapositions of color and jointed and disjointed sections that mostly just annoy me now. I was also appreciative that, unlike most of the work in this show, this one actually hewed to the theme, albeit slavishly — although I've never had any great affection for the stupid theme.
I keep imagining the board — the very DARE Board I was a founding member of fifteen years ago — sitting around in an bourgeoisie committee ruminating up the blandest possible themes for a birthday celebration. As if no one there had a whit of imagination. At least they are mostly doing what we'd hoped they'd be doing fifteen years on.
XV, indeed, and Roman Numerals are so chic now.
Donna Page Pool Room acrylic
Another piece that caught early attentions was this small painting. Again it's the colors and shapes in this contrived three-dimensional box that attract. Unfortunately, its complexified though simplistic homage to Magritte, whose own work manifested a sense of spirituality, cosmic humor and unity, is missing in this busy little canvas.
Too many ideas, colors, shapes and textures compete for our attention. There's an attempt at a depth and breadth of notions, but nothing holds them together, and closer scrutiny does not reward our need for originality or humor in this claustrophobic cacophony.
Paul Covington 15 Toes mixed media
The craft of this elegant piece is a little rough around the joins to its PVC fuselage, but despite its patently non-human, tripodal form, we immediately know who and what it's supposed to be — us, despite the obvious deformity. Even if we're not lilly white.
We instantly buy into this truncated form, each of whose fifteen digits is highlighted in vivid red against uniform flesh white, so we can't miss what there's 15 of here. Thanks to its oddness, instant recognition and bright red dots, this deceptively simple piece is easily absorbed and memorable.
Mary Benedicto Phallus Shurzz
Here's another of this mostly timid show's biggest winners. Glorious brave in vivid, Day-Glo colors and naughty, rubbery, phallus-enhancing French Tickler shapes, this standing chandelier comprises the show's crown jewels. That there may be 15 of something in this piece always intended to stand off-kilter — not hung straight — in no way detracts, and the lime green chandelier is just brilliant.
Its colors are intense, the toy-like shapes fascinating, despite its overt sexual intentions. I just had to sproing the wiggly mollusk in the middle, and its other dimensions are worth pondering. "Fifteen of anything," the show's call for artists invited.
Gabriel Dawe Pain Series No. 15: Teenage Angst pins and ribbons
photo by Anna Palmer
Almost as obvious in its portrayal of pain as the shurzz are in their perpetration of pleasure, yet with a deeper, subtler and probably unintended receptive innuendo, Gabriel Dawe's Pain Series: Teenage Angst is one of the show's several homages to Quinceañera, the rite of passage for fifteen-year-old Latinas. A petite pink crown, opens to reveal thorns — pins here, manifesting the painful transition from child to woman.
Kelly Heather Trials of Life II ceramic and fabric
Another soft rite is Kelly Heather's Trials of Life II. As an insulin-shooting diabetic I identify with medicine in long, thin, cruciform containers whose numbers dance together on their stems (early in the morning or when I've lost my glasses again). Pillow as presentation is farther affield, but it has drama and the soft, cold truth of a diabetic coma. This is art that asks without filling in the answers.
David Dreyer Hunting Moon oil on canvas
I keep coming back to this one. I've counted it innumerable times for fifteen of something, almost refusing to give up that idiot notion. This is a beautiful painting by a talented sculptor whose 3-D work is a lot like the lines in this lush painting while being mostly different. I like looking at it and into its lush forms past the lines, feeling its primitive colors, dark textures and the contrast of line and shape.
David Lindsay Still Life with Studio Assistant oil on wood
Here's a piece whose complexity has much to do with its ultimate failure. It's an ambitious attempt to show three-dimensionality in what is essentially curving concentric planar surfaces, refusing to tip into the full dimensionality of sculpture. I like that the artist tried, and that noble ambition trumps adherence to a theme, although there could well be fifteen of something in this loose spheric presentation.
Maureen Brouillette Super Midway mixed media
I am less sure what drew — draws — me to this multi-media collage of State Fair shapes. I love the pieces and photograph them again every year, so I identify into the subthematic images, and who doesn't love a looping crayon tying things together, or those vivid colors and the big texture wheel? I was drawn in. I'd give it extra points for entirely ignoring the theme, but like a ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl there's nothing in there to hold me more than a few gaudy seconds.
Sharon Neel Bagley 5 Going on 15 digital photograph
image courtesy Sharon Neel Bagley
Without knowing or caring who she is, why she is arrayed in those intense colors, in antique lace seated on a tuffet, I find this digital photograph one of the strongest pieces in this strange show of 170 disparate pieces.
I was struck by this image from the moment I saw it, reminding me of the stark, sharp color contrast of an early Art Kane, one of my photo heroes. This child's defiant stare seems more mature than five or fifteen. Her flyaway hair adds to the wordless statement.
Sharon told the story of its making at Gail Sachson's entertaining but literalist pick of her favorite 15 from the XV show, including both ours. But how this image was produced is different from what it means or is. And that's different for every viewer.
I see a defiant child. A unified and visually exciting composition careful with color and texture, yet radiant with fierce humanity. Everything about it adds to that impression. The only flaw, if it is one, is the child's left hand, lost in the lace. The photograph holds my attention. It says in my mind.
See also my reviews of
War & Peace, the 2007 Member Show, XViii;
2006 - The Trinity;
Self-portraits in 2002; and
W in 2001
Contents of this site are Copyright 2008 or before by publisher J R Compton.
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