For students attending Southwestern College, the inner lives of their professors may seem like a hazy, abstract thought, hidden behind a veil of indifference and marker ink. SWC’s art professors, however, had an opportunity to express themselves, their feelings and their experiences at the Spring 2015 Art Faculty Exhibition.
This year’s show was extremely varied and at times even escaped the conventions of material art, exploring and linking the world of distance and scale, between the organic and the synthetic.
“Pages from the Book of Souls” by Lisa Venditelli Karmel is a visceral piece assembled from mixed media and sausage casings, stretched and dried to create something that resembles thick sheets of what could be parchment or dried human skin. Inside the sausage casings are shoe soles made from photos, from printed material, sometimes daubed with paint. Its theme is to make a testament to the oft forgotten and ignored abuses of the Catholic Church for grievances that will never see the air of day, let alone justice. Trapped in their prison of flesh and memory, Karmel’s piece is hard to look at, but compelling at the same time in its visceral brutality.
A photographic print by Shane Anderson, “Rio #83 (Mast Park) 2015,” is at first bewildering. A strip of dirt and garbage, in what seems like an abandoned building illuminated by the golden light of day. It seemed to float in the air until viewers realize that what holds it aloft is the serenity of the water surrounding it.
“Little by Little” by John Chwekun, a SWC professor of art, is the exhibit’s most unassuming piece and its most precious. From a distance, it seems like a solitary white shelf projecting from the wall. Closer up, however, a small landscape of tiny structures crafted out of porcelain and glass reveals itself in polygonal shapes and tangled curlicues whose delicate nature incites fear, of somehow damaging them, of blowing them away with the lightest exhalation. The piece’s strength is its lightness.
“Window,” by Bekka Walker, seems from a distance like a pair of metal blinds set up in a light-box. It becomes apparent, however, that it is a print through which the light shines. There are visible, organic shapes behind the blinds, in skin-like tones that bewilder the viewer, who tries to piece together what lies behind. One steps back to better understand the image, and the illusion of the blinds persists.
“Four Moons of Jupiter” pierces the space of the gallery. A photograph on the wall shows the artist Spence Rabin and friends tinkering with a large rocket in the night, shrouded in incandescent light and smoke, hammers in hand, sunglasses covering their inexpressive faces as they engage their solemn task. In front of the print a telescope is directed towards a monitor on the opposite side of the gallery space. When one peers into the eyepiece, the image on a monitor is revealed: a tiny image of Jupiter, its moons in parallel. “Four Moons of Jupiter” is playful and cleverly turns the viewer into an active participant in this astronautic farce. They gaze into the telescope, but just as the figures are not truly laboring away on a rocket, the viewer is not truly gazing up at the moons of Jupiter. But just as the real moons of Jupiter are hidden without the telescope, so is the ghostly reproduction at the other end of the gallery.
Dominating a wall is the first part of “Dragons,” a giant painting of a Komodo dragon. The other half of the piece is an installation of two life-sized sculptures, again of Komodo dragons, carved from wood to crawl on the floor, or to gaze at a diamond-shaped lamp whose glow barely lights up the dark room it is in.
These pieces that truly distinguished themselves among the sculptural works are “Hissenherse” by George Essex and “Mother’s Lap” by Bernadette Mingos. “Hissenherse” is a two-sculpture set, crafted of ceramic and wood on sand that seems to writhe with a terrible sensuality. Both sculptures are covered with what appear to be dozens of ceramic pieces, none of them alike. In one, they radiate from a crevice like a depraved sunflower, evoking organic forms and colors that contrast the raw bark that supports this flower of evil. The other thrusts up like a phallus from its pedestal, dripping with glaze and clay in pallid green shades.
“Mother’s Lap” is a throne. Upon it sits allusions to a past only the artist knows. It is a large, regal chair encrusted with shards of blue and white ceramic, making the chair shine as the light hits the different facets ceramic. Yet hanging off the corner of the chair a brassiere, one which would have been limp and sad were it not also covered in blue and white porcelain, as were a pair of slippers set in front of the chair, implying a personal moment, where the brassiere and slippers have been cast off and crystallized into an undying mosaic. The piece is aesthetically beautiful and beckons to be sat upon. But like intruding on a personal conversation, the viewer will always be foreign to the cool ceramic touch of this forlorn throne.
Beautiful art sometimes leaves more unsaid than stated, and the art of SWC’s faculty shows the unspoken soul of SWC. An artist is an artist, no matter how they earn a living.