Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Teachers make the grade

Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery
283 Washington Ter., Middletown, CT (860) 685-2694
The Faculty Show
Apr. 28—May 27, 2007

The Faculty Show, in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery is precisely as advertised, a showcase for a selection of works by ten studio art instructors at Wesleyan, the first such show in a decade. The exhibited work spans the spectrums from austere abstraction to classic landscape representation, from paintings to sculpture to installation and contemporary/conceptual to, well, classic landscape representation.

Leslie Snipes' two large pencil drawings are meditative and precise. Consisting only of straight lines drawn with a ruler and mechanical pencil, they have echoes of Op Art or the minimalist musical compositions of Philip Glass and Steve Reich. But where the latter musical composers incorporate increments of motion and change in their pieces, the only real variation Snipes plays on her theme is in the pressure of the graphite. It is the purity of intention and the subtle variations of line weight that engage the eye.

A Professor of Art with a 36-year career at Wesleyan, David Schorr is represented by two series, both titled "Goods." One series is comprised of nine studies, executed with gouache and silverpoint on linen, of familiar objects. Perhaps inspired by Andy Warhol's Campbell's soup can, Schorr's illustrations depict butter packages, tuna cans, pasta boxes, 3-In-One household oil and more. His representational skills serve him well here; in addition, he brings a graphic designer's appreciation—one of the subjects he has taught—to his observation of these everyday items. Separately, a slide show, entitled "Goods (Unpackaged)," plays on a video monitor. This is a series of 900-plus digital images shot in India of brightly colored and patterned fabrics, fruits and flowers. It is a consumer society cornucopia colored by that culture's rich traditions.

J. Seeley has taught photography at Wesleyan for over 30 years. Initially strongly resistant to digital imaging—according to his artist statement, he once had a cross made of Kodak Tri-X black and white film "hung over my darkroom door to ward off the digital menace"—he has become a convert. His surreal photo compositions are captured with a flatbed scanner and use of Adobe Photoshop. There is a chilly precision to these images. The allusions are obscure; they seem to hint at a strange 21st century metaphysics. They are also puzzling from a technical standpoint: How does Seeley manage to capture the illusion of depth with a scanner? The technical virtuosity was dazzling and I was left with a desire to know more about both his process and about the meaning of the imagery.

A Visiting Artist in Art and East Asian Studies from Japan, Keiji Shinohara's specialty is in the traditional Japanese woodblock printing style known as Ukiyo-e. But because he is left-handed, he also studied the Sumi-e ink brush painting technique to develop fluidity in the use of his right hand. The works in this show are Sumi-e paintings inspired by his observations of attempts to preserve ancient wall paintings. This "Dragon" series, numbered 1-3, is an interesting mesh of traditional Japanese dragon imagery with fields of mottled earthy abstraction. It is almost as if the dragons are puzzled by this imagery occupying their terrain. Or, perhaps, alarmed. As the abstraction spreads (and the wall crumbles) they are threatened culturally as surely as real exotic animals are threatened by the decline of their habitats.

While on the subject of painting and tradition, it is worth noting the work of both John Frazer and Tula Telfair. Frazer, a Professor Emeritus, is represented in the show by two oil paintings, still lifes of fruits and vegetables hanging by strings. "Eggplant & Tomatoes" and "Leeks, Garlic & Peppers" are gestural studies in contour, surface and light and shadow. I loved the way he captured the rotund gleaming skin of the eggplants. On the other hand, I thought he fell short in his rendering of the ristra of chiles. In the immediacy of the gesture, their essential "pepper"-ness is lost. I thought I was looking at a pinecone until I read the title card.

According to Tula Telfair's artist statement, her works in the show are "my small single-panel paintings." Notwithstanding, these are rather large oil on canvas paintings (5-foot by 5-foot). With their vistas of mountains, waterways snaking through vast expanses of wilderness and high skies host to billowing clouds, they clearly owe a debt to the Romantic tradition. Telfair, in contemporary postmodern tradition, puts some distance between her efforts and their antecedents. The titles—"Early Utopian Ideals," "Modulating Formal Elements" and the like—encourage the viewer to transcend the pure enjoyment of the paintings and rather to meditate on them as part of an ideological construct. The subtle bands of painted color bordering the main image reinforce the artificial nature of the paintings: that they are artifice and not nature. But they look damn good.

Two of the artists in the show incorporate technology to offer visitors an interactive experience. Kate TenEyck looks to the past with her hand-built machines. They were constructed, in part, from found objects from her house and yard, owned by her family going back three generations. "Saw Machine" and "Carousel," with their big wooden wheels and farm implements, recall a rural life where work and culture were connected to the land. "Carousel" is particularly impressive, topped by sun-bleached branches and slim trunks of trees reaching high up toward the gallery ceiling. When a visitor works the mechanisms, the body rotates and the trees, like ghostly tall, thin children, ride up, down and around.

John Slepian offers interactive new media works that are both creepy and cuddly. Using 3-D graphics and interactive computer programming, Slepian created virtual creatures. They look like a cross between an amoeba and a rodent. The three video installations offer three disparate emotional scenarios. "The Kiss," which is not interactive, isolates two critters in separate monitors. The viewer projects their own experiences with separation and longing on these "animals" as we watch them struggle to reach each other, without success. In "Caged," an animal sits in a simulated cage. As the viewer gets closer, the creature hurls itself at the bars, as if attacking. "Pet" is more warm and fuzzy. Touch the image of the creature on the video monitor and it coos or chortles as if being caressed or tickled. On the wall behind "Pet" is a large computer-generated photo that depicts the virtual pet's "natural habitat." It is both totally artificial and completely convincing. In the end, these creations are not about the animals but about our own emotions and our relations with the natural and domesticated world.

Assistant Professor of Art Elijah Huge approaches questions of nature and domestication from a different angle, as an architect. On display are models and digital prints for three site-specific projects, "Intertidal," "Overlace" and "Parkslope." For Huge, traditional architecture's binary approach—built environment here, nature there—is a false construct. His maquettes and illustrations depict landscapes in which the constructed and natural are inter-penetrated.

Of the two mixed media installation works by Jeffrey Schiff, the more playful one is "Vertical Hold." Three large digital prints of the sky are push-pinned high on the white gallery wall. The highest is solid blue. The image to the left has one wispy cloud and the middle and lowest has seven clouds. These clouds appear to be held in place by brackets at the end of long steel rods reaching up and resting against the prints, as though it takes the manufactured works of human beings to hold the clouds aloft. "Mobile Global," which is a prototype for a planned larger piece, appears to be a commentary either on the shifting of tectonic plates or the migration of peoples. Big spools of carpet dispense segments onto rectangular planes astride rolling casters. Gray, blue, patterned tan and two different floral patterns: Cut off from the mother spool, they jostle each other in an increasingly polyglot arrangement.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Kehler Liddell opening this evening

Kehler Liddell Gallery
873 Whalley Ave., New Haven, (203) 389-9555
J.S. Robinson & Josh Gaetjen
May 10—June 10, 2007.
Artists’ reception, Fri., May 11, 5—9 p.m.

The painters J.S. Robinson and Josh Gaetjen will be showing work at Kehler Liddell Gallery in the Westville section of New Haven for the next month. There will be an opening for this show tonight from 5—9 p.m.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Artspace opening this Saturday

50 Orange St, New Haven, (203) 772-2709
101 Dresses
May 9—June 23, 2007
Opening reception: May 12, 5—8 p.m.

Press release

101 Dressess, an exhibition co-curated by Linda Lindroth and Denise Markonish, celebrates fashion in contemporary art. On view will be 101+ examples reflecting ideas of fashion in all media, including painting, sculpture, photography, digital art and narrative text, by a mix of local and national visual artists, fashion designers and collectors. In addition to the exhibition at Artspace, community activities will provide further focus on this subject and its history in New Haven, which was once a major center for garment manufacturing.

101 Dresses also pays tribute to local children's author and West Haven librarian Eleanor Estes (1906—1988), who would have been 101 years old on May 9, the exhibition's opening day. Author of the award-winning Ginger Pye and The Moffats, Estes also wrote The Hundred Dresses (1944), the classic children's book that serves as inspiration for the exhibition. Widely considered a timeless tale of courage, The Hundred Dresses tells the story of Polish immigrant Wanda Petronski and her experiences at her new American school. But Estes' The Hundred Dresses is only one of many examples of narratives relating to—and inspired by—fashion. The wide-ranging art featured in 101 Dresses explores and examines countless others, demonstrating the oft-overlooked ways in which fashion tells stories of its own.

Participating artists include:
Anni Abbi, Allen Art, Nina Bentley, Marianne Bernstein, Kathy Bitetti, Susan Breen, Zoe Brookes, Donnamaria Bruton, Kelsey Byers, Harriet Caldwell, Lisa Costanzo, R. Crumb, Jennifer Davies, Steve DiGiovanni, Nancy Eisenfeld, Valerie Ferus, Joan Fitzsimmons, Roberta Friedman, Joan Gardner, Mario Giacomelli, Stephen Grossman, Marisa Jahn, Maira Kalman, Barbara Kalpatric, kHyal, Lonnie Long, Lady McCready, Charlotte McCurdy, Jane Miller, Barbara Morgan, Andy Mowbray, Alan Neider, Alexis Neider, Yoko Ono, Zac Posen, J. Morgan Puett, Shannon Rankin, Karen Ruenitz, Steve Shada, Karen Shaw, Zoe Sheehan, Jean Shin, Laurie Simmons, Alice Smith, Mimi Smith, Esther Solondz, Christina Spiesel, Studio 5050, Ari Tabei, Rashmi Talpade, Bob Taplin, Joyce Tenneson, Rita Valley, Rachael Vaters-Carr, Maryjean Viano Crowe, Jonathan Waters, Jemma Williams, Aicha Woods, and others.

The public is invited to the exhibition's opening reception on May 12, 5-8 pm. At 6 p.m. there will be performances by Ari Tabei and Rebecca Parker.

ALL Gallery opening Saturday

ALL Arts & Literature Laboratory
Erector Square, 319 Peck St. Building 2, New Haven, (203) 671-5175
May 12—June 17, 2007.
Artists' Reception: Sat., May 12, 5—7 p.m.

Press release

Arts + Literature Laboratory (ALL) is proud to present a juried exhibition of recent work by sixteen national and regional artists: Donna Adams (Shelbyville, IN); Sarah Buckius (Ann Arbor, MI); Carol Kunstadt (New York, NY); Irene Miller (Woodbridge, CT); Howard Oransky (St. Paul, MN); Hester Stinnett (Philadelphia, PA); Kjellgren Alkire (Chandler, AZ); Banjie Getsinger Nicholas (Warren, CT); Dusty Herbig (Syracuse, NY); Nicholas Knight (Long Island City, NY); Tessa McSorley (Gainesville, FL); (Hammond, LA); Sue O'Donnell (Hammond, LA); Lilianne Milgrom (Fairfax, VA); Linda Ohrn-McDaniel (Tallmadge, OH); Jane Rainwater (Andover, CT); Paulette Rosen (Hamden, CT); and Rita Valley (Bridgewater, CT).

Works selected for this exhibition are provocative and tactile in composition and concept, and evoke a palimpsest-like layering of ideas and imagery. The works cross media, including ceramics, printmaking, and photography, to installation.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

• From a distance, text layered in colorful abstract shapes functions as texture in Donna Adams's intaglio Storyboards. Upon closer examination, the viewer is invited to read bits and pieces of her childhood while simultaneously frustrated in the attempt to know the entire story.

• Sarah Buckius's photographs document the action of imprinting upon her skin, signifying the mental internalization process of being an impressionable person. Social psychologists' research suggests that people do conform to the expectations of others, which can lead to changes in behavior and self-image. The artist imprints her skin with commands spoken in the past to suggest that her own past conformity still affects her present self. Using her forehead as a locus recalls the idea of the scarlet letter.

• Carole P. Kunstadt uses a Parish Psalmody dated 1844 in her Sacred Poem Series to evoke an ecumenical or poetic offering while suggesting the power of a sacred spiritual repository. The use of stitching emphasizes the repetition of the lines of the diminutive scale printed text. The discoloration and fragility of the paper allude to the passage of time, as well as the age and history of the reconstructed book pages.

• Nicholas Knight's sentence diagrams, typically found in grammar textbooks, represent the grammatical rules of the English language. Knight has diagrammed quotations mounted directly to the gallery wall in place of the page, showing the relationships that transform words into meanings. He presents the activity of drawing as the graphic visual analysis, intended to teach proper usage - as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself - and an intervention, an act of drawing out: black armatures exposing the entanglements of language.

• Linda Öhrn-McDaniel's tactile garment evokes an emotional and personal relationship for the artist. Her wedding dress uses text in English and Swedish, embroidered inside circles, to tell stories about her childhood memories and proclaim feelings toward her husband-to-be.

• Jane Rainwater's sculptural diagram is a metaphor for the artist's concerns regarding wealth and avarice, to cultural issues. She employs gold in her work for its unique alchemic properties as an element and deep spiritual resonance in the cultural history of the world.
There will be an artists' reception this Sat., May 12, 5—7 p.m.

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 07, 2007

Imagining Cuba

Real Art Ways
56 Arbor St., Hartford, (860) 232-1006
Sabrina Marques: Mi Patria Querida (My Beloved Homeland)
Apr. 19—May 13, 2007

Sabrina Marques, who lives in New Haven, was one of six artists selected for shows in Real Art Ways 2006 Open Call. (See here for info on the 2007 Open Call.) Her work—large oil paintings and a series of small gouache illustrations on paper—are on display in Real Art Ways' Real Room until this Sunday. They are an engaging phantasmagoria, ostensibly on Cuba.

But this is a Cuban landscape of the imagination. Although she has never been there, Marques' family was from Cuba. Since she was young she has absorbed the family stories. According to her artist statement, "Through listening to stories which describe the landscape, politics, music and people, stories that relay histories of fortune and loss, my imagination wanders to try to compose the type of place that Cuba might have been and what it has become." These works depict her Cuba.

Although Marques' artworks "interpret the stories of an aging generation of political dissidents from literary and musical backgrounds," according to the show press release, whatever political commentary they might contain is submerged beneath layers of metaphor and allegory.

These are dreamscapes, inventions cobbled together from family lore and creative play. There is a large element of the fantastic in these works. It is as if Marques has nursed these visions since she first heard the tales as a child. Looking at these works, I imagine her holding them close, turning them over and inside out in summer reveries until she developed the artistic skill-the voice-to capture them in technicolor full bloom.

In the large oil painting "Entre Amigos (Friends Among Us)," two pale green rabbits occupy a jungle fantasyland of oversize flowers, plant tendrils, succulent paddles and multi-colored leaves. While one feasts contentedly on a leaf, the rabbit in the foreground appears startled and about to bolt. "Parlamento (Parliament)" is another forest scene. In it, three green and blue speckled owls roost in a thicket of plants. There is not just rich, verdant greens but also leaves of maroon and purple, blue, orange and gold. These large paintings are marked by a strong use of flat colors. In fact, the way Marques applies the paints they look almost like acrylics rather than oils.

The gouache series are more intimate. Where the paintings use colors boldly, the smaller pieces rely on stippling, dots and line work to convey depth, and tonality. Each small square could be an illustration for a strange children's story. Several are composed out of surreal juxtapositions. For example, in "Aprendiendo (Learning)," a figure that is part owl with human legs stands on a tennis court with a racket in one hand and tennis ball dropping from the other. The strange "Oscuridad (Darkness)" is set in a darkened bathroom. A moon-faced child figure, standing on a floating bathroom mat, holds a teddy bear in one hand and a half-open umbrella in the other.

There is a strong element of folk art in Marques' work, particularly noticeable in the naïve approach to perspective and the figure. But it is clear that this is an aesthetic choice, not a defect in technique. Notwithstanding their genesis in tales born of upheaval and exile, these works have a warmth and engaging optimism.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sunday opening at City Gallery

City Gallery
994 State St., New Haven, (203) 782-2489
both/and: Collaborative Work by Caroline Chandler, Jane Harris & Sheila Kaczmarek
May 6—27, 2007.
Opening reception, Sun., May 6, 2—5 p.m.

Another opening this weekend, on Sunday, at City Gallery on State Street in New Haven. This show will feature collaborative work by three City Gallery members, Caroline Chandler, Jane Harris and Sheila Kaczmarek.

The artists will also be at the gallery on Sun., May 20, to talk about their work.

Real Art Ways Open Call for emerging artists

Real Art Ways
56 Arbor St., Hartford, (860) 232-1006
OPEN CALL for emerging artists
Deadline for submissions, Tues., June 5, 2007

Press release

Six artists will be selected and featured in an emerging artists exhibition series. The series aims to give young and emerging artists from the New England/ New York region the opportunity for a solo exhibition and printed catalogue in Real Art Ways' gallery space. Submissions must be postmarked by Tues., June 5, 2007. For more information, and guidelines for application, please visit our special Go Web page.

One of Real Art Ways' primary goals is to provide opportunities and exposure for emerging artists at critical moments in their careers. For the last four years, Real Art Ways has issued an open call for emerging artists in the New York and New England area to submit work for consideration by a jury to be shown in one of the country's seminal alternative art spaces.

Eligible artists include those living and working in New England or New York who are no more than three years removed from a full-time educational program, or artists with less than five years of exhibition experience. Artists who do not fit either of these criteria, but feel they can make a compelling case to be considered as emerging may also apply; the jury will determine their competitiveness based on review criteria. Artists working in all media are encouraged to apply. Applicants should be aware of Real Art Ways' mission and commitment to innovative, non-traditional contemporary work. Submission guidelines and instructions can be found at

While artists are permitted to propose an exhibition of existing work, the jury will place special emphasis on proposals that call for the creation of new work.

The jury will select work based on: the quality of the artist's work, the innovation evidenced by the submitted work and proposal, the potential impact of the exhibition on the artist's career and the economic and physical feasibility of the proposed exhibition. Artists selected will receive an exhibition of approximately six weeks duration, an exhibition publication, and will be given an opportunity to participate in an artist's talk in conjunction with the exhibit schedule. Projects will be published on Real Art Ways' web site.

Jurors are Marek Bartelik, Author, Art Critic & Art Historian, NY; Jane Philbrick, Artist, CT; Olu Oguibe, Visual Artist, Writer, Scholar, and Curator, CT. He is the Associate Professor of Art and Art History at the University of Connecticut.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

ALVA Gallery opening this Saturday

ALVA Gallery
54 State St., New London, (860) 437-8664
Ana Flores: Cuba Journal
May 5—Jun. 16, 2007.
Opening reception and artist gallery talk: Sat., May 5, 5:30—7:30 p.m.

Press release

Ana Flores fled the island of Cuba with her family as a young girl. She returned for the first time 40 years later, in 2002. Cuba Journal: A Sculptural Installation is the result of that pilgrimage. As an artist, Flores has always been acutely aware of place and environment, but her journey back to Cuba redefined her sense of identity and vision. The resulting sculptural installation she created is multi-layered with political, cultural and personal imagery.

In Cuba Journal, Flores has chosen to convey complex themes such as her own family's exile, Cuba's history and Fidel Castro's dictatorship in a deceivingly simple folk art style that includes sculptural toys, puppets and furniture. All of the work is made out of found and recycled materials as a tribute to the creativity and resourcefulness that she witnessed on the island. The participatory installation reads like a theatrical recreation of the island she left as a child, with text, music and video elements woven in.

Cuba Journal premiered at the University of Rhode Island Fine Arts Gallery in 2004, since then the show has traveled to the Turchin Center for the Arts in Boone, North Carolina and to Gallery 210 in St. Louis, Missouri. With every new site, the artist varies the installation adding or eliminating components in response to the space and community. One thing that does not change is the huge Castro puppet that rules the space just as he rules on the island. When Castro dies, Flores plans to burn the enormous puppet like a giant effigy on a beach. Filming this last chapter will be the final adjustment she makes to Cuba Journal.

The artist was born in Havana Cuba, in 1962. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, a professor of Art and the Environment at Bryant University and Artist in Residence at the Rhode Island Headquarters of U.S. Fish and Wildlife. She is an exhibiting artist with a long history of exhibitions, artist residencies and public art and park projects nationally, in Canada and in New Zealand. She lives in Charlestown, Rhode Island and Livingstone's Cove, Nova Scotia.

There will be an opening reception and gallery talk this Sat., May 5, from 5:30—7:30 p.m.

Labels: , , , ,

Sat. opening at No Regrets Tattoo Studio

No Regrets Tattoo Studio
195 Rubber Ave., Naugatuck, (203) 729-3115
Silas Finch: Idle Hands
May 4—Jun. 5, 2007
Opening reception: Sat., May 4, 7—10 p.m.

I've written about Silas Finch's work a couple of times before (here and here), in connection with his participation in New Haven's City-Wide Open Studios. He creates lively sculptures using found objects scavenged from junkyards.

Idle Hands will be Finch's largest show to date and will include installation works created specifically for this exhibit. It is being hosted by the No Regrets Tattoo Studio. I reviewed a fun show there last fall.

There will be an opening reception for the show this Sat., 7—10 p.m.

Labels: , ,