Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Neddy

Annual fellowship competition nominees

Published in the Weekly Volcano, June 18, 2009
Timothy Cross, “Test Beach”, 2007. Ink, watercolor, and Liquid Paper on canvas, 29 x 39 ½ inches. Courtesy of the artist.
April Surgent, “Between the Night and the City”, 2005. Fused and engraved glass, 16 x 23 x 2 1/8 inches. Collection of Jim and Devon Surgent. Photo: Jeff Curtis.

On a scale from one to10 I give a five to the Neddy exhibition at Tacoma Art Museum. If based on how close the selections come to representing the best of the best regional artists, which it purportedly does, then that score drops to about two-point-five.

There is a good variety of work and everything is skillfully done. Two categories of art are represented, painting and glass, and every piece is technically close to perfection. But there is nothing outstanding in terms of originality or profundity, and there are a lot of pieces that are downright silly.

Take Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora C. Mace’s "Still Life With Plumbs" — yes, take it please, right out of the gallery. Big hunkin’ glass apples and plumbs on a giant plate on the floor. How silly can you get?

Or Gary Faigin’s silly surrealism: house on a cliff propped up by two long poles and a stack of pots on top of a waterfall. They’re beautifully painted, but corny.
On the other hand, Timothy Cross’s paintings and the glass sculptures by Sabrina Knowles and Jenny Pohlman are unique and striking images that are haunting and thought provoking. The collaborative glassworks by Knowles and Pohlman remind me a lot of work by William Morris. Especially intriguing is "Memory Unchained." From double drooping chains hang a group of blown glass pods, seeds, beads, nuts, birds, feathers and other assorted totemic objects, all in various tones of reddish brown with occasional green. Cross’s paintings in ink, acrylic and liquid paper evoke a world of machinery going to ruin. "Test Beach" shows an airplane bursting through or being held by wooden scaffolding. The plane is on fire and trailing billows of smoke. Graphically it balances static and flowing forms with precise line drawings and free flowing washes.

The Neddy is an annual selection of regional artists that culminates with fellowships being awarded to two nominees, one in painting and one in another category, which changes year to year (glass this time). Fellowships this year go to April Surgent, glass, and Eric Elliott, painting.

Elliott paints traditional still life and interior scenes in monochromatic oil paint. The objects almost vanish in the roughly textured surfaces. They are ghost-like images or images as seen through heavy fog.

Surgent works with fused and engraved glass creating dark and smoky urban scenes taken from photographs. "Between Night and the City" pictures dark, shadowy figures on a rainy night in the city with haloed street lights.

Lynda Lowe’s "Psi: The Uncertainty Principle," watercolor, oil, wax on panel, is a darkly beautiful image of leaves and scientific and mathematical symbols on long wooden panels. The colors are a deep, burning reddish-orange with dark browns. With a lighter section just left of center and darker sections on each end and the edge of one section overlapping the physical separation of panels, Lowe makes two panels look like three.

Finally, there are some very nice glass pieces by old favorite Benjamin Moore, one done in collaboration with Louis Mueller.

[Tacoma Art Museum, Tuesday–Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Third Thursdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday noon-5 p.m., through Oct. 4, 1701 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma]

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