Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Evergreen State College: "Finish" in the work of art

Visual Arts faculty and staff show their latest

The Weekly Volcano, April 18, 2013

Lisa Sweet - untitled polychrome wood sculpture
Susan Aurand - "Rain House" oil on panel and mixed media assemblage

Works in theme shows often tend to be arbitrary, but when The Evergreen State College puts up a theme show they do it right. They thoroughly, intellectually and aesthetically investigate the theme. The theme of TESC's latest show, featuring works by visual arts faculty and staff, is the idea of finish - when is a work of art finished or to what degree should a work be finished. Another implication is the surface quality or "finish" of a work of art.

Participants were asked to submit artworks and statements on the theme, making their contributions aesthetic, narrative and contemplative. It is an excellent show featuring accomplished and intelligent works. I wish I could acknowledge every piece, but I am limited in space.

Lisa Sweet has long been one of my favorites among TESC art faculty. She paints intelligent, surrealistic and skillful images in a style reminiscent of Northern Renaissance art. In this show she has two small and beautifully painted polychrome wooden sculptures. The most intriguing is that of a headless woman wearing a sumptuous green dress. She is holding her decapitated head in her hands. The surface is smooth and highly polished.

Aisha Harris, a sculptor whom I recently discovered, has done some amazing larger-than-life figures in clay. Her works often investigate ideas of scale. A piece in this show called "All the Tests Didn't Prepare Me for This" is a rather small sculpture depicting a man standing in a doorway carved out of the side of a mountain or cliff. It displays how tiny humankind is in relation to the world we live in. In terms of finish, it mimics raw, unfired clay while being, in fact, glazed and painted. Another piece of hers is a statue of a naked woman standing up in a boat carrying a huge boat-shaped hunk of salt on her shoulders. The salt is real; the figure and boat are clay.

Shaw Osha's "Orb Artifacts" investigates, as many works in this show do, the surface quality or "finish" of a work of art. Eighteen pieces of paper are airbrushed in soft tones of blue, gray and violet and pinned to the wall in square patterns with negative spaces (the "unfinished" parts) where the white wall becomes a part of the pattern. This is a visually strong work.

I particularly like Bob Leverich's "End of the Road," a sculpture on a stand that is a few inches high and a few feet long and consists of three long undulating forms like hills in black gabbro, a basalt-like rock. Each form has sections that are highly polished and look like a winding road that goes from one line of hills to another, tying the parts together in an almost dizzying manner.

Susan Aurand's "Rain House" is typical of work she has recently shown at Childhood's End. It is a little cutaway of a house with a peaked roof that hangs on the wall. The rooms are panels exquisitely painted with oils in brilliant colors, Near the top is a shelf filled with odd little objects such as tiny bottles filled with soil of various colors. Like a combination of a surrealist and realistic landscape painting and a Joseph Cornell assemblage, it is strangely beautiful.

Joe Tougas' "Jacinta Meets Bodhidharma," wood, sand, stone and gold leaf, is a contemplative piece that looks like a small Japanese garden. Seven blades of grass in shimmering gold leaf stand in a circular formation in a bed of sand, which has been molded into radiating patterns. Also in the sand stands a monolithic (relative to scale) rock. It is a meditative piece that represents "finish" to the highest degree.

Among my favorite pieces are two small sculptures by Bruce Thompson with bloated organic shapes painted in mottled glazes of pink, green, tan and gray.

Also showing are works by Judith Baumann, Evan Blackwell, Steve Davis, Lucia Harrison, Don Jensen, Jean Mandeberg, Michelle Pope, Gail Tremblay, and Bob Woods.


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