“Simple Machine,” sculpture by Alair Wells, photo by Gabi Clayton

REVIEW: Faculty Art Show at The Evergreen State College

VISUAL ARTS REVIEW by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS

Based on previous experience, I expected anything but traditional at in an exhibition of work by faculty and staff at The Evergreen State College. I expected political art and identity art and conceptual art, and I was surprised at how much traditional art there was—not that there wasn’t plenty of the other as well. There was quite a variety in style, media and content.

Among the more conceptual art was a selection from, or version of, Anne de Marcken’s Invisible Ink project, now showing at the Feast Art Center in Tacoma. It’s a thought-provoking piece that will hopefully spur some viewers (specifically white viewers) to get involved in helping people of color.

Emily L. R. Adams’s Looking Glass presents a feminist message. It’s a wall of vintage, black-and-white photos of naked women—peep-show shots and pornography circa 1900—mounted on antique dinner trays or plates on a black wooden panel and framed by black-and-white curtains. The metaphor of naked women being served on dinner plates speaks volumes about sexual mores then and now.

Among the more traditional works is a group of small, multiple-plate etchings of women by Lisa Sweet. Sweet is known for painting contemporary subjects in the style of Romanesque or Renaissance frescoes. There is a surrealistic and sometimes comical bent to her paintings, which often skewer the Catholic Church, and her technique is usually flawless. This suite of four etchings is different from what I’ve seen previously from her, in that they’re not so odd and the juxtaposition of diverse images isn’t as obvious. The only thing odd I can see is the women have unusually long necks reminiscent of Modigliani, but more realistic in the smooth blending of colors and the modeling of light and shadow. Her technique is flawless here as usual.

Shaw Osha’s showing a couple of small, acrylic paintings of figures in an indoor setting, entitled S for Soul Train Numbers One and Two. These are expressive, softly brushed paintings in a style like that of the Bay-Area figure painters of the 1950s: Elmer Bischoff, early Richard Diebenkorn and David Park. Her paintings are even more diffuse and lacking in detail than those of the Bay Area painters, and while they are fascinating, they cry out for more detail and contrast. As it is, they seem mushy, unfocused and unfinished.

Michelle Pope’s four mixed-media box constructions are little dioramas like stage sets from an earlier era, with moving parts operated by turning a crank. There are cut-out, painted whales in an ocean of moving waves, a little girl flying a kite, a horse in a desert and sailboats on the sea. They’re cute like toddlers’ toys.

Bob Leverich has also created a diorama; his is much more interesting. It’s a carved, wooden model for a proposed sculptural installation on the grounds of Vashon Island High School: a simple model for curvilinear forms with little, wooden, carved people to give an indication of scale. It’s accompanied by architectural drawings. Envisioning the final product from the model and drawings, I suspect it will be quite an attractive addition to the high school campus.

One of the strongest pieces in the show is Simple Machine, a sculpture of cast iron, forged steel, gold leaf, mirrors and velvet by Alair Wells. It’s a machine that looks like the furnaces at the Museum of Glass only much smaller, about the size of a typical doghouse, on metal legs with some kind of strange rust-colored metal pods hanging by the door. Inside is what looks like a molten figure of some kind, surrounded by shards of mirror. The open door is shaped like the blade of a guillotine ready to drop. Simple Machine was impactful and unforgettable to me, partly because of its rugged quality and partly because it sets up so many possible interpretations.

(This review appears courtesy of The Weekly Volcano.)

What: faculty and staff exhibition

Where: Evergreen Gallery, Library Building,
The Evergreen State College,
2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Olympia

When: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday,
10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday through March 8

How much: free

Learn more: 360-867-5125 | Evergreen Gallery




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