ART REVIEW by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS
It is rare when a work of art balances commentary and beauty. It is rarer still when an exhibition with works by nine different artists in a variety of media and styles manages to attain that level of balance between the conceptual and the aesthetic.
Such is the feat accomplished in the current faculty and staff exhibition at South Puget Sound Community College, starting with Nicole Gugliotti’s intriguing ceramic sculptures.
Gugliotti’s “Things That Should Not Have To Be Said” is a grouping of eight plate-like wall-hanging ceramics with rugged looking abstract forms and printed words such as “Prejudice + Power=Racism,” “Sex and Abortion are Alright” and “Believe Survivors” — statements that, as the title clearly states, should not have to be said; graphic reminders to do the right thing.
“The Weight of Privilege Game,” made in collaboration between Gugliotti and North Carolina artist Mac McCusker, is an artistic representation of a game that can’t be played. There are balance scales in white ceramics with stones that have words describing identity printed on them, such as “Able Bodied,” “White,” “U. S. Citizen” and “Male.” The object of the game is for the player to place all that apply to them on the scales to see how much privilege they experience. One does not have to actually play the game to get the message.
The message in Bruce Thompson’s “Understanding Fear,” ceramic with underglaze and walnut, may be interpreted variously, a more likely reading being sexual imagery. There are round pink flesh-like forms penetrated by walnut spears. It is reminiscent of works by the German surrealist Hans Bellmer.
Edgar Smith’s “Devil’s Sandbox” and “Lucifer’s Beach” are small and incredibly detailed landscapes picturing beaches littered with discarded wood and other debris.
A most powerful painting is Sean Barne’s “Prodigal Son,” and oil on canvas and mixed media triptych in tones of brown and yellow with heavily encrusted wood and cloth and other materials. The central form looks like a massive tree trunk or perhaps a seated figure in a cave entrance. The texture and color bring to mind paintings by Alberto Burri and Anselm Kiefer.
Joe Batt shows a drawing in charcoal and mixed media on canvas paper with figures cut to shape and mounted on the wall which is part of his ongoing series on the fantasy “In the Cloud World” in which digital media has taken control of the world. The imagery is simultaneously comical and frightening.
Daniel Meuse’s “Ozette Archaeologies” is a painting created from woven strips of paper mounted on a door painted white. At a cursory glance, it is purely abstract, but closer reflection reveals it to be a representation of old rotting wood, perhaps sideboards on an old building, with vegetation growing out of cracks in the wood.
Other artists represented in this exhibition are Liza Brenner, Colleen Gallagher and Lisa Mellinger. Their creations pull from a variety of inspirations and media, and the display features paintings, woven photographs, and clay works, including Gugliotti’s ceramics game “The Weight of Privilege.”
Faculty and Staff Exhibition
Noon to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday through Sept. 27,
Closing reception 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27
Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts Gallery,
2011 Mottman Rd. SW. Olympia