by Alec Clayton
This year’s annual faculty and staff exhibition at South Puget Sound Community College is an eclectic mix of drawing, painting, sculpture and hybrids of those. It is work that is conceptually complex while maintaining aesthetic joy by artists who are more than talented — They are intelligent and in touch with the world in which they live and work.
Liza Brenner and Melissa Meade, as prime examples, show work from their large work in progress, “The Medusa Project.” This ongoing project when complete will be a series of 26 paintings and essays, each set representing a word for each letter of the alphabet with each word being an archetype or slang word for women — responding to the question, “What is woman?”
Although there may be some overlapping, Meade writes the essays and Brenner creates the paintings. The portion of the project on display involves parts of the essays scrolling on a monitor mounted on the wall and a group of a dozen paintings (some actually digital prints) on metal panels. Brenner’s paintings are arranged in blocks, like children’s alphabet blocks, and are painted (and printed) with muted colors and heavy impasto brushstrokes. They look like antique figurines illustrating questions of race, class and sexuality. Reading the wall text is required for full understanding and appreciation.
Sculptor Joe Batt is known for narrative configurations of sculpted and drawn figures in groups that are dystopian, thought-provoking and often humorous. Among other works — a bronze child wearing a cat-ears hat and clutching a huge egg, and a group of four mixed-media drawings including a couple with cute kitties, one with fish images, and a drawing of the old Greyhound bus station — Batt presents a small tableau of stoneware figures titled “Congregation.” It appears the figures were created individually or in small groups and then arranged for this exhibition into a narrative of a teacher or preacher standing at a lectern talking to a rather inattentive audience. No small part of the fascination of this piece is speculating about what the speaker is talking about and what’s on the mind of his audience.
Nicole Gugliotti is showing three separate works. “Family Dinner” is a large set of ceramic dinnerware laid out on a round table as if ready for dinner. “Pusher Downers” consists of glass jars stuffed with shredded purple and green paper representing cabbage. Finally, there are three decorative wall-hanging ceramics entitled “Things That Should Not Need to Be Said (But Clearly Do),” porcelain, underglaze, glaze raku and soda firing techniques. The things that should not need to be said are: “No Body is Disposable,” “Being Fat is Fine,” and Wear Your Mask.”
From across the gallery, Seonju Townsend’s portraits “Jac” and “Sally” look astonishingly like faces painted by Chuck Close, but seen up close it becomes clear they’re made of heavy globs of paint laid down in a more modernist version of impressionism or pointillism.
Intriguing is Townsend’s double, overlapping faces “Eyes Away,” which, like the two portraits, looks like one thing (a line drawing) from a distance but up-close turns out to be something astonishingly different (thread strung from nails).
Other line drawings, by Sean Barnes, are figures created from a meandering line in the classical contour-drawing exercise of not lifting the pen and not looking at the page. Hands and legs are drawn accurately and beautifully, while other parts of the body become unreadable abstract forms, the abstract and the realist melding into one another.
Finally, one of the more powerful images in the gallery is actually three digital photos on metal, “Ice Hammer,” “Ice C Clamp” and “Ice Hatchet,” that read as a single work of art. They’re stark images of tools in black, white and purple that form the letters T, G and I.
Also showing are Colleen Gallagher, Jane Stone and Bruce Thompson. This is an exhibition that should be seen and slowly absorbed.
The Leonor R Fuller Gallery, South Puget Sound Community College,
Noon to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday, through Sept. 24;
Closing reception 6-7:30 p.m., Sept. 24