by Alec Clayton
The latest artexhibition at Browsers Bookshop is DIALOGIC: Works on Paper by Evan Horback and Cecily Schmidt. Accordintg to the Oxford English Dictionary, “dialogic” means “relating to or in the form of dialogue.” That discribes this show in many ways. There are dialogues between the two artists and between the elments within individual works of art. Both artists’ works are surrealistic in the original meaning of the term, which invlves a juxtaposition of or dialogue between disparate images or ideas.
It is not a large show in terms of the space, number or size of the pieces displayed, but it is large in concept. The pictures fill the stairwell and two small walls upstairs in the bookshop. Wall labels list titles and media but do not identify which artist created which works. For viewers familiar with either of these artist’s works, however, they are easy to differentiate: Horback’s work is in the stairwell, and Schmidt’s is upstairs.
Horback is well known for his enigmatic collages, which have often been shown locally. Schmidt is new to this reviewer and possibly to Olympia art lovers.
Horback said, “In a dialogic approach, all parties are integral to the conversation, and all parties take an active role in finding meaning together. Post-COVID, there have been numerous ongoing conversations amidst (sic) artists and the local community investigating the vitality of the arts in Olympia. The city has several seismic initiatives on its horizons that could significantly bolster the arts community. This includes the Inspire Olympia! Cultural Heritage Fund, the acquisition and redesign of the Armory Building: Creative Campus as well as a new strategic plan to designate downtown as a Creative Arts District. This exhibition is two artists sharing their own, initial conversations about being committed to artmaking, exploring the role of place amidst uncertainty, and their unique pursuit to weave greater relevance into the future of arts education.”
Both artists teach art at Olympia’s Avanti High School. “At Avanti,” said Horback, “we value great art and exploration, but we also see this in relationship to teaching compassion, responsibility and resiliency. We believe that all these considerations are at the core of our works on paper, and we’re pooling our hopes together to dialogue about how to invest in an inclusive artistic and inspired future.”
Horback’s works are collages on found paper and book covers. There are a number of works from a series featuring a falling man. The man tumbling through space is a cutout paper figure: flat, no features, no shading. Some are a solid color, others patterned. In some the figure is negative as if excised from the surface. They beg the question: Who is this person, and why has he/she/them been slung into space? One of the more interesting of the falling figure pieces is “The Outer Limits of Flux,” mixed media on charred found papers.
There is also one with two falling figures who seem to be dancing in space.
Two other works feature side-by-side images like pages of an open book with, in one, “Baselines + Triangulations 2.0,” the figure of a running athlete filling the left-hand “page” and geometric schematics of some kind of structure floating in outer space filling the right-hand “page.” In the other, “Baselines + Triangulations 3.0,” diagonal marks like a meteor shower fill one half, while a similar geometric form fills the other.
These pictures are much larger in concept than their actual size.
Schmidt’s paintings in mixed media and collage are abstract landscapes, not so strange as Horback’s collages but still mysterious. She creates scenes that are almost familiar but magical, such as “Brought to Light,” a large, mixed-media painting of rolling hills and bright sunlight with birds strategically placed like watchers over the landscape. The sun seems to be rising, not in the sky but between mountain ranges. Schmidt’s works are just as enigmatic as Horback’s, but lighter and peaceful whereas his can have an ominous feeling.
Schmidt said of her work: “Much like a dialogue is an exchange of ideas that can go on indefinitely without a predetermined end point, the process of making a mixed-media piece is all about the way the materials speak to each other, and what becomes obscured or revealed along the way. As an artist and an educator, I am drawn to the mystery of the unknown or hidden truths that are gradually brought to light throughout the process of making, teaching and learning. These are the kinds of creative endeavors that foster deep learning — the kind that help us understand ourselves and how we inhabit the worlds around us.”
DIALOGIC : Works on Paper by Evan Horback and Cecily Schmidt
11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mondays – Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sundays through September
Browsers Bookshop, 107 Capitol Way N, Olympia