SPSCC 2023 Art Faculty and Staff Exhibition Through September

by Lynette Charters Serembe

Sean Barnes “Rabbit ll” Charcoal, tar and ink, on cotton rag paper. 30 X 42.75”

The exhibition is beautiful, well executed, well presented, and thought-provoking with a variety of disciplines on display. Being created by educators, the show has underlying messages.

Gallery Director Sean Barnes’s works are monochromatic abstracted landscapes created from found objects, Gamsol, ink and charcoal, which creates a rich deep iridescent texture. He said he likes to “push his materials to the point of failure” then revive them, like the landscapes his work represents, there is a constant process of breaking down and rebuilding. His paintings are layered, entangled and disorienting, he says they reflect our fragmented and disjointed relationship with the natural world. They are a response to the landscapes of his childhood in southeast Missouri, contrasting to moving to Alaska as an adult where the effects of climate change were more obvious.

The Medusa Project researched by Melissa Meade, PhD, and illustrated by Liza Brenner, MFA, explores the alphabet of words used to describe womanhood. That they managed to come up with a whole alphabet is both surprising and yet sadly not at all. The two words on display in the gallery are “E is for Enchantress” and “Z is for Zoomer”. Brenner also has a much larger piece on display “Cosmos and The Great Gulch” which looks like a great landscape of crumpled bedding with a faery-light constellation and lamp suns. There are representations of childlike figures implying serious and busy mischief. The composition reads like a disjointed cubist dance reminiscent of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase … but with no nude. Being large, it makes you feel like you can jump in and join in the fun.

Liza Brenner “Cosmos and The Great Gulch” Oil on panel. 9 X 5′

Joe Batt’s playful Hares series has had us amused for a long time and Batt keeps it fresh, intriguing, and charming. His delightful ceramic sculptures are fired and colored with pencils. They are like 3D book illustrations. His animals are sometimes anthropomorphized, sometimes not, often with a little tension or drama and with an open narrative. Batt’s digital mixed media collages also contain an open narrative but are edgier in style. The images are textured and layered using Batt’s sketches and photographs, worked with colored pencils and watercolor, and are mounted on wooden board. They are fluid and dynamic and have a pop-up book sensibility.

Joe Batt “Data Obsession” Digital collage and mixed media. 13 X 17”

John Brooks’s large ceramic piece is shaped like a huge acorn. It is textured and decorative in appearance but on perusal you can see the story of a friendship contained in its imagery. It begins at the bottom and winds its way to the top in a spiral fashion, working its way up to the clouds. His smaller ceramic birds’ nests are representative of a sense of home and life cycle. They are humble and subdued in color, but they sparkle intensely like fine jewelry.

Bruce Thompson has a collection of hand-made objects arranged almost like a domestic scene. There is a small, cute ceramic hand-formed pig, you can still see the impressions of the artists’ hands, a beautiful, elegant midcentury-style lamp, and there is a linoleum print on the wall surrounded with a handmade ceramic frame; the print depicts a cityscape, a small suggestion of a much bigger world out there. His work is serene and quiet, reflecting reliable comfort in a domestic setting.

Steven Davis photographs people from correctional facilities or working in community projects. He seeks to provide honor and visibility to under-represented folk in our immediate communities. “Men In Suits” are portraits of men from the Washington Correctional Center. They are dressed for an interview; they are ready for new beginnings. You can see the hopefulness and optimism in their eyes, it is quite enlightening; you feel that you are in the same room with these men sitting on the other side of the long desk. You find yourself hoping they can make good from their efforts; you want them to succeed in life.  Next to them are the portraits from the Union Gospel Mission in downtown Olympia. Portraits of people who have stories to tell. We don’t know their stories, but we do know they are making a better world. Davis’s photographs provide them all with a platform in art galleries where they would not otherwise be visible.

Crisha Santis Progression 2. Clay, metal, cheesecloth, and casting slip. 30 X 10 X 10″

Crisha Yantis’ surreal ceramic sculptures explore the human condition. Anxieties and uncertainties are expressed by missing or bandaged limbs, their bodies are pillow-like in shape, two of them are upside down. They are stitched and embellished with designs, and colored with soft pastel, and occasional gold glaze. In contrast to the simplified body shapes, the faces are disturbingly detailed and bring us sharply back into reality, confronting us with our own physical existence.

Edgar Smith employs a traditional naïve story-telling painting style to focus on issues such as the relationship we as humans have with the natural world and its resources, and who holds the power in our modern world. His oil paintings are small-but-mighty, brightly colored gems that employ satirical humor to observe and hold to account our glaring societal faults. They speak loudly with a clear voice, and much old-world style and charm.

Edgar Smith “Attempting an Escape from Jeffrey’s Island” Oil on panel. 12 X 12″

Written and directed by Michael Gray, the short film “Loss of Mt Rainier” runs for approximately 12 minutes. This film is loosely based on Edgar Allen Poe’s “Loss Of Breath” which satirizes sensationalistic fiction of his time. Parodying modern-day sensationalism, Gray’s film explores one man’s anxieties and pressures as a social media star, to comedic almost cartoon-like effect. The story has many twists and turns and is lively both visually and in content. It is skillfully executed by both cast and crew. There are many recognizable talents in the cast if you’re familiar with the local theatre production companies. It’s a fun rollercoaster of a drama, buckle up.

Photos by Lynette Charters Serembe.

SPSCC Art Faculty and Staff Exhibition

Leonor R. Fuller Gallery at SPSCC
Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts
2011 Mottman Road SW
Olympia, WA 98512

Runs through September. Closing Reception 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept 29,
Gallery summer hours: Monday – Thursday, noon to 6 p.m.

Free admission


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