sort of cityscape: Sharon Bates’ Cluster.
2006 Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region
Art Museum, through Aug. 5
When you live in an area of great physical beauty, is it possible
to make art about anything other than what you see and experience
each day? And does that limit your subject matter to the familiar
barns and horses, fly fishers and farmers? How much can we
expand upon nature? And being steeped in nature, what else
can we see?
The University Art Museum’s 2006 Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson
Region Juried Exhibition speaks to the great draw of the natural
environment and its enduring ability to surprise, and to be
represented in fresh and provocative ways.
The show occupies the two floors of the museum. The first
floor is the less coherent of the two, in part because of
the nature of the space, which is broken by pillars, a stairwell
and adjacent offices. The first floor also provides the only
unbroken floor space for large-scale sculpture, and most of
the three-dimensional work is downstairs.
Studies of nature are both dreamy and hyper-real. Leslie Parke’s
painting Hoar Frost is a dizzying close-up of an ice-encased
tree. Hanging beside it, Jeri Eisenberg’s Loon Lake
offers an impressionistic view to a shadowy lake. While Parke’s
piece cements the moment, Eisenberg’s photograph is transient,
with objects that waiver just beyond comprehension.
Dorene Quinn’s assemblage This Moment uses photographs
printed on vinyl to capture the surface of a body of water
in all its sublime and hypnotic motion. Glass objects hang
down in front of the oscillating backdrop to link the viewer
with the image. The lighting works beautifully here with the
shadow of the vinyl creating waves on the wall beneath the
While not every piece examines nature, many of the nonrepresentational
pieces are derived from natural forms. Lorrie Fredette’s “Pores”
is a tower of repeating, cell-like forms that flop off the
wall, like wilted doilies. The large-scale sculpture, Overturn,
Aimee Tarasek’s assemblage of rolled tarpaper, undulates
in voluptuous waves and churns in tight scrolls.
Similarly, many of the more urbane pieces speak to the failure
of manmade environments. Allen Bryan’s photograph Weather
Report sets an impoverished interior against a ruined
landscape. Linking indoors and out is the image of a weather
report on a television monitor. A second large-scale sculpture,
Parking Lot Perimeters by Richard Garrison, is an encroaching
jigsaw of cut asphalt paper, best viewed from above. Pennie
Brantley’s painting, Protecting Our Inner Selves From Encroachment
(Berlin Greenhouse), has a realistic quality similar to
Parke’s. A wintry view of a brightly lit greenhouse that emanates
little warmth, the painting speaks to the harsh realities
of winter rather than its beauty.
Whatever the approach to nature, what unites the show as a
whole is its muted tone, like a gray winter in the North Country.
This, one must assume, springs from the sensibilities of the
curator, Lilly Wei, a New York City-based art critic and independent
curator. From this somber tone comes a pervading sense of
dislocation and loss, and a reminder of the way these emotions
infuse art with subtle drama. This can be clearly seen in
Diptych, Jim Flosdorf’s incongruous photo collage,
in which the front and back cars of a train are dropped into
an autumn forest of faded reds and oranges. A handful of bystanders
wander about, perplexed, observing. Other details—a gravestone,
the discarded hub of a wheel—lend a sense of dissolution and
There are exceptions to these themes throughout the exhibit.
Culture comes into play in Kawther A. Elmi’s Native Home,
a photograph of domestic clutter with ethnic overtones: a
plastic-covered couch, straw baskets and a laptop float beneath
the stylized picture of a mosque. Peter Iannarelli’s We’re
All in This Together is the only piece in the show where
color takes center stage. A construction of 64 boxes of crayons,
apparently sorted by color and melted, its exuberance stands
out in an otherwise toned-down exhibit.
Other more whimsical pieces include Kathy Greenwood’s But
I’m a Vegetarian, a droll appliqué of serving utensils
on a tablecloth draped over a table. Sharon Bates’ installation
Cluster resembles a familiar yet foreign cityscape,
built from found objects resembling minarets, water towers
and domes. Like all good architecture, the forms seem to speak
both to each other and to the viewer.
The only new media piece is Seth Pompi’s looped videos, Open
and Square, which depend upon oddly primitive techniques
to create grainy objects falling and dissolving on a blank
field. In this way, the videos echo a theme throughout the
exhibit of the transience of objects and the emptiness that
haunts us when faced with the impermanent.
peripheral vision this week-