of nature: Alexander Halakans Ocean Wave.
By David Brickman
Fulton Street Gallery,
through Nov. 9
artists who straddle the line between representation and abstraction
are paired in a pleasing, if insufficiently challenging show
at Troy’s Fulton Street Gallery.
Elements features paintings by Alexander Halakan and sculptures
by Jacqueline Wayne. Halakan is not a young man, but he is
quite new to making and showing art; and Wayne, having received
a BFA at New Paltz around 20 years ago, has just returned
to exhibiting after taking a long time-out to raise a child.
Both artists show signs of freshness (or naiveté) in this
major-exhibition debut, but both are also confident in their
craft and, unlike most neophytes, fairly clear in terms of
direction. Both share a number of characteristics: limited
palette, organic forms, modest scale, and a new-age flavor
to the work.
Halakan paints primarily in pastels, though a few of his works
feature gouache or oils. The dominant color is blue, and the
subject matter is either water or the sky in semiabstraction.
A number of pieces appear to have been made in series, and
they are successful in playing off each other and building
on a theme.
One grouping near the beginning of the show places four 5-by-5-inch
pastels together. These studies of waves bear somewhat mystical-sounding
titles: Revelation, Appraisal of Calm, Suspended
Absence. But they are really just explorations in color,
movement and atmosphere, with water as a jumping-off point.
Halakan works small—only a handful of his paintings are as
big as 11 inches by 14 inches—and his pieces at their best
draw the viewer in to examine the velvety texture of the pastels
and the subtle changes in color. A few seem content to celebrate
that color and atmosphere, as with Purple Haze and
an untitled (actually, unlabeled) small pastel hanging in
the window of the gallery.
The above-mentioned pastel and a few others in the show are
drawn from landscape imagery and use the sky as a playground.
The pieces titled Behold My Soul and Relief of Solitude
make more of the possibilities presented by the subject than
do many of Halakan’s water paintings.
One of the best of the water paintings, Ocean Wave,
is also perhaps the most realistic. By cropping the image
tightly, and keeping its rendering of the force of the water
accurate rather than expressive, Halakan achieves the sort
of transformation only hinted at in many of the other works.
Wayne, who shows works in porcelain and glass, is the more
technically accomplished of the pair. Her series of large
vessel-like forms called Earth Born required a mastery
of ceramic technique to make and provide a good, if somewhat
limited, example of theme and variation. They combine delicate
folds with truncated, rounded shapes to evoke feminine attitude
A similar piece, titled Mother, adds melted glass to
the folds, putting an ornamental or decorative patina onto
areas of the matte-finish porcelain. All the pieces are a
very pale shade of beige that reads white.
Two other related series in Wayne’s selection use the female
form explicitly and repetitively, in both ceramic and glass.
In the porcelain set, a couple of wall-hung reliefs incorporate
an inch-high abstraction of a torso, cropped at the chest
and thighs. Another piece, titled Drink Me, places
the same figurines around the base and bowl of a chalice filled
with water, and one called Contemplate sets a spiral
of them into a little Zen garden of sand.
There is playfulness and exploration here, but I’m afraid
I don’t really get the message. It strikes me as vaguely feminist,
drawn perhaps from the famous Venus of Willendorf figurine
with her exaggerated breasts and hips and minimized head and
limbs, but it’s unclear whether this is celebration, rebellion
In glass relief, Wayne’s figures grow in scale to about a
foot high, but are transparent and lack the full-rounded solidity
of the little ceramic shapes. Here, the female form, now cropped
at the neck (hence, with breasts), is presented in a more
The most ambitious piece in the show, Circle, features
six of these glass torsos grouped facing outward around the
rim of a curious stool-shaped ceramic pedestal. Stonehenge-like,
they face down the viewer and the world beyond, yet their
vulnerability is also on display: fragile and see-through,
with very delicate edges.
Another larger-scale piece by Wayne plays with contrast in
form. Landscape of Life is a wall-hung grid of 20 small,
square ceramic boxes. Each contains a flattened fold of clay,
some with glass melted into the folds. The piece’s meaning
becomes clear as the free-flowing folds are hemmed in by the
hard edges of the boxes, making a wry comment on life and
its compromises, while at the same time celebrating the variety
of each unique little composition in the grid.
Another wall-hung piece by Wayne features a fragment of a
smiling self-portrait in ceramic relief surrounded by numerous
scale-like chips of clay sewn to a cloth support, similar
in construction to early Medieval armor. The clay pieces all
bear an image of a pot or a female torso, seemingly illustrating
the artist’s happiness at being once again immersed in her
Many these days are encouraged by the motto “Follow your bliss,”
and it appears that Wayne and Halakan are among them. But
their newness and optimism worries me. The waters of the art
world are so often filled with sharks that the survival of
playful, delicate souls is always in doubt. Time will tell
if these two have what it takes.