Saturday, April 18, 2009

REVIEW: "Rebirth" at Burlington CCV's Cherry Pit Gallery

by Marc Awodey

There aren’t very many basement galleries in Burlington, or anywhere in Vermont for that matter, but one of the Community College Of Vermont exhibition spaces is both below ground, and paradoxically rich with natural light. It’s an atrium space mostly, and the sun pours down from a glass ceiling a few stories above the gallery. With its entrance on the Cherry Street side of Borders bookstore, the exhibit area has been christened Cherry Pit Gallery. It’s one of the three gallery spaces run by CCV in Burlington. All are ably curated by artist Karen Geiger. For this spring Cherry Pit Gallery has a group exhibition entitled “Rebirth.” It’s a show featuring many of the CCV instructors, and a select group of area artists.

Photographer Ann Barlow’s silver gelatin print Emergence directly addresses the theme of the show. It seems to present a female model uncurling her spine in the late stage of emerging from somewhere, as if she had been coiled up in a ball and is now standing. But that’s simply an assumption of the narrative. What make the image most interesting is Barlow’s linear composition. The negative space around figure’s left arm creates triangles that brace the form like girders under a bridge. The back is a broad, dark mass topped with the small forms of vertebrae, fingers and the model’s top knot which become a focal point.

Clay Feet by Sharon Webster is a whimsical installation of literal clay feet tramping up the side of a shoe hanger. “For me - these feet of clay are useful metaphors for struggle, desire, and aspiration” wrote Webster in an artists statement. The feet are like casts of Bigfoot feet. Webster sculpted the feet out of what seems like the joy of working with the plasticity of the medium. Imperfections and textures give them an organic feel.

The 2009 mixed media painting by Maggie Standley, called Blown Away-Poof! is a melange of hues and brush strokes which meld together to become a strong piece of nonobjective abstraction. A word is scrawled across the painting - does it say “fluence?” It’s hard to tell. Incorporating words with paintings can be problematic, in that, while trying to decipher the text one might overlook the considerable painterly aspects of the piece. Standley's variation of value - adding white to her hues, to fine tune complex chromatic harmonies, should be subject enough without an ambiguous bit of text.

The largest piece in the show is Pin The Crime On The Donkey, by the artist known as Mr. Masterpiece - the moniker is a whole story in itself to be left for another review - and that piece too contains text. In the case of Pin The Tail... the text is so stylized that it’s purely a design element. Mr. Masterpiece is one of the Burlington area’s strongest painters and his hard edged geometric stye is as distinctive as it is well painted.
In her curator’s statement, Geiger wrote: “The purpose of this show was to find a varied group of creative individuals and ask them, what is your concept of rebirth?” Even though few, if any, of the pieces in The Rebirth Show were created to address Geiger’s specific question, the exhibition’s eclecticism reflects the diversity of her artists' answers. “Rebirth” is apparently a very complicated word.