Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Larson Gallery's Metamorphosis exhibition

The current exhibition at Larson Gallery in Yakima (on the Yakima Valley Community College campus) is amazing. I don't generally write about exhibitions that don't involve me or my students, unless maybe they involve a lot of clay, but this show is worth highlighting.

The show features four artists whose work I simply love. I never pass up an opportunity to see Renee Adams' work and even made a point of visiting her studio in Thorp when she was on the Ellensburg artist tour thing a few years back. I own work by both Kristen Michael (Kaiten) and Justin Gibbens. And I recently had the pleasure of sitting in a gallery for six hours with work by Scott Mayberry.

All four of these artists reward viewers who spend a long time with the work. Six hours wasn't enough time at CORE Gallery and I've only gotten to spend a couple of hours at Larson Gallery for this show. Metamorphosis is packed with art and each piece in the show is packed with visual stimulation.

Kaiten's work is by turns funny and heart-wrenching. My reaction to her triptych, "Waiting" was physical; my stomach dropped and my heart ached. The small piece is powerful and surprising. And I continued to react strongly to it the next two times I walked by the work. Her "Fruit of the Anti-Spirit" series is witty and fun. I actually laughed out loud at two of them. Luckilly most of my students had already moved on.

I am having my students write about one piece in the gallery--their choice--for their first art history writing assignment. The class is Ancient & Medieval Art History, so they aren't making direct connections between the work and their class content, but they are writing about materials, composition, subject, symbolism and cultural context. I think the works offer a lot of variety in the first four areas and it will be interesting to see what the students have to say about the context of these works, especially when viewed together in this show.

All four artist mixed media in interesting ways. Quite a few of Mayberry's paintings include sculptural elements and even the flat paintings include references to other media. Gibbens has several sculptural works, including some specimen creatures in the back of the gallery, one of which seems to be an exotic chimera of a giraffe and a bug. The construction of these pieces reminds me of some of Adams' sculptural forms.

I have always loved Renee Adams' use of mixed media. When I first saw her work, I thought it was mostly ceramic, but she confidently switches back and forth between polymer or epoxy clay, found materials, fabric and paint. Her work, more that anyone else's, makes me yearn to be in my own home studio, making work and trying to achieve some of the fascinating, graceful, suggestive shapes that show up in her work time after time.

Go see this show.

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