Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sapience @ C. Emerson Fine Arts

Sapience, the theme and title of the current show at C. Emerson Fine Arts (CEFA) gallery, means wisdom/intelligence. Consequently, wisdom means "...the ability of an organism or entity to act with appropriate judgment. Judgment is a mental faculty which is a component of intelligence or alternatively may be considered an additional faculty, apart from intelligence, with its own properties." Wisdom, like intelligence, is a process or journey, not a discrete state or destination.

There are six artists in this show (in alphabetical order): Kyan Bishop, Neverne Covington, Francesco Lo Castro, Sally Mankus,  Kim Radatz, and Mara Rivet.

When one enters the gallery, the first thing one sees is a work by Kim Radatz, a studio artist who lives in Tampa Florida and Lewiston, Minnesota. She is the artist who had a memorable piece in CEFA's  bicycle show titled "Melanie (Some People Say I Done Alright for a Girl)" which you can see here. In Sapience, Ms. Radatz exhibits a ghostly white paper boat  buoyed up by a small crystalline mound of rock salt around its perimeter. She describes the salt as that "... from shedded tears, both happy and sad, that keep the vessel buoyant for the journey ahead.". Written over every bit of the boat are the words "Wishful Thinking". The interior of the boat is filled with small origami-like paper fortune tellers, the kind children play with. It should be noted that photographing a white object is difficult, and the picture provided doesn't do it justice. In person, the whole thing glows. To take a three-dimensional work like this in, I make it a practice to walk 360 degrees around it to acquire a fuller, holographic image of the piece.

There is no ferryman, nor oar locks or oars on this conceptual boat. It doesn't need any. The waters it crosses are inside us, and the power that drives it is written all over it. It ferries scores of fortune tellers, each having within it a plurality of potential fortunes, not just one. The words, fortune tellers, boat, salt, the entire gestalt of it key into one's personal experience, unlock and release intense thoughts, memories and feelings, and suddenly you realize where this boat is taking you.

Kyan Bishop is a Korean-born, Minnesota-raised artist who has worked in many media. Some of her ceramics installations are wall-sized, but in Sapience, her works consist of personal narrative, organic-looking, complex, folded ceramic planes lying on bamboo shelves. She refers to these as poetic-emotional landscapes. What gives these a real twist are the small arched mirrors bordering on the bamboo shelves at the bottom, on the walls behind each work, reflecting the other side of the work to viewers. This apparently simple device amps up the complexity of these works considerably. It raises questions about these landscapes being read forwards and backwards and reversed. One thing we soon learn is that the forms are not symmetrically commutative. I read in a recent New Scientist magazine that understanding mirror images is one of the signs of intelligence.

"Minerva", by Francesco lo Castro, compete with God-beams emanating from her forehead and temporal areas (reminiscent of her birth?), and Ben-Day dots gathering into sheer radiant whiteness around her face, is a multi-media work on wood. The image wraps around the edge of the work in a rainbow. The Goddess looks up in an apparently fervent & ecstatic moment.  Minerva had many avatars, each presiding over one of her many aspects, though here she is represented in a singular manner. She was the Roman Goddess of commerce, poetry, weaving, crafts, medicine, magic, inventor of music, and Goddess of wisdom. She is sometimes shown with an owl for that reason.

Sally Mankus' work is on distressed, burnt-looking, rusty metal surfaces, some of them on serving-tray like forms. One has an image of two hands on them. Older hands, in an imploring gesture. Asking the viewer a question. My answer was compassion and empathy. Other Mankus pieces have female figures that are neither in or on the metal, but emerging from or disappearing into it. In one half of a diptych, a woman looks doubtful and /or lost. In the other, an older version looks more relaxed, confident and knowing.

Raw, passionate drawings on collaged, wrinkled with topographic map intensity pieces of paper with text on them. Mara Rivet's complex pieces are a combination of unbridled, and simultaneously controlled emotion and intelligence at different levels. A heart lies bare, superimposed on the text, its familiar, intimate form seizing our attention. But viewers should take the time and energy to immerse themselves into the work. The text is not mere background or purely formal context. It is an integral part of her work. Being in pieces of paper, it is more like hypertext than linear text.

"Sapience" is a theme one might initially think too broad or diffuse, but Lori Johns has curated  a show with a multiplicity of incisive approaches to it.

"Sapience" will be up through Nov. 13, according to the CEFA site, but I've heard that it may run longer. C.Emerson Fine Arts
909 Central Avenue
Saint Petersburg, Florida
  Hours: Tuesday - Friday 11-4, Sat 11-5 (be aware that the gallery will be closed this friday, Oct. 15th)

--- Luis

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your insightful post, Luis. You have expressed Wishful Thinking in a beautiful, articulate way. Lovely. And thank you again. Kim