Monday, September 19, 2011

Piggyback @ C. Emerson Fine Arts

C. Emerson Fine Arts

Piggyback is a collaborative art exhibit on display at C. Emerson Fine Arts, one of the longest-running gallery spaces in St. Petersburg.

Shown are: Thought Coalition, Chalet Comelias, Lee Ann Davis, Matt Deterior, W. Hutton, Sonya McAllister, Danny Olda, Jason Snyder and Carrie Vail.

On the left, the booth-like installation "Piggyback", a collaboration between three Thought Coalition members. A mixed-media installation
Thought Coalition "Piggyback" installation
made of fabric, wood, glass, sand, clay & leather, bell. A narrow red carpet, which tapers as it recedes from the upright part leads the viewer into the work.

Inside awaits a revelatory experience, an encounter with the chimerical figure on the right, a golden-horned (rat-like?) white creature with a red fabric wrapped around its base, the whole thing sitting on what looked like a patterned case. The whole thing sat on a pedestal. It is easy to see in the flashed photo, but to the naked eye, the effect was much more nebulous and difficult to make out. The light "leaks" in the walls around the chamber are the lighting. A mysterious experience that changes as your eyes adjust to the dark.

Gregory Norbert Dirr, "Broken Frame"

"Broken Frame" is a mixed-media work of acrylic, ink, collage and wood. The frame is literally and conceptually broken, raising tensions between the lower and upper halves. Dirr is also playing with the dichotomy between the abstract and the figurative, to a slightly lesser degree than with the frame. Note the abstracted figure (head) on the lower right, and the insect-looking thing above it. Besides the textural and conceptual play in this, the colors, carefully phrased into subtly graduated hues are beautifully integrated with the composition. The yellows in the lower right look "framed", but those at the top are free and tenuous.

Thought Coalition, "Bon Appetit, Now We May Eat"

A medium-sized tableaux, about four ft. long of a house interior, complete with guests looking like cartoon characters and a certain purple dinosaur sitting at a table. One is "dining" with his plate on a hassock. Their nourishment are the stuff of crafters, stones, wire, etc. and a candy cane. This piece explores the definition of, and pokes fun at, the heart of the home experience, reminding us of how stylized and somewhat absurd it is, though it is all our own, and the site of some of our fondest memories. Note the artwork on the walls. One is a rather barren landscape, the other what appears to be ducks in a pond.

Yanuari Irasema Navarro, "Cigarette case"

Back side
Yanuari Navarro's "Cigarette Case" plays the duality of utility in the aesthetic object in this energized, lyrically beautiful case. It is as much a reliquiary of Nature and Memory as anything else one might put into it. One could carry this around and set it up as a portable artwork wherever one happens to be. Physically, it is graphite, canvas, metal, the remains of a dragonfly, lampshade and much more than the sum of its parts.

Matt Deterior, "Ingredients for Redirection"

Matt also did the purple "King" in the PBR @ Cafe Hey show reviewed recently in these pages. Both works are very much in the Tribal style. The finger-painted background interacts with the foreground figures in the manner of an implied contextual social field similar to the hand prints in cave paintings. There are three figures here. Starting from the viewer's left, an outlined two-dimensional man whose head is framed by what looks like a screen. We can see his burned-out vacant stare (reflection?) in it. In the middle is a small skeleton. Is it smiling? Petit Morte, literally and figuratively. On the right is a three-dimensional figure appearing to be walking. It wears an anxious grin, and has tribal markings on his face. The redirection here seems toward the World.

Carrie Vail, "Good Sense, 1,2,3"

Three panels consisting of acrylic, spray paint, and transfers on found prints. This trio of prints of Victorian era women in various social situations is underscored by a darker story with feminist concerns overlaying them about a woman who died from a sharp part of a corset piercing her heart. A tragic thing, and a metaphor regarding the effect of the The tension between the apparent and what lies beneath transforms these images within us.figurative strictures of the time.

View of right-most panel from above.

Chalet Comellas, "For Better or Worse".

Chalet Comellas' "For Better or Worse" is a 1950's book originally on marriage and divorce that has been altered with ink, blacked-out portions of text and Victorian imagery to reveal a very different story, an apparently personal one about an affair. The red ribbon is unbound, but curls around a bottle holding a metaphorical essence, whose label was disappointingly literal.

W. Hutton, "Lights Out"

A found (mass produced) painting of one of the most cliche' subjects -- the bearded sea captain is reworked  via acrylic black dots on a white background into a new object. The dots are on one half of the framed image, and exit right  onto the wall. Note the pattern created by the dots on the painting. There's volume there, curiously reminiscent of a half-uterine form. Looking at the dots is like reading clouds. They go on an off-leash excursion onto the wall in a pattern somewhat suggestive of the West Coast of Florida, but far from exact. Go see it and form your own conclusions. I believe this is W. Hutton's local debut. I can't wait to see more. 

Lee Ann Davies, "Buy and Sell"

 A beautifully executed mostly deadpan portrait of a woman done in pastels on flocked paper by Lee Ann Davies. She is wearing a gold heart pendant and on her lapel, a Peter Frampton button. She stares intently out at the viewer, looking disappointed, jaded, unhappy, disenchanted, and on the verge of overtly sad. Life hasn't been what she thought it might have been.

She is outside her time.

Jason Snyder, "Victorian Portrait, 1 & 2"

There was a lot of modified Victoriana in this show. Jason Snyder had two works in oval frames of Ladies, which he had altered via hand-coloring. Note the usual glazed Stepford   automaton look of the figure, and that in contrast to her dress and propriety, in her hand is a bright red dildo which matches her dress and hair (!) that she seems to be offering.  The tensions and irony between the permissible and the suppressed are palpable in this work. 

Sonya McAlister, "Grey's Anatomy"

Sonya McAlister's work is like a hologram. The work, while whole and an entity unto itself, is also a matrix for the ephemeral part of the work, the shadowplay cast by it. These shadows are as conceptually, visually and metaphorically substantive as the material paper and plexiglass work. They are not incidental, but carefully conceived, constructed, and seamlessly integrated with their physical aspects. These works require attention with the lighting, and in this gallery, they are lit to perfection. Unusual, daring, and reasonably priced work.

Anyone interested in acquiring any of these works can do so by going here [Link].

Gallery owner and curator Lori Johns brought in Mine Canary, an extraordinarily gifted and original musical duet composed of Kristen Bellomo and Lester Grassley III for the opening. They hail from Sarasota. This was their first performance in St. Petersburg, and a memorable one. You can see  a video of them at the gallery here: [Link].

Congratulations to all the artists, Mine Canary, CEFA and Lori Johns for a diverse and engaging show.

Treat yourself and go see this one.

--- Luis


  1. Lovely write up Luis! I love what you had to say about the piece by W. Hutton-- "like reading the clouds"- Perfect analogy!
    Thank You!

  2. Great meeting you at the opening, Luis. It seems like my other posts did not go through to you.

    Here is the link to Luna Parc that I mentioned:

    Keep in touch, MD