It has been my honor to serve as the 2013 Juror for the 45th Annual VAST National Exhibition. A special acknowledgement must go to Lynne Cox, who organized the review process with expert skill and graceful accommodation.
Presuming insight into artist’s intentions can be a dangerous endeavor. The audience is granted an opportunity to interpret, compare, and comment. Reviewing the submitted works, I was reminded of the multifarious intentions artists embrace. This exhibition reveals diverse motivations based on social commentary, personal introspection, as well as pure aesthetic investigation. Identifying these varied motivations allows us to live in the artist’s world, see their work within the intended context, and more fully recognize the potency of their efforts.
Visual art has a long and storied history as a dynamic tool for change through socio-political commentary. This exhibition includes examples that admirably perform this role. Cloaked in comical imagery that belies the serious topic, Pendulum, by Richard M. Ash III, presents us with a penetrating criticism of the financial investment industry. Similarly, Market Management by Margi Weir, surreptitiously lures us in, (in this case with a beautiful, tapestry-like pattern), and then explodes our presumptions with commentary on the fickle financial markets.
Visual art is rarely sequestered to only one endeavor. Loneliness and despair are quietly communicated in Anthony Lazorko’s Snow @ Eat-Rite and in Elsa Vasquez’s Loosing Myself. These artists combine issues of social responsibility with personal introspection. Featuring haunting imagery verging on the sublime, some works favor less over more. Like the understated qualities of “Film Noir,” Tom Judd’s Blue Escape, provides a sense of solitude coalesced with classic design, yielding volumes of narrative possibilities.
Some images are so provocative that our narrative tendencies spiral out of control, as mine did in seeing Ellie Ivanova’s On A Path To A Dream. Like an interspecies pilgrimage, this photograph conjures up references to the early Christian work by Sasseta of The Meeting of St. Anthony and St. Paul. The deserted bicycle serving as metaphor for the abandonment of materialism in favor of foundational values embodied by sacred cattle following the path.
Further exploring the human condition, Craig Vandeman’s Gluttony’s Revenge, utilizes a gilded mousetrap as a representation of the impending physical or moral destruction due to our various vices.
Vince Palacios’s Alchemy Series presents an aludel or Hermetic Vase form that predicts magical transformation as images of scientific and mythological elements collide on the form’s surface. Expertly rendered in a flowing, surreal manner, these images imply mysterious events unfolding in the alchemist’s laboratory.
On the other end of the spectrum, away from cultural narratives, investigations into process-oriented visual provocations are represented. Lauren Colaruotolo’s 4AM, Allison Proulx’s Titillation, Ingrid Scobie’s Dances, and Gail Cope’s Electric Koolaid, present a cascade of pulsating physiological responses...though the subjects are vastly different, they all offer us a field of retinal excitement, formal investigation, and a powerful sensory affect.
Although differing in points of departure, artists may arrive at similar endpoints. Roy Drasites’ Studio Eye and Caryl C. Gordon‘s North Adams are strong process-oriented works that create convincing a structural spaces. Ruth Terrill’s The 11th Hour and Michael Elliott-Smith’s The Botanical Gardens present constructed spaces of disparate locations, creating surreal environments full of analogy and metaphor.
Let us express gratitude to the artists for permitting us into their worlds; for having the discipline and ambition to present us with these conversations; and for encouraging our interpretations. Artists, to you, I wish you the grace to know your work is important and that you will have an ever-expanding curiosity.