Juror’s Statement NNAC 2013
James R. Pace
The pleasure of serving as juror for the 2013 Northern National has been in no small part due to the efficiency and graceful communication of Katy Ralph, Director of the Nicolet College Art Gallery. Congratulations to her and to all those who have made this exhibition such a long-standing success.
Without exception, the artists who submitted work deserve our praise, encouragement and, respect for having the discipline to pursue their work and their willingness to share their efforts with us. Artists understand that intention is often different than interpretation: the audience participates in what the artist presents, sometimes revealing alternative perspectives. This symbiotic relationship between artist and audience continues the creative process and should be seen as necessary for both artist and audience. So, let us enjoy the ride.
We see in this exhibition a diversity of aesthetic intent, process, and material. There is elegant sophistication, gritty evidence of individual struggle, funky inventiveness, courageous commentary, and personal confession. There is pathos that reveals one of the finest human attributes, empathy. We witness facility earned through disciplined study; poetic formalism, effortless and beautiful; and intellectual investigation…but most of all, we witness individual’s search for truth.
Look at Zebell’s “Missing Cy”, Hunter’s “Laying Lain”, Eldmann’s “The Descent.” All utilize long, horizontal forms that suggest acquiescence, yet each work provides revelation through the smallest of spaces… peaking through blinds or using splinters of text or image, these slivers of information are metaphors for truth found in the details.
Lamenting loss is found numerous times in the exhibition, as in Walton’s “Goldfinch…” where a dead bird superimposed over poetic text contextualizes the sorrow. There is hopefulness in Nelson’s “Revivalism,” which portrays a lifeless bird hovering above the heavy rock pile, signifying the dominance of memory over the temporal. Then there is the gorgeous “Unseen Elegance” which completes the trio, capturing the bird as it should be, alive, in motion, full of grace. As the blessing says, “It is hard to sing of oneness when our world is not complete, when those who once brought wholeness to our life have gone, and naught but memory can fill the emptiness their passing leaves behind.”
So, we build back from loss. We add, combine, and create new hybrids that offer us language so we can come to understand. The collage/mixed media works of Plotner and Courtright are striking examples. We see stacked, overlapped, and wedged elements merge into a statement of compartmentalization, influence, and poetic variation. Searching for more than simply an aesthetic invention, these artists construct a new reality of human veracity. Related are the geometric works “Colorform ”, “Borderline”, and “Citizens United”, which exist on an essential, systematic level measuring their way into our psyche and ordering our universe.
Excavation can help us discover historical truth. Scraping away, ripping open, or surgically excising levels of experience remind us of the lessons we’ve learned. As seen in Grosskurth’s “Let the Pieces Fall Where they may”, Pearson’s “Grand Marais Harbor... Croyle’s “Root 4…” these artists make us feel the tear, the burn, and the bruise earned by searching.
We have long endeavored to capture the sublime through sensitivity, presence, and steadfastness. Oliphant’s “Transcending” quietly emits a sense of poignancy, like soft rain in the early morning. Ghuge’s “Vibrations of Dreams” exists in a similar oeuvre, where the connection of artist and action coalesce into a spiritual experience than can be discovered even in the most commonplace material. Resonating pathos and elegance and providing an invitation to intimacy, Sharon Feather’s fissured, bleached “Skull” is not science, but a poetic dirge, making us miss the horse we never knew. Harvey’s tandem sheep, “Sisters” seem like polar opposites, yet in directional agreement, this work could be a metaphor for a cultural solution, suggesting that it is possible to find agreement amidst the diversity.
Truth is often equated with a sense of beauty. A lissome elegance and dignified grace in Wunsch’s “Winter Yellow Barn” and Ebel’s “Deceptive Beauty”, transport us into a place of quiet supremacy. These works are masterful accomplishments. But it is the artist’s capacity for patience, waiting to capture the light, affirming the now, that inspires us to stay present.
The places we build often reveal our ambitions. Exhorting a powerful physiological response, the works of Derozier and Spencer present architectural spaces that exude strength. Reminding us of a modern version of a Chartres nave, or a 20th century Temple of Hera, these places are the epitome of power. Our architecture can also convey a sense of emptiness as in Vander Velde’s, “Migrant Sheds”, raising questions of transiency and desolation. The stoic image of Fleischhacker’s “Citadel” portrays a sacred entrance radiating a quiet fortitude, as one may find through faith.
Nature plays a dominant role in many of these artist’s lives-- they observe, document, respond to its cycles, they dance with it, exist in it. We see artists responding to the movement in time and space, as in Pettengill’s “Cookie Cutter Falls”, and artists who discover personal rhythms as in Sutton’s “Convolution” and Taves’ “The Grass…” One can find nature through process…the physics of life. Gravity pulls paint, abrasion erases the present and reveals the past, the alternating pressure of her hand on the paper, or the ripping of that paper, all reveal the paradigm of our natural world…we choose to find meaning in it.
Artists offer us ways of understanding the human condition. Through their efforts, and our interpretations, we reminisce about what was, we take solace in shared experiences of what is, and elevate our hopes of what can be.