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Prominent artist explores freedom with Tibetan wheel

click to enlarge Seek enlightenment at Nicking the Never through April - 12 at CCs Coburn Gallery.
  • Seek enlightenment at Nicking the Never through April 12 at CCs Coburn Gallery.

Nationally known for her work in many disciplines, Marina Zurkow has seen her exhibits appear at the Sundance Film Festival and the Brooklyn Museum, and on MTV and PBS. But she's aware that her "magic realism on steroids," as she calls it, may appear controversial or confusing to some.

Take Nicking the Never, a multi-screened video installation based on the Tibetan Wheel of Existence. In this exhibit opening this week at Colorado College, the protagonist takes a cyclical journey around the realms, or emotional barriers (need, jealousy, complacency, aggression, desire, ego and stasis) of the Wheel on a journey to enlightenment.

"The Wheel of Existence is a visual teaching tool that originated in seventh-century Tibet," Zurkow explains. "There are several tiers of iconography at play on the Wheel, although I only dealt with the six realms and the hub."

Further explanation leads to something a little more revealing about the Wheel, which was originally created as a large tapestry hung to display Buddhist teachings.

"It suited the central theme of stuckness while also being liberating," she says. "Once you stop assuming an ending, or an exit, you simply begin to be."

The main character in this installation is a young girl, who Zurkow explains "is a bit of a tabula rasa ... inoffensive, not much personality ... a quiet, innocent exterior with a rich interior life that becomes apparent in her actions. A girl in an animated cartoon is something many people can relate to. You expect something very sweet and sugary from all this, and that's not exactly what you get."

Although the character in this piece never reaches ultimate enlightenment, Zurkow explains that her goal was to show movement. "There is no outcome, no happy ending. [The protagonist] doesn't appear to learn anything. She just keeps moving around."

Zurkow says she gets her inspiration from many sources, "including painting, underground comics, graphic design and pop culture cartoons." When describing Nicking the Never, Zurkow explains that it was the Tibetan Wheel's "comic book structure" that served as inspiration.

"This sort of narrative contains examples of exaggerated fates, and a clear visual instruction set with which to remember mental and moral instruction. There are many similarities between comics and religious graphic instruction."

Zurkow continues to expand artistic horizons through the context of her work.

"I have been thinking about how to get my own cinematic works off a traditional axis, and how to bring cartoons into a more immersive environment to literally extend cartoons into space as spatial configurations," she says.

Again bringing it all back to laymen's terms, Zurkow says what she does is "primarily about a way to play."

Nicking the Never

CC's Coburn Gallery at the Worner Center, 902 N. Cascade Ave.

Opening reception Thursday, Feb. 22, 4:30 p.m.; exhibition runs through April 12.

Call 227-8263 for more, or visit theideaspace.com.

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