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Fear Less 

Timely exhibit at the Bridge Gallery

When the artists at the Bridge Gallery heard the news about the recent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, they reconsidered the propriety of going ahead with the Fear exhibition which had been scheduled months ago. "There was a whole series of e-mails discussing it," said Bridge member Deena Bennett, "but eventually we decided to go forward."

It would have been a shame for the gallery to have scrapped the plan, not only because the show has some very nice pieces in it, but also because the theme of addressing one's own fears is more timely after the events of September 11. "I think it's an artist's job to comment on social happenings," Bennett said.

The show is also noteworthy because it contains compelling work from several artists who have not been household names in the Colorado Springs art community.

One of those is acrylic and mixed-media artist Sarah Stevens. The pieces contributed by Stevens make their statement less overtly than many of the other works in the show, walking a fine line between beauty and social commentary.

Two of Steven's works are untitled; one a collage of acrylic, highly textured fabric and what appears to be melted candle wax. In addition, there are applications of a clear resin--like material as well as a number of found objects interspersed around the roughhewn pine frame. The piece represents the show's most direct commentary on the events of September 11 with a newspaper caption about the World Trade Center running up the right side. A key from "Room 241," ostensibly from one of the towers, is partially obscured by melted materials in the lower corner, referring perhaps to the emotional process of sorting through the detritus of life in the rubble of fallen buildings.

Another of Steven's works, "Fractured," is a tree- or explosion-like form made up of fabric and red acrylic swirls that partly cover a collage of old report cards, road maps and family photographs. Again Steven's theme seems to be an examination of the ease with which traumatic events can transform life into memory and debris.

Melanie Audet's piece, "Do Unto Others," fits more into the category of unrestrained social commentary. Made up of swaths of rawhide held together with sewing needles and what looks like human hair, the piece gives a visceral and disturbing feeling while commenting on the inhuman side of humanity.

Bridge veteran Kim Sayers-Newlin has a number of affecting works in the show including a white paper-mch figurative piece that addresses the fears that enter into a decision to take one's life. "Afraid of Tomorrow" contains an arm with a knife plunged into the figure's chest and a riveting stream of red blood. Next to the piece are a suicide hotline number and advice: "Suicide is a permanent solution to what is usually a temporary problem."

Deena Bennett, following a thread she has pursued in the past, has a pair of mixed-media pieces commenting on feminist concerns. In "American Woman," a clay face with its mouth sewn, although not shut, emerges from a pottery vessel full of spent coals and ash. The male counterpart, "Reality Emerging," is made up of a disfigured face pushing up through a chunk of sod. Dead grass seen though the open eyes and mouth creates a contrast that gives a certain life to the piece. Together, the works clearly indicate Bennett's frustration with the relative positions and sensibilities of American men and women.

Overall, the show is a nice combination of works with a relevant message and pieces that can be enjoyed for their intrinsic appeal. The show does a good job of examining the positive side of something negative, providing a cathartic experience for those who take time out to see it.

-- Dave Rootes

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