The 2005 UCCS Art Faculty Biennial Exhibition, which opened last Friday at the Gallery of Contemporary Art, is an unreservedly good thing. Featuring the work of 17 artists, all of whom are full- or part-time instructors at the university, it's a sweet and satisfying show. Sweet, because the art therein displayed is mostly good; satisfying, because so many talented artists work and teach at our very own university.
How talented? Well, let's look at their work.
Photographer Bill Starr is represented by a diverse group of black-and-white figure studies. Starr understands the human body -- the way it moves, the way the skin reflects and absorbs light -- and he knows how to pose his models, mostly unselfconsciously beautiful young men and women, and create calm, luminous portraits.
Carol Dass, always adventurous, fearless and unashamed in her self-portraits (take a look at the full-sized nude cutout of the photographer herself), has taken a great leap backward in time, and created a series of tintypes. First introduced in 1853, tintypes are created by coating a metallic sheet with collodion (a photo-sensitive chemical), and then exposing it. The images thus produced have, to modern eyes, a remote and ancient quality. Dass heightens this feeling by presenting her tintypes in dark, antique frames, and by her choice of subjects -- a dead bird, a chambered nautilus, a dead rabbit. In the 19th century, tintypes were often used to create memorial photographs of the dead, typically within hours of death. True to this tradition, Dass uses this antique medium to produce photographic meditations upon death, transience and time.
Gallery Director Gerry Riggs has selected a handful of his own works, created over the last 30 years. It's an absorbing group, ranging from classical western landscapes to an early video to a lovely nude of a young woman, shot in the early '70s.
Laurel Swab's work continues to strengthen and deepen. Three of her paintings grace the show, all variations on a single, mysterious theme. A young woman, partially clothed, her face shrouded or veiled, is depicted in the foreground of an otherworldly landscape. Swab's work -- aloof, classical, precise -- melds a rococo exuberance with the severe, kitschy formality of an imagined '80s album cover: Metallica goes to Mars, maybe? For sheer technical competence, she gets Best in Show, unless you give it to Sean O'Meallie, whose witty wooden sculptures grow more wondrous every year. O'Meallie's tour de force, a perfect navel orange atop a perfect book, is simple, elegant, and amazing as in, how can he possibly do that?
And don't miss: Lin Fife's 100 'Nows' -- painted masonite plaques, six inches by six inches, each for sale individually, no two alike, the proceeds to benefit the visiting artist program at UCCS. As each plaque is removed, there's another image beneath it, so by selling all the plaques, another work is revealed. Also, Julia Hoerner's sky series -- 1,000 days, 1,000 views of the same patch of sky, shrunk down to postage stamp size and reassembled in a single, disorienting image.
Dwayne Nuzum, UCCS' former Chancellor, who passed away a few weeks ago, is honored by having one of his paintings included in the show. Nuzum was a decent amateur painter, a supporter of the arts in general, and of the Gallery in particular. Rest in peace, Dwayne; your energy, your vision and your protective presence will be sorely missed.
-- John Hazlehurst
2005 UCCS Art Faculty Biennial Exhibition
Gallery of Contemporary Art, Science Building, UCCS, 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway
Open Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sat., 1-4 p.m.
Through March 18