Terry Maker's multimedia retrospective at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center looks something like this:
At one end of the gallery is a section representing the Garden of Eden, which features works like "Ozymandian Tree — A Silent Film." At first, it appears to be a large painting of a barren tree, but on closer inspection, the tree is actually composed of the words in the poem "Ozymandias," written in 16mm film. The Percy Bysshe Shelley work discusses the fleeting nature of life and power.
In the middle of the floor, a huge snake that is made of slices of bread, which are composed of shredded money — representing greed and religion, among other things — leads into a section featuring works that articulate "desire," complete with candy jawbreakers.
That transition, Maker says, integrates "the theme of being in paradise, and yet still continuing to want that one more thing."
Such layering of meaning is typical of Maker, says museum director Blake Milteer. "Some of it is pretty hard and pretty critical of who we are," he says. "And I think that's an important part — it's really about who we are in our nature."
Seen in full, Terry Maker: Reckoning can make for an almost overwhelming experience. Maker, of Boulder, layers religious ideals with art, science, desire, decay, inspiration and the human experience. She employs materials not often used in conventional art, from "found" items like the bag of shredded medical documents she pulled out of the trash, to art materials like pens and markers, to the candy that's part of numerous pieces in the "desire" section.
The installation, "Garden of Nineveh — Bitter," though technically in the garden section, embodies aspects of desire, too. The mixed-media piece consists of a bed of lush green thorns underlined by a subterranean river of human skull replicas; recorded voices of people expressing their cravings emanate out. Since the speakers are in some of the thorns, viewers must lean carefully in to hear what's being said — "which I think is a really interesting dynamic of our lives here on this earthly plane," says Maker, who finds the ideas of attraction and repulsion working together and contradicting one another in human nature fascinating.
Milteer wanted this show to reflect Maker's embrace of contradictory, cyclical themes. It's all the more appropriate given that Maker herself exhibits such complexity.
Her playful personality is apparent both in person and in her work, yet Maker also describes herself as "a heavy." When she graduated from the University of Colorado with a masters of fine arts, she did a lot of painting, but she also incorporated media like tar into her work. "I just always wanted to break the rules," she says.
Now in her 50s, her first exhibit in Colorado Springs might just fit in. "There's certain kinds of statements made here that might resonate in this community," she says. "Even if you don't relate to some of those biblical things, you relate to the human condition — everybody is in it, whether they like it or not."