Archive for May, 2011

Beverly Rayner at Gail Gibson Gallery, Seattle

Posted by erin on May 18th, 2011

Illusionistic Devices: Things are Not What They Seem to Be

By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Beverly Rayner: A Traveling Mesmerist’s Toolkit, Prussia, Ca 1900,  2010


Eyes and what they reveal, what they conceal, transmit and collect have long fascinated Beverly Rayner and she uses them to talk about our fears and foibles.  Coming from the world of photography, she also has an abiding interest in the notion of illusion.  An eye behind a lens, an image from three-dimensional reality flattened onto photographic paper and devoid of color is just the beginning.  In the world of art and politics, hypnosis and the paranormal, things are never what they seem. Reality is manipulated and illusion is perpetrated as truth.

Rayner likes to play with words and their double or indeterminate meanings, as many of her titles reveal.  She states that, in many cases, words and vocabulary become the inspiration for a specific piece, as she develops a series.  Her titles suggest that much of her work is satirical and full of social observations.  This show reflects a lot of current concern for increasing invasion of privacy and the ever-increasing collection of data, and methods that allow outside powers to control us or manipulate our minds and behavior.

In her show at the G. Gibson Gallery, Illusionistic Devices, Rayner presents work from different series and themes, but most call up states of mind and emotions that can be individual or collective. These emotional states derive from our illusions.  Rayner’s Museum of Mesmerism, a portable collection of real and apocryphal tools and symbolic artifacts, presents historical curiosities in aged wooden boxes and on worn red velvet, suggesting the reverence and extensive use they may have had.  An epoch is recalled, perhaps one hundred years ago, when Madame Blavatsky reigned and mesmerism and mystical practices entertained and preoccupied a certain class in Europe.  Watch out, indeed!  In this series, Rayner uses the subtle distortion of eyes behind lenses and eyes embedded in resin to evoke the irresistible power of the hypnotist. We can be deceived by our own eyes and overrule logic when confronted with an effective illusion.

A Traveling Mesmerist’s Tool Kit, Prussia, ca 1900, (2010), contains an eye peering through a lens, a magnet, a tortoise shell comb and hair pin both of which are wavy, a bottle of vapors, and two pendants for hypnotism, one of which features a cat’s eye behind a lens at the end of a chain, and the other, a foggy photograph that only shows two hands at the end of a short string of graduated pearls – a very purposeful and scientific-looking collection.  Also from the collection of the Museum of Mesmerism, An Illusionist’s Portable Conjuring Theatre, 1863 (2010) is a collection of photographs of period faces and figures in an ambiguous architectural setting set in a yellowed resin column that is like an emanation.  I imagine a séance, the breeze of a beloved deceased in diaphanous veils that enters and passes through the darkened site.  The medium delivers a message from the other side.  We are reduced to chills and tears.


New Works by Susannah Israel

Posted by kfunk on May 18th, 2011

at Black Bean Ceramic Art Center

By Ted Fullwood

Though there aren’t any of Susannah Israel’s cups, teapots, or other such vessels in her show of ceramic sculptures at Black Bean Gallery (closed April 22), she is playing with variations on the meanings of “vessels.”

Cove by Susannah Isreal

Cove by Susannah Israel

First, there are the boats as vessels.  The boat sculptures suggest like imagery by Max Beckmann.  Both artists work in the Expressionist style and both have a Fauvist-like tendency to abut complementary colors.  Both Israel and Beckmann use the boat, specifically a crude rowboat, as a representation of their personal narratives.  According to Israel’s statements, part of her narrative is the death of her partner, artist Bill Lassell.  It’s too easy to interpret Israel’s boat pieces as a statement of feeling left adrift after a personal loss, so I won’t.  The boat pieces, Israel’s strongest work in the show, seem to be tableaux form Israel’s dream life.  The figures, often accompanied by animals, are generally expressionless and lack individuality, as though seen through a haze.  The boat motif gives the works a feeling of forward propulsion as well the sense of a side-to-side buffeting in the waves.  In the piece “Cove” the boat is full of water; it’s buffeting is from both the interior and exterior.

Stampede by Susannah Isreal

Stampede by Susannah Israel