By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Four outstanding student gallery shows and the intriguing exhibition Gabriel Wiese, Corkart, in the Natalie and James Thompson Gallery made the October 9th, Tuesday night ritual at San Jose State a big hit. Jo Farb Hernandez is an author, curator and the Director of the Thompson Gallery. Her exhibitions and publications often document the fascinating art of self-taught and “outsider” artists. Gabriel Wiese is one of them.


A complete costume of bottle corks, by German artist Gabriel Wiese

Born in Magedeburg, Germany, and trained as a cabinet maker, Wiese has lived most of his life in Saalfeld. His furniture made of corks from wine bottles is quirky and actually quite functional in some cases. But his suit of clothes made of corks is hilarious. Weise actually wore the suit of clothes around his hometown in Germany, remaining mute and mysterious when citizens approached him to inquire about it. Nevertheless, he was happy to allow them to try it on. Curious, and remarkable work!


Erik Madsen’s meditative installation of scrolls filled Gallery 2

Across the hallway on the first floor, in Gallery 2- one of two exhibitions by Erik Madsen on the same evening – was his installation of scrolls made from long sheets of glossy material that turned out to be rolls of expired graphic arts film. Madsen had experimented with smaller sheets of film to determine what substances would still react to the film coating. He ultimately dripped, splashed and painted these liquids onto the long sheets of film with grand expressionistic gestures, creating dramatic movements and subtle variations in the brown-rose coloration. The ultimate effect of the low-lit installation is a meditative space with distinct Asian references.


Erik Madsen’s Fallout 2

Upstairs in Gallery 8, Erik Madsen’s BFA exhibition was a series of small etchings that spring from his concern for lives lost to atomic research and nuclear fallout. Madsen is a native of Los Alamos, New Mexico. This series grows out of previous large-scale works that were more colorful and aggressive, but have in common the subtle repetition of lines from Kierkgaard, Sarte and Freud as horizontal lines of background texture. The vertical movements that appear in front of the text can be seen as smoke, fallout and contamination. Madsen shows a compassion and existential affirmation of life in this profound series of prints.


Family hands transform the concept of tools in Val Raps’ MFA exhibition

In Gallery 3, Val Raps’ MFA exhibition was a wry observation on the function of tools as an extension of the hand. The hard, shiny aluminum hands appear new, perhaps determined and unyielding, in contrast to the friendly organic quality of the wooden handles. She uses castings of the hands of many members of her family in postures that facilitate the work that might be demanded of each tool. Raps seems to be thinking of adages such as many hands make short work, or in terms of metaphors for all sorts of family business.


Jennifer Jennings Groft’s pig-gut garments – a metaphor for gut feelings about domesticity

Jennifer Jennings Groft undertakes to make visible the feelings of weightiness that domestic duties – in this case the laundry – represent in the female psyche. The poetic artist’s statement, accompanying her BFA show in the Herbert Sanders Gallery, tells it all:

Once there lived a little girl with wild thoughts and grandiose dreams. To the top of her lungs, showing no hesitation, inquisitive things she’d scream. Time introduced this little girl to woman and from that point on, voice, no longer heard, no inquisitions, no more joyful song. Her life became dictated by her bowels, this domesticity.

Rage and resentment, once non-existent, was now all that she was seeing. Mundane tasks became monumental, overtaking her entire being. “I am not satisfied with only this, this so-called woman-way-to-be. I want to speak again, be heard as I can offer so much more, you see.

Looking to her insides she took the bowels of her woman-life, this domesticity, and transformed it into something beautiful, complicated and full of word. And with this, other women, feeling leashed and bound themselves, came to her and asked, “ how, how did you free yourself?”

She said, “ turn to yourself, look inside, you’re statement is printed on your bowels;
to avoid more conflict you must abide, and live by what it tells.”

Jennifer Jennings groft


Jennings Groft’s installaion contrasts her delicate laundry with weighty clothespins

Jennings Groft carefully crafts ethereal floating garments out of pig gut – the material sold in sheets for home-sausage makers. Their delicacy and fragility is juxtaposed against heavy wooden clothespins, oversized and formidable. Her wonderful execution of contrasts speaks to the internal conflicts of desire and duty, inspiration and repression.

All in all, a great night in the SJSU Galleries!

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