The Veil: Visible and Invisible Spaces

Posted by kfunk on March 12th, 2011


by Lauren Baines

In the name of comfort, protection, modesty, privacy or secrecy, humans have covered and clothed themselves in various fashions since the beginning.  Yet misunderstandings and the growing tensions of the last decade have more than ever negatively charged the veiling of bodies, specifically the covering of female heads and torsos.  Jennifer Heath’s traveling exhibition, The Veil: Visible and Invisible Spaces, aims to bring to light the tradition of veiling and dispel negative connotations and deeply rooted ignorance.

Entry to "The Veil" at the de Saisset Museum

Entry to "The Veil" at the de Saisset Museum

The exhibition, featuring thirty-six works, serves as a visual essay, introducing audiences not only to the long history of covering the body and the parallels between manifestations of concealment in different cultures and religions, but also to how misrepresentation of the Islamic veil and eastern cultures in American cinema (and other cultural outputs) resulted in erroneous beliefs and misunderstandings that continue to permeate the American psyche today.

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by Tom Leddy

I was once a child.  It was a long time ago.  But something in the recent paintings of Karen Haas at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology takes me back.  In the world she portrays life is filled with a child’s comforts and worries.  Questions multiply.  What’s going on with the parents, with that other kid, and perhaps most worrisome of all, with the giant beast-like characters that both fascinate and disturb as they walk through what is supposed to be an innocent playland?  My parents would take me to Disneyland where I was endlessly fascinated with the characters from the movies I loved… Mickey Mouse and Goofy come to mind.  I knew they were teenagers dressed as cartoon figures:  but that hardly mattered…or perhaps was part of the fascination. They walked in the crowds, their heads were larger than life, they would shake hands, but what was going on inside?  In a series of watercolors that Haas did expressly for this show, this theme of childhood and the creatures of the amusement park is prevalent.

Worried Boy

Worried Boy, watercolor on paper, 2010, Courtesy of the Artist

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Wesley Wright Amuses and Amazes

Posted by erin on March 4th, 2011

The Process by Wesley Wright

Wright’s One-week show in Gallery Two at SJSU is exceptional!
By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Because they last only one week, the public often misses the most amazing student shows in the SJSU Art Department.  But drop by for a guest artist lecture in Room 133 at 5:00 pm on any Tuesday and stay for the openings in the six student galleries, visit the Thompson Gallery, and you are bound to find more than one truly exciting show.  Wesley Wright’s show has now come and gone, but he is a prolific artist and we can expect him to show more work before he graduates.

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Patrick Dougherty’s Environmental Sculpture

Posted by erin on February 22nd, 2011


Patrick Dougherty’s monumental environmental sculpture takes shape on the grounds of the Palo Alto Art Center.

by Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

While the Palo Art Center undergoes a closure and renovation, presumably for modernization, the grounds in front of the Center are the site of a Patrick Dougherty construction, made of willow saplings in his now very recognizable magical style.  By using materials easily accessible in nature, with a natural lifespan, and raised in the tradition of community building, Dougherty evokes an historic time when both art and habitations were more essential and integrated, had a regional style, and a low carbon footprint.  Driving along Newell Street, the zigzag sculpture is startling and inviting, with multiple entries and windows.  It arches, lilts, inclines, and weaves, both literally and figuratively, from the lawn upwards to the spiraling points that engage the branches of the sycamore trees above.  Its effect is both a delight and a reminder of our current environmental challenges.

At the Museum of Contemporary Art in Honolulu, Dougherty’s  Na Hali o’Wahili

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Lynn Powers Contemplates the Great Mysteries

Posted by erin on February 14th, 2011


by Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Lynn Powers’ Time Wheel Mandala, 1999

Lynn Powers paints the great mysteries.  Sweet Obsession is a selection from twenty years of painting and relief assemblages that represent Powers’ fascination with essences of spiritual and alchemical truths. In her pursuit of harmony and balance, there are reflections, an ongoing interplay between the macrocosm and the microcosm, presence and absence, the known and unknown, the finite and infinite through geometry and between foreground and deep space.  Fundamentals like the line, square, circle and oval conspire to suggest a symmetry or formula, only to be broken by an asymmetrical element appearing in our peripheral vision and throwing our initial assumptions into question. Powers likes the orbs of outer space and poses them against an infinite number of patiently developed textures, mostly in earthy mineral colors, that look like multiplying cells examined through a microscope, or cross sections of earth, or the weathered surface of a long treasured domestic object.  Some of her pregnant ovals are quite literally eggs; sometimes they are more precisely an ellipse in the context of geometry, mathematics or numerology.

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Extreme Make-over at Cantor Arts Center

Posted by kfunk on February 7th, 2011

The Rewards of a (Not So) Extreme Make-over

It’s easy to believe when you visit a museum’s modern and contemporary art collection that you’re seeing an art world consensus about what is important in the art made in recent decades. The reality is hardly so simple.

A visit to any of the San Francisco Bay Area’s rich bounty of contemporary art venues yields decidedly different takes on what to exhibit. The San Jose Museum of Art for a time seemed to want to forge a duel identity as a home both for technology-based art, and the overlooked post-war and contemporary art of Northern California. The Oakland Museum of California embraces a broader time and geographical frame for modern and contemporary art of California, back to the Society of Six plein air painters of the 1920s, Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photographs, and a strong collection of Bay Area Figurative artists. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art plays on a national stage, and is amassing a collection particularly strong in the proto-Pop art of Robert Rauschenberg forward, a significant commitment to new media art, and a world-class photography collection.

The Arab by Alice Neel

"The Arab," 1976, by Alice Neel. Museum Purchase made possible by the Robert and Ruth Halperin Foundation, Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.

In short, modern and contemporary museum collections are pulled in various directions by the sizes of their budgets, their missions, the taste of their patrons and, of course, the eye and interests of their curators. All of which brings us to “Extreme Makeover: A Fresh Look at the Cantor Art Center’s Contemporary Collection,” which opened last month along with a companion show, “Go Figure,” a look at figurative art that is dominated by sculpture.

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Posted by erin on February 6th, 2011

San Jose ICA Retrospective Reveals an Intimate Relation of Life to Art

by Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Installation view of Old Technology, including a structure evoking Tony May’s well known T. House and the Variable Construction Bookmobile on loan from the San Jose Museum of Art

Old Technology, the extensive exhibition of painting, sculpture and installations from forty years of Tony May’s work, including many new pieces, opened on November 13, 2010 at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. Indeed, Tony May is a world-class artist who imprints an indelible stamp on the Silicon Valley art scene with public art, his unmistakable and charming art, life and persona, these frequently folding almost seamlessly together. Insightful writers that spin words more deftly than myself have written a good deal about the Tony May 40 Year Retrospective.  I refer the reader to an informative and entertaining catalogue essay that includes wonderful biographical details, by Renny Pritikin, currently Director of the Nelson Gallery at UC Davis, and reviews by Ben Marks for KQED Arts, and Laura Cassidy Rogers for Art Practical. From the moment the show opened it has generated a buzz, with those who attended on opening night jamming the ICA galleries to the point that few really saw the show. Many who have seen it once come back twice or more.  Folks immediately bombarded me with email asking if I had seen it, declaring it the best “museum” show in decades, and extolling the artist as a rare local hero.

So yes, it is an important show by an important artist who offers us an example of the irrepressible drive that animates an artist whether or not his work becomes heralded on the world stage.  (At the risk of belaboring an issue of minor importance, I am nevertheless quite taken with the question posed by Italo Scanga, and explored further in Renny Pritikin’s article, “Why Aren’t You Famous, Yet?”). This is not to say that Tony May’s reputation, as an artist, does not reach beyond Northern California, because it does and he has shown some of his best and signature works in venues abroad.  May’s Thai Inspired Portable Display Unit, which emerges from a small suitcase that carried the entire installation to an exhibition at Silpakorn University in Bangkok, is a perfect example.  The display unit is an amalgam of previous displays featuring May’s diminutive realist paintings that typically document the artist’s notable inventions, repairs or discoveries in a quotidian environment, and the recurring art-in-a-suitcase theme.  This work took the exterior form of a building with steeply pitched roof, like a Thai house, and also bore features that evoked Thai temples and other traditional Asian constructions.  From the roof, panels of black canvas are suspended symmetrically to create four viewing stations, one on each side.  The painting featured in each niche then reveals some connection to the Buddha found in his travels in China or around May’s home in San Jose, as in the vision of a Buddha in soapsuds in a washpan in his kitchen sink.  The entire Thai Inspired Portable Display Unit is presented as rising from its open suitcase/carrying case.

Tony May’s Thai Inspired Portable Display Unit

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Posted by erin on February 2nd, 2011

Sophisticated paintings and flowing charcoal drawings give us a whimsical look at life’s everyday heroics as it archives a personal history.

By Andy Muonio, MFA

Recently on view at The Mohr Gallery, in Mountain View’s Community School of Music and Arts (CSMA,, were the works of Norm Rosenberger, entitled: Pancakes, Coffee and Heroic Actions, Paintings and Drawings by Norm Rosenberger. This Oakland based painter gives us a look at his life through ten charcoal drawings and ten acrylic paintings.

Each charcoal drawing is made with confident and powerful strokes. The marks flow, maintaining the gestural ease of their execution, yet each image is carefully composed.  The drawings include both bold, thick and thin black lines as well as a softer touch creating a range of value. Line is important to these works, as value drops back, to a careful limit of marks defining objects. The viewer is first drawn to the boldness of the lines, but the subtlety of the drawing’s entirety, moves them about the entire space.

Snail Parade 11.17.07, 2007

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The Art of San Jose’s Luis Gutierrez

Posted by erin on January 11th, 2011


by Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

It has been some time since I have seen a large body of Luis Gutierrez’ works in the South Bay, so it was a rewarding experience to see a lot of work by this skilled veteran painter presented together. As versatile and varied as Luis Gutierrez is in his multimedia collages, assemblages and paintings, the work is easily identifiable for a consistency in brushstroke, the choice of materials and a kind of frontal, “in your face” presentation of imagery.  I see three directions represented in Gutierrez’ current show at Axis Gallery in San Jose.

A recent assemblage by Luis Gutierrez features an artist’s box of rubbing stumps mounted on a “found” wooden surface.

Gutierrez goes back to his earliest work as an abstract expressionist in his PTSD series of painted portraits of Viet Nam vets with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  These vets are presented in profile with just a few deft juicy strokes from a loaded brush, mostly in dark colors.  Scars, distortions, defiled flesh, and an implied derangement are seen through the paint strokes. It would be fair to say not a pretty picture, yet graphically clear!

Other work within the collage/montage approach draws a lot on a Pop sensibility that celebrates graphics, posters, targets, flags, and anatomical or educational charts. If Andy Warhol or Robert Indiana’s appropriation of commercially printed and mass-produced objects of popular culture tended toward the straightforward, raw and even tedious aspects of this genre, Gutierrez does this sometimes, as well, but also searches out the elegant and works more toward a representation of and juxtapositions of the beautiful.  And if Pop Art tended to imitate some of the bland, flatness of commercial graphics, develops a sensual three-dimensionality.

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Posted by erin on December 27th, 2010

Transfiguration:  Daubert’s Electronic Audio and Visual Installation at the Blue Line Gallery in Roseville, CA.

by Janet Norris

Chris Daubert traveled to Mexico a few years ago, perhaps on a mission of self-discovery, or, to pursue the wider goal of finding a method of understanding the “way” of life.  Maybe it was merely his vacation, but he relates that he stumbled upon a ruin in the hinterlands a few miles distant from Durango, Mexico, that obviously had not been recently visited.  He described to me his experience of watching the sun move over the top the crumbling walls, the effect on him which was to understand (have a realization in the philosophical/mystical sense) what it must have been like for the shamans who had once been responsible for the well-being of the local populace:  The ancient religious guides, transfigured by the “message” deployed through the energy of the sun, read the signs, the way was pointed to, and the instructions were followed – all to the good for those whose lives were lived under the benefices of the ancient shamanistic sect.  In a recent interview Daubert is quoted as saying, “I was struck by the beauty and ingenuity of the construction of the temples, and the architectural and cosmological precision by which they were designed.”

Energy Sensing Wall in Daubert’s Installation at Blue Line Gallery

The viewer completes the work is a standard art idea and it applies to the Transfiguration installation.  My impression of the work is that in developing the installation for the Blue Line Gallery, being the artist that he is, Chris took the leap from the moment of perception standing before the remnants of an ancient culture, and landed in a perceptual realm of his own.  Ignoring any possibility that in our culture the mystical is often generally denigrated, and, it seemed to this viewer, with the unmitigated energy of a mad scientist, one with sound mathematical ability, and more than the usual knowledge of electronic mechanizations, he proceeded to create an ambitious and intriguing project.  One could say he was following the creed Bruce Naumann adhered to when he said, “the true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths.”  Is he being ironic (as Naumann is suspected of being)?  We aren’t sure, but the site-specific installation, besides being impressive on a technical level is also very beautiful, shadowy, mysterious and ritualistic in effect, so perhaps there’s no room for irony, a refreshing experience sometimes.

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Posted by erin on December 27th, 2010

Gale Antokal Shows at Couturier Gallery, Los Angeles

By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Gale Antokal’s Departure 1 (Study), 2010, Pastel, ash and flour on paper

Gale Antokal has long been a member of the San Jose State University, Department of Art faculty, and known locally as a powerful teacher by her students and colleagues. In the 90’s, Antokal worked her pastels into solid portrayals of forms such as bowling balls, plates, and other domestic objects in luscious color which was a tour de force, an undeniable physical presence in their worldly domain.  For the last ten years, the dichotomy in her work has caused a movement toward the ethereal moments, events and places that are possible illusions, embody premonitions, and are almost impossible to situate. Her drawings are delicate, often pale works, in the fragile medium of pastel on paper, which transcend the material world and transport us to a contemplation of the small events of everyday life in a much larger context. Her drawings question our role in everyday existence as well as our unfathomable universe, and question the human capacity to know or sense its’ connection to a larger domain. In Antokal’s recent exhibition Out of the Blue, at Couturier Gallery in Los Angeles, she continues to embrace the incomprehensible points in life when something mundane, yet monumental, passes before us ineffably.

Out of the Blue 3, 2010, Gale Antokal, at the Couturier Gallery, Los Angeles

The fine powder of chalk, ash and flour are apt vehicles for the metaphor of the lightness and evanescence of life that is the subject of much of her work. These monochromatic materials create an uncertainty, an anxious unseen force surrounding every life event. Antokal speaks of a haunting image from childhood of spilt milk flowing down stairs– this is one of those small everyday moments, which we may not recognize as significant, but touches and so transforms our existence.

The trail of the skaters on ice in a mist, the mirror-like reflection of bicyclists on a wet surface, a figure blinded and caught up in a storm — all represent moments which our transient identity as humans is expressed. We lose our orientation.  The self-images we carry may be only memories or illusions, a conceit of our egos, a form on the verge of dissolution into its anonymity, or its most miniscule parts.

Antokal’s Cold Tears

A moving essay by UC Berkeley’s Craig Buckwald explores the suggestions brought forth by Antokal’s previous exhibition at the Patricia Sweetow Gallery in San Francisco, We Are So Lightly Here. From the ephemeral art materials — ash, flour and pastel — to the original photographs from which Antokal draws many of her images, there are references to the temporal, to the journey, displacements, and the precariousness of identity. Some photographs are cropped, clearly dated by fashion, and in their sense of movement with the metaphors suggested by suitcases, they speak to journeys, final or otherwise.

Gale Antokal: Aornos 12, 2010

In images from Out of the Blue, we see figures that pass through an archway, farm buildings that are silhouetted by the stormy sky light of an approaching tornado, which direct us once again to the moments when everything changes, but still, the cycles of life and death continue unabated.  In Cold Tears, icicles that hang from a roof evoke the sense of metamorphosis of the solid, to the liquid, ice to water, which then evaporates- this is one more cycle of life. A domesticated bird, which sits on top of its cage, once again evokes the metaphor of the fragility of life.  This makes me wonder if the bird could survive if it escaped to the outdoors, or if its freedom from the cage is more important. In an effort to ponder these situations we do the best that we can to realize that the mysteries of life are precious and invaluable. Buckwald believes that Antokal is saying, “Let it go.”

Not many of those who know Gale Antokal as an artist and a teacher will have had the opportunity to see her work in Los Angeles or San Francisco. Ideally, these works should be viewed collectively to get a full sense and impact of Antokal’s considerations and explorations. As I write these comments on Professor Antokal’s work, I hope that a more extensive exhibition of her work may be seen in Silicon Valley someday.


Posted by erin on December 22nd, 2010

Charming, Playful and Humorous Works Fill Empire Seven Studios

By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

From mural-sized to miniature, Kyle Pellet’s works engulf the viewer

I really love Pellet’s show.  I didn’t know a thing about this youthful San Jose artist, when I first received the show announcement, but the reproduction of a figure with a black face and dots flying around it really looked promising so I got to the gallery as soon as I could.  Wow! Even the view of the murals seen from Seventh Street through the open roll-up utility doors shouted “Come on in, this is going to be good!”  And it is.  A big mural of Pellet’s signature multicolor flying spots runs around several walls and along one, it reads PELLET’S SHOW in big letters.  In contrast, lots and lots of small works on paper are arranged in elongated diamond configurations on three more walls.

Pellet defies the odds that the viewer will want to look at everything.

In an Internet interview on PICDIT, Pellet says he produces about 300 works a year and acknowledges that he buys all his frames from thrift stores.  His diminutive drawings and paintings on miscellaneous papers, in a variety of small frames, are presented in the popular youthful salon style that, for many artists, can be a busy assault of both the good and the bad.  Not so for Pellet, however.   His wall montage is an intense experience of quirky narratives, semi-abstract pattern paintings, weird little marvels and hilarious characters that will make you laugh out loud, and they all seem worth looking at.  There is so much going on in each one, even those that at first seem simple, that a viewer probably cannot absorb everything in one trip to the gallery.  Visual overload.  So make a second trip to see it all!

A lot of entertaining approaches with mostly untitled works.

How do comical and cartoony little images transcend the one-liner and the superficial stereotypes of the genre?  It takes a talented and innovative artist with a great wit and commitment to something that is inside, itching to get out.  Not only is Pellet clearly an energetic talent, he has several repeating directions going on at once, different formal approaches and motifs that overlap.  He uses a lot of color and still, often, he leaves a lot of white space. Some little paintings are solitary figures that exploit his wide-spaced dotty-eye-figures, with perhaps carrots for eyebrows or a corncob for a mouth.  Sometimes they are part insect or are composites of any number of inanimate objects.  When he indulges in major scenarios, the landscapes are fanciful in and of themselves, with unlikely colors.  Swarms of crazy other-world and hybrid creatures may be involved in battles and survival dramas. Sometimes he paints a simple rogues’ gallery of character portraits from a selected cast.  Sometimes the actors are simply his dots and buzzing little abstract shapes.

Why did everyone love this work so much?

Pellet’s work with gouache and small brushes is in a world somewhere between painting, illustration and outright cartoons.  It is youthful, full of humor and totally original, not borrowing from animé.  It is urban but not urban alienation.  Pellet calls himself a self-taught painter, yet he does have a degree form San Jose State University in film and frequently reveals his love of narrative.  An educated eye and a certain innate sophistication are seen in this oeuvre, as well!

Don’t miss this show.  Check with Empire Seven Studios for a closing event:

California Arts Education and the Need for Advocacy

Be the Bird!

by Celeyce Matthews

Growing up in middle class California during the 1970s and 80s, I never had an art class in public school.  Proposition 13, passed in 1978, created a loss of 200 billion dollars in property taxes over the decades following its enactment which devastated social services and especially education.  Art and music programs were the first to be eliminated as education funding was drastically cut.  The repercussions of this and other complex, short-sighted economic decisions, extend far beyond my public school years; currently, California is ranked absolutely last in spending on the arts per person in all 50 states and US territories.  In 2009, California spent a mere 12 cents per person compared to the highest per person arts spending, in the District of Columbia, of $11.11 per person.[i] And in education funding, Editorial Projects in Education and the National Education Association rank California around 46th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2009 (Utah was last and Vermont first).[ii] [iii] This year, California’s education spending is at its lowest level in the last 40 years, compared to the rest of the US, and further education cuts are in the works due to the ongoing state budget crisis.[iv] How does arts education survive in California’s economic climate?

After Prop 13, arts education non-profit organizations stepped in to attempt to fill the void left by the severe education cuts.  My own lack of early art education due to these cuts inspired me to become an art educator and advocate; I now teach art for one of the country’s most successful and comprehensive arts education non-profits: the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View.  CSMA reaches more than 40,000 children, teens and adults in the South Bay through art and music classes, free concerts, artist talks, exhibitions and performances this year.[v] Funded by big local tech corporations, philanthropic foundations, local school districts and PTAs, other local arts organizations, the City of Mountain View, the California Arts Council, individual schools, individual donors, and parent groups, this year CSMA has a budget of $4.4 million.   CSMA offers scholarships to low income students and two of the public schools it serves are supported by federal grants as part of the No Child Left Behind program to improve their schools through incorporating art classes.[vi] Silicon Valley is a relatively wealthy area and able to vigorously support art education through CSMA  and other local arts organizations, classroom teachers and schools without much state or federal funding; unfortunately many poorer regions in California have little or no art education at the elementary school level.

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Mediated Senses – Pantea Karimi

Posted by erin on November 26th, 2010

The Artist in a Cyber-World: Mohr Gallery, Finn Center

by David Santen

Pantea, Karimi’s Unlinked, watercolor and silkscreen, 2010

The latest series of works from Pantea Karimi, recently featured at the Mohr Gallery in Finn Center in Mountain View, are a passionate exploration of high technology’s effects on human experience.  In this series of mixed-media prints called Mediated Senses, Ms. Karimi expresses her wonderment and excitement with high technology but also portrays some of technology’s dangerous illusions and traps. In creations that are subtle, balanced, highly original, and quite lovely, she portrays themes that range from circumspection and fascination to a concern for the negative effects of technology on contemporary humanity. Importantly, she focuses on the viewpoint of the individual rather than more nebulous and sinister notions, such as the Surveillance State that is enabled by high technology.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” wrote Henry David Thoreau. From that 19th-century remark until now, the fundamental human conditions of isolation, dissatisfaction, loneliness, and the hunger for meaning—or even simple-minded escapes from these feelings—have persisted. (Those who doubt such an assertion need only ask: If this were not so, why are an enormous number of solutions being aggressively marketed?) Even after the Free Speech Movement, Sexual Revolution, and the Hippie Move­ment of 1960s America, followed by the Anti-war Movement and the Feminist Movement of the 1970s and into the post modern era, people are still searching for ways to make life meaningful and to bridge the gap between self and others.

Auditory Datum, 2010, at the Mohr Gallery, Finn Center

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Stan Welsh, On Land-On Water

Posted by erin on October 19th, 2010


By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Stan Welsh, Yonder, 2010, at the Triton Museum of Art

In a major body of work that changes the tone of his observations of the world, Stan Welsh recasts his old actors in new roles.  His birds and figures as well as backgrounds — the water, the wood — play out their most demanding performances in this exhibition, On Land-On Water.  If Welsh has been the cynical artist, and his characters were once the buffoons representing all our follies, this artist is more contemplative.   The artist admits to being a political junkie who is greatly unsettled by the state of our fragile world.  He still gets pretty angry describing the ecological disasters that presaged each one of these works. He says, “We’ve really screwed this up.  Nature is coming to get us.  Water is a big part of it.” Yet here, he makes the decision to mostly sublimate his critique of the human animal and create a series of mixed media events that focus primarily on the frightening instability of our environment, and a critical balance that could be tipped at any moment.  “We are at the edge of the known and the unknown,” he states.

Stan Welsh’s Untitled witnesses are vulnerable, in denial and shame.

Entering the exhibition and moving to the right, one of the first works encountered is, in some way, an anomaly.  It is a small isolated female ceramic figure, glazed white, draped and like an ostrich, blinded to what is occurring around her, experiencing both denial and shame.  Welsh poses this solitary figure as embodying our doubts, our sense of powerlessness to change the future, the vulnerability and isolation we all feel in the face of major uncertainties.  She is all at sea.

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