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“Summer Set: Home Made” show at Club Soda hosts work of six distinctive artists
By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
Creating art while living in the Midwest can sometimes seem like a secluded and disenfranchising task. Every corner the artist turns, they find another sign pointing to the coasts and the larger cities to find a more developed art market and all of the venues in which to engage the contemporary voice of the art world. While these siren calls are enticing, and many times should be followed for a time, there is also something very peculiar, unique, and compelling about Midwestern contemporary art.
"Summer Set: Home Made," the second in a suite of three shows hosted by Wunderkammer Company currently up at Club Soda, is an exhibition which explores this dialogue through the art of 6 emerging Fort Wayne artists: Daniel Dienelt, Marie Gardeski, David Birkey, Michelle Diller, Josh Hoering, and John McCormick. These artists' works are both intricate and virtuoso in their construction and execution. While their styles and media differ, all of the artists are creating rich works out of base materials and finding new voices to speak with in vocabulary which is steeped in both Midwest and global contemporary experiences.
Daniel Dienelt's work has a particular sensitivity to communication and the lack there of, creating complicated stuttering images which reference film stills, video, and the memory process all while having a particular identity, like "Forgiving Vanwinkle" a vertical piece of photography, mixed media, and encaustic on wood, making the viewer feel slightly voyeuristic while looking through the "eyes" of this mixed media photographer as he pieces together the world around him. Dienelt has been known in Fort Wayne as making grittier, street inspired art pieces for a while, and although his work is obviously influenced by urban culture, Dienelt clearly makes the work he does not by emulating a certain style, but by honestly reflecting the world around him. Another piece in this show, "Amalgamation" is a skewed, stylized close up image of hands spinning a record, with Barnett Newman like zips of color cutting the image into a few not so discrete sections horizontally. This collaged/total image composition, as well as the thin sheen of wax over the total image, give Dienelt's work nostalgic, temporally transient tones.
Marie Gardeski's work on the other hand, doesn't explore memory so much as the inner, intuitive, and more emotional parts of our cultural psyche with her delicate, petite, and intimidating drawings. Images like "Love Tug" and "Zombie Girl (Bringing Home the Bacon)" are testaments to Gardeski's immense talent and ability to manipulate a line to her will. Every mark on her page is an act of will and carries her images, allowing them to wrap into your mind, kind of giving you a creepy feeling as you piece together all of the possible meanings which the images provoke. Images of animals, represented in cartoonish or astonishing realism, small people of varies types and backgrounds, aliens, and popular culture references are common in her work. The anxiety and melancholy which is ever present and yet not weighty in her pieces is balanced, and sometimes hidden by her use of bright, child like colors, and adorably rendered, charmingly composed characters all plotting one thing or another.
David Birkey's work is similar to Gardeski's in that it has an eerie ability to evoke ideas of anxiousness and fear, and misdirects this with the use of soothing colors and comic constructions. Birkey's works, like "After the Deluge" and "Ancient Eskimo Astronaut" depict people in convoluted spacesuit traversing different types of terrain, always looking over their shoulder toward some sort of unknown fearful event or thing, and sometimes have defects with their suit. These works are poetic in their representations of modern man, and can be seen in many lights: from man sanctioning himself off from nature with technology, man becoming too dependent upon its technology, etc. Birkey's technical abilities are also exhibited through these pieces, giving them a supple, velvety texture, and very rich coloring.
Michelle Diller's work is both minimal and emotional in pieces like "Whisk" which depict lone kitchen utensils done in a jittery, outsider, Giacommetti brush stroke. Coupled with her other works which include women like "Mountain Mademoiselle"
which espouse clear feminist tones while staying conceptual and ungendered in voice, unlike so many other "feminist" artists who can tend to steer toward the reverse discrimination of making art which is not meant for men. Diller's domestic images in these paintings are almost given trophy or monumental status while being quiet and petite.
John McCormick's work can be described visually as a mixture of Cy Twombly and Jean Michel Basquiat, minus the structured imagery of Basquiat, and then switch it and make it graphite on paper. Conceptually, McCormick's work is based much more on DIY principles of art taking on a more plebeian edge, while being fantastical through the sheer number of lines composing the images. "Fits" especially, is a piece which explodes in small scales as one's eye is attracted and becomes obsessed with the overlapping strikes, marks, and whispering lines which compose the total image.
Josh Hoering, the last artist, but certainly not least, has an incredible body of prints on display with the highly designed piece "Dashing Posture", the insanely precise "Breathing Range" and other amazing etchings. Hoering's work can range from clinical to hyperactive with its multiple layers of color and form.
These artists' works come together to give a wonderful glimpse into the kinds of powerful art is being produced in Fort Wayne constantly and which needs to be expressed and exhibited more often. "Summer Set: Home Made" run from July 9th to August 3rd at Club Soda.