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Organic Perspectives

Artlink show runs through July 7

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader

2010-06-22


While most of the limited group exhibitions (under 8 artists) that appear in Fort Wayne tend to be all local artists, "Organic Perspectives" currently at Artlink is a refreshing combination of local, regional, and national artists whose work all centers around a fascination, representation, and sometimes distortion of the biological world. "Organic Perspectives" was curated after Artlink's Artist Panel asked for a submission of portfolios, and showcases the art of Justin Miller, Paul Adams, Dale Clifford, Lori Hepner, and Deborah Whistler.

"Organic Perspectives" diversity is apparent with a range of media from photography to cut paper, and with content as far ranging as mutant frankenstein-ish recognizable figures, to composed series of petri dishes. Because of this diversity, and the loose theme of the exhibition, each artist must be criticized for their own work, with much less of a dialogue between artists and individual pieces.

Dale Clifford, an incredibly accomplished and deft printmaker and draftsman, presents a series of woodblock and linocut prints. While the subject matter is consistently that of someone aggressive or dominant birds of prey, the moods and content of the individual pieces vary. Clifford, born in Cincinnati and currently living in Savannah, Georgia, has been developing this vein of his art since 2003. Included with the various bird forms are other animals such as hogs, rats, and other pedestrian animals. These animals are primarily used as inspiration and as vehicles for Clifford's fascination with formal aspects of line, color, and pattern. Each image, rich with many distinct patterns, aching for the attention of the viewer. This hyperactivity makes for rather mesmerizing images, which have a tendency to specifically fall back away from visual memory, but fully engage the eye upon viewing, becoming somewhat addictive. In pieces like "Border Security I", Clifford fills the picture plane with one large and somewhat ominous cawing crow, perched against a silhouetted telephone pole, reaching its head around, directing the eye to a hanging metal cage. The confluence of the main image complete with squiggling positive and negative lines, and with zigzagging stripe patterns in the background add up to create perhaps Cliffords most addictive image. Other images include "Rules of Engagement" and "Fall from Grace", two very similar images, each made from the same original woodblock, one printed in color and the other in black and white, allowing patterns and images in the background to disappear.

Paul Adams, a photographer of over 25 years, presents work which is disarming but overall very passable. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, Adams was connected to nature early and travelled extensively along the coast into Alaska and elsewhere. Later, receiving his masters from Brigham Young University (BYU), he became a photography professor.
Formally, Adams' work is incredibly well crafted but lacks a great deal of interest or finesse. Pieces like "Key West Pier" exhibit these qualities well enough. In this piece, Adams gives the viewer an altogether expected image which lacks any subtlety or even a meditative minimalist quality. In Adams' defense, his piece "Midlife Crisis" is much more interesting and has glimpses of true artistry in that the image contains some sense of visual interest, being a straight on image of two trees, covered in snow, in a hazy environment. The calming and vacant images creates an intriguing space for the viewer. Sadly, Adams would seem to be more of a photographer than an artist.

Lori Hepner's work, "Code Words", a series of photographic prints is both esoteric and very interesting. Hepner's work is, essentially, an organic representation of a digital representation of a word. This is achieved by Hepner translating the first word of each title into a binary code of ones and zeros. These ones are represented in containers which have a dissolving piece of silk in them. Zeros are represented with empty containers only containing the bleach which is the dissolving agents in the other containers. This double encryption/translation process and the content, being the natural and man-made systems of code, turn "Code Words" into a sustained paradox. Hepner's simple and sweet conceptual practice is both rewarding and laudable.

Justin Miller, a local professor at the University of Saint Francis presents a combination of oil paintings and small scale drawings. Miller's work which could be characterized in a number of ways, is not as much of a specific content or process of making, as much as it is a multi-faceted practice of formal experimentation and illustration. Miller's images are usually populated by mutating animal-like figures, animated biological parts, and a collection of inanimate objects which tend to act like the glue which bind the parts together. The individual chunks of biological matter tend to be vaguely sexual and raw or juicy, like a freshly cut piece of meat. In contrast to the intensity of some of these characters which inhabit Miller's images, he manages to render everything perfectly, and uses such a candied palette, that the viewer is slightly confused upon their initial viewing. In pieces like "Green Space", a large oil painting on canvas on panel, Miller depicts a creature, which is in equal parts animal, plant, and mechanical, which is expelling or possibly excreting a dark oily substance onto the gray surface which is placed on. These images seem to be meant to be enjoyed both retinally and conceptually, in an intentionally equal way.

Last but not least, Deborah Whistler's laborious, beautiful, and incredibly delicate sculptural works of cut paper are all show-stoppers, each capable of grabbing the viewer's attention for lengthy periods of time. Truly, Whistler's pieces are installations more than classical sculpture, as they are equally the cut paper and the shadows cast by the patterns cut into them. With a wide variety of pieces, which lay on the ground, are hung on the walls, and stand on their own, Whistler's work all explores the power of visual seduction. Because of the intricacy of her work, Whistler's pieces all trick the mind out of seeing them as just a series of cuts into white vellum, and forces the viewer into wonder. "Breath" which is roughly human size, laying on the floor, and "Dumping Pandora's Box" the largest hanging piece are certainly the most impressive pieces, each with thousands of cuts creating both abstract and representational images.

Organic Perspective opened June 4th and runs until July 7th, 2010.
Artlink is located at 437 East Berry Street.
Visit www.artlinkfw.com for more information.

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