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Greener pastures

Artlink’s “Landscape” show

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


Arguably the oldest form a visual representation, the landscape, in all of its myriad forms, has permeated every human culture. Even more, this form of representation helped to determine each specific culture's world view in the same way that their language, music, writing and other forms of expression.

Artlink's current exhibition, "Landscape: Urban and Rural" is a regional survey exhibition of surprising depth, representing a number of traditions in landscape painting as well as unconventional methods. From the literal representations of local landscapes, equipped with Midwestern character, to conceptual landscapes full of abstracted senses of space, form, and light, "Landscape: Urban and Rural" does not disappoint.

While Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana are quite full of artists who deftly represent our quaint vistas and give us glimpsed of other, more exciting locales, most of these images are more than a glossy surface, and at best stimulate the retina for a few moments. The viewer will be quite surprised by the intelligence and complex construction of some of the images in "Landscape: Urban and Rural".

Daniel Dienelt, one of Fort Wayne's most creative and experimental photographers, presents three large pieces, including "FWA Series One: The Sitcoms in My Back Yard", "FWA Series One: Polluted Descriptions of an Amplified Community", two small scale installations made up of multiple pieces, and arranged in a cluster and a linear progression respectively. These pieces are like palpable streams of consciousness, with quick images flickering in and out of the viewers registry. The resulting affect forces the eye to not focus so much on a single image as take in the gestalt visual plane, including the space around the raised images. While most of the individual images Dienelt uses are landscapes (of buildings, road paint, beautiful night scenes of empty urban settings, etc), these intriguing pieces end up creating something of a living landscape as the viewer adjusts and travels through the total piece. Much like a film, Dienelt's work unfolds itself scene by scene taking you through sometimes familiar, and sometimes very alien spaces.

Other photographic works in "Landscape: Urban and Rural" include Joseph ZImmerman's verbosely titled pieces "Bite down with all your teeth", "In the direction of travel the doors will open on your left", and "It/We/ideas all grow old", and Jack Cantey's solemn "Chicago River" series of work. Zimmerman's pieces, much like Dienelt's, are pieces within an installation apparatus, one that makes it rather difficult to distinguish where one piece begins and the other ends. In this way, unlike Dienelt's work, the viewer immediately focuses on the work's gestalt nature and then fights to pick the total apart into separate, digestible chunks. Cantey's work on the other hand is much more traditional photography, focusing on the stark geometry of an icy Chicago river, and the respective components within.

While not photographic in media, Eric Tarr's and Eric Stine's work deals the photographic process and in a photographic composition due to its heavy reliance on collage and conceptually constructed spaces. Eric Tarr's "Puddle" and "Oasis" especially use these techniques, as well as a strong painterly conceit in each image. In "Puddle", Tarr represents a night time urban landscape, which on its surface looks like an interesting image with a few curious concentric circles, which could just be the haloes coming off of streetlights. In the context of its own title, the image takes on a literally meaning as it is not obvious that the view is not squarely at landscape represented, but looking into a puddle, with either rain drops or some other object which is making ripples in the water, and thus the image as well. In Oasis, Tarr blankly presents a parking lot ticketing booth with a collaged map of Northwestern Indian's border cutting through the image and creating a false horizon.

Stine, on the other hand, uses collage in a much more blatant sense in his "Urban Flop" series. In "Urban Flop #1", Stine presents a surreal and constructivist landscape which includes a mishmash architectural focus in the form of layered commercial retail images, sqaurely sitting upon two long diameter, treaded tank wheels. To top it off, Stine includes two panoptical eyes, peering in different directions, and a three colored halo surrounding the whole focal point. These images are interesting also because they are combinations of mechanical and digital collage, making them seem oddly "flat".

In the more traditional realm, "Landscape: Urban and Rural" also gives the viewer great painted landscapes by Karen Moriarty, Susan Suraci, Nathan Abels, Liz Holman, and breathtaking pint-sized images by Tom Keesee and David Carpenter.

Bridging the gap between the traditional and experimental is Rebecca Justice-Schaab and her pieces "Farm in Northern Dekalb County", and "Wash Day in Dekalb County". Justice-Schaab's style of painting, though realistic and representational has beautiful ties to the style and feeling of Larry Rivers, Cecily Brown, and other abstractionists who stayed true to their realist roots. Justice-Schaab's use of mudding colors, adding dimensional streaks all throughout an images, frantic brushstrokes, and tranquil content all lead the viewer to be wrapped into the total image. By packing these everyday images with the visual tension of war field, Justice-Schaab achieves something new; an engrossing representation of everyday Midwestern life. "Farm in Northern Dekalb County", the more wild of her two images, turns a small rural home with a truck parked outside of it into a dynamic scene and one which the viewer has the freedom to create a psychological narrative within.

Overall, "Landscape: Urban and Rural" is a surprising and excellent example of the talent within the Greater Fort Wayne area, and shows how extensively this timeless artistic tradition of the represented landscape can vary from artist to artist.

Artlink's "Landscape: Urban and Rural" runs until September 29.
Visit www.artlinkfw.com for more information.

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.