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An Art Sampler from the FWMoA
Three smaller exhibits highlight variety
By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
At any given time, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art houses three permanent galleries, a Print and Drawing Study Center, an ample library, and numerous galleries holding up to five separate exhibitions! With this ever-changing volume of gallery space, it is very easy to miss something without making the museum a regular haunt (perhaps on Thursdays and Sundays, since itís free?). The purpose of the FWMoA's exhibition cycle is to highlight its collection, host traveling exhibitions, and highlight the best of what our region has to offer. The current selection is doing all three of these things with the "IPFW Visual Communication and Design BFA Exhibition," the "FWMoA Artist Member's Exhibition," and "Common Threads: Quilts from the Collection".
IPFW's VCD BFA exhibition is in the regional gallery, and is composed of the ten Fall semester graduating student's thesis projects, containing everything from animation and photography, to illustration and fashion. Highlights of the VCD BFA exhibition include Megan Tiffany's "Once Upon a Time" series of illustrations depicting classic female fairy tale characters in moments of despair, making a poignant comment about the current state of female role models depicted by our popular culture. Sam Shorter's "Paperwork," an animation humorously presented upon a stack of messy papers, was also of merit, depicting the universal feeling of being overwhelmed and full of anxiety, but in a coy way.
As a large benefit to our local art scene, the un-juried "FWMoA Artist Member's Exhibition" is a great way for younger artists display their work in an open setting among some of our city's greats. In its third year, the Artist Member's Exhibition has been growing steadily, and currently includes over one hundred pieces from artists throughout the region and beyond. Curator of American Art Sarah Aubrey explains,"The Artist Member's show is an example of our great diversity, and reaches a lot of artists not usually seen around Fort Wayne."
While being un-juried, the exhibition includes a number of remarkable pieces including paintings, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry, and a few cases of experimental mixed media work. Some of the highlights from the Artist Members Exhibition include Neil Fenstermaker's ever-immaculate ceramic work, "Green Bottle", Paul Neale Rice's jewelry, "Surf II", Heather Miller's mixed media abstract painting, "Aqua Vibe", Shawn Wallenfelsz's near photographic acrylic painting, "Oyster Bar in Manhattan", Nathan Taves' oil painted stoneware, "Curved World", and Pamela Pfrang's Susan Rothenberg inspired oil painting "Visit to Frijoles Canyon Pueblo".
While all of these pieces stand out for their innovation and technical skill, Alan Bundza and Rebecca Stockert presented the two most memorable pieces. Bundza, a printmaker with an aesthetic seemingly centered around lightly blending Rauschenberg, Dunham, and 80's neo-conceptualism. The end result is, "La Ville #3", an incredibly fascinating, mixed media layered print, replete with drips, collaged popular imagery, cellular structures, and other cartoonish organic structures. Bundza describes his work, "In my images, I am conveying an element of fantasy. They are not here to tell a story, but to get the viewer to think in a way that is unfamiliar to them." Rebecca Stockert's "Medusa", an encaustic coated silkscreen on panel, is an empathetic version of the classical monster, which comes off as slightly pathetic and melancholic. This mascara teared face topped with a lazy, frumpish coiffeur of serpents breaks through every common semiotic pretext to the wrath of a woman, which the Medusa has taken in a contemporary sense. Paired with a slight, nude colored, and beautifully intricate wall pattern, this Medusa is introspective and vulnerable.
Finally, "Common Threads: Quilts from the Collection" is perhaps the biggest surprise of the three exhibitions. This exhibition is culled from the David Pottinger collection of Amish quilts which the FWMoA purchased in 1992. One important fact to mention early on is the age and geographic location from which all of these quilts were created; the South Bend region from the late 1800's to the 1950's. The importance of the date and region comes in to play when the quilts are compared with the development of modern American art. Artists like Hoffman, Rothko, and Albers were immigrating to the United States in the thirties, forties, and fifites, and experimenting in abstraction. During this time, and decades before, Northern Indiana Amish quilt culture was producing competitive imagery and venturing toward Op art, completely separated by time, space, and the art historical canon. It was not until the seventies and the onset of the women's movement for the art world to accept the aesthetic value of quilts with the landmark exhibition, "Abstract Design in American Quilts", at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
"Common Threads: Quilts from the Collection" is excellent in its presentation of these functional objects as repurposed in the contemporary sense as art objects. Many of the pieces, like Mrs. Anna Raber's "Double Wedding Ring Top" are presented like large scale paintings hung against the walls. This particular piece is a stunning, repeating, star burst of bright warm colors, placed in an incredibly intricate pattern of colored squares and stitchwork. Created in 1950, "Double Wedding Ring Top", and others like "Tumbling Blocks" by Mrs. Mattie Fry were finished two decades before Op art made its presence known on the British and New York art scenes. Even more intriguing are
the quilts whose imagery references the work that Frank Stella and Phillip Taaffe would be making in the early 1980's! This anachronistic quality turns this exhibition of quilts into a conceptual quandary, and makes the viewer struggle to place its established views of art and object to the side, allowing a new space for these pieces.
No matter what it is, a pile of paper holding up a displayed animation, a giant set of letters spelling the word "YUM", an incredibly complex piece of jewelry, or a quilt which predates modern art, but expertly matches it, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art is the place to see it.
The Fort Wayne Museum of Art
"IPFW's Visual Communications and Design BFA Exhibition"
- Open through January 30th.
"FWMoA Artist Member's Exhibition"
- Open through February 27th.
"Common Threads: Quilts from the Collection"
- Open through January 30th.