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Artlink's Annual Members' Show
By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
Members-based exhibitions and organizations have existed within contemporary art since the beginning, and hold a great deal of influence over the trends within the art world, connecting artists and collectors, and providing the always-growing contemporary art audience with a quick means to survey the landscape and become engrossed in a particular artists work, a specific media, or style. In many ways, Artlink's "Member's Show" has worked in very similar roles within Fort Wayne's art scene throughout its formidable history. This year's Member's Show contains over 200 pieces, each from an artist who is also an Artlink member.
Like any large, non-juried exhibition, the quality of each year varies, and even better known artists can present relative "duds" due to its casual nature. There will always be the wall of flowers, snapshot photographs, and paintings which are, if not exact replicas, are trying to be other works too fervently for much attention. However, the Members' Show is also bound to contain "diamonds in the rough" every now and then, as well as quality pieces from quality artists. Many times, younger students will use this exhibition to display their personal which, not influenced by the assignments of their early education courses (there are only so many charcoal still-lifes the world can take). Emerging and established artists will also use this as an opportunity to display new avenues that they are exploring within their work. Whatever the case may be, this year's Member's Show contains a large number of beautiful pieces from established Fort Wayne artists, and seemed to be a bit light on younger artists.
One younger artist, Justin Cronister, a stand out Junior in the 2012 University of Saint Francis Student Show, included an impressive mixed media piece titled "Open". Cronister is not a regular exhibitor in Artlink's open exhibitions, and a nice addition. "Open" follows' Cronister's distinct painting style which is part Barry McGee street art in its overall flatness and composition, but also incredibly illustrative in a highly editorial style. This hybridization produces canvases which entice the eye and allow the viewers to get lost within Cronister's formal mastering of the media, while not being locked into a strong narrative or conceptual device. This care-free attitude to Cronister's work highlights its youth and makes it stand out from a lot of the work being created locally. In "Open", Cronister's signature phallic nose/tentacle/trunk creatures are represented by one lone entity which essentially is floating through the space, potentially originating from tree-like structured repeated all throughout the space. The lack of dimension within the space suggests that the creature is attempting to engulf another population of these tree-like structures as well. Over-all solid, Cronister doesn't disappoint, and only increases the anticipation for his work during the upcoming senior year at USF.
Other pieces and artists which stood out in this exhibition include Lizabeth Yager's "Nest," Holly Heath Perfect's "Skeletons," Heather Miller's "Crust," and Marie Gardeski's "Aunt Betty in Repose." These four pieces almost couldn't be any more dissimilar, yet each is compelling in their own way, and to each of their own development. This collection is a prime example of the value and the range of the Member's Show. Lizabeth Yager's "Nest," an almost primitivist, Dubuffet-esque and Frank Stella ornamental abstraction, was certainly the most surprising out of the bunch, being that this writer was unfamiliar with her work, and this small black and white acrylic piece is rather timid. The overall impact of the piece however has an impressive strength. Moving from the subtlety of Yager's work, Heather Miller displayed a very different work this year from last year's self-portrait. "Crust," a mixed media amalgamation of epoxy, plaster, and acrylic, is straightforward and brutally honest. Its references to the work of Anselm Kiefer are undeniable, which makes it even heavier with conviction and broiling emotion over a conceptual coolness. "Crust" rests the viewer with its minimal color and soothing patterns in start contrast to the activity of Yager's "Nest."
Nicole Croy and Heather Heath Perfect both presented solid photographic work, with Heath Perfect's "Skeletons" being a departure from some of her more known works, while still highlighting our local culture. "Skeletons" focus on the architecture of aged, whitewashed barns was, surprisingly, refreshing. This topic of so much photography locally was renewed with Heath Perfect's style. Croy, always giving a new treat with her photographic work, presents "43 Collections: Birds", an image of three small faux-birds like something that would be found at Hobby Lobby for a wreath, laid out in what appears to be an aluminum baking pan of some sort. This odd image is then produce through Croy's Iphone in what she notes "Iphoneography". The resulting image is somehow reminiscent of the immediacy and reality of Ann Hamilton's "Face to Face" pinhole photographs, but also contains a touch of Instagram.
Marie Gardeski's piece "Aunt Betty in Repose," a small graphite and watercolor image, is by far the highlight of the 2012 Members' Show. This surreal vignette includes an amorphous portrait, a number of cats, and a patch of flowers. The overall stylization, line quality, coloration, and composition of "Aunt Betty in Repose" are breathtaking. There is nothing quite "right" about the image, from the two cats emerging from "Aunt Betty's" hair and lower torso, to lack of pupils in Betty's eyes, or the contrasting depth in her face but not her hand. This sense of "other" is palpable, and makes Gardeski's work unique to the point of lacking easy art historical references. In such a small endeavor, Gardeski's vignette captures the attention and imagination of the viewer immediately, and introduces them to her own brand of humor, style, and beauty.
Artlink Members' Show
June 20, 2012-August 14, 2012
*Betty G. Fishman Gallery: Paintings by Tom Kelly"
300 East Main Street
FW IN 46802