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Artlink’s Regional Biennial Exhibition
By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
Every two years, Artlink provides Northeast Indiana with a barometer for our art community’s success in the form of a regional juried exhibition which highlights the talents found in what tends to be unexpected places, and awards these artists with the honor of catching the eye of the judges as well as the community. The artists range from students to individuals who have been practicing their craft for decades. This produces a rich and diverse collection of pieces and tends to bring out the extremes of conservative realism and non-objective abstraction, which is always a treat in a market and community that eschews boundary pushing on a regular basis.
Not only do the artists receive these honors, they also receive a $500 stipend and a further opportunity to exhibit a new body of work in a three person exhibition the following year. This is a unique and generous offer for Northeast Indiana artists and usually draws out top talent. The three winning artists in the “10th Regional Biennial Exhibition” are Trevor Rush, John D. Myers, and Jeremy Stroup.
Rush and Stroup are recent graduates from University of Saint Francis School of Creative Arts (SOCA) and Indiana University-Purdue University (IPFW), and Myers also has roots in IPFW, but has been in the arts community for some time, though normally eschewing the spotlight. These three artists exemplify the Regional Biennial’s diversity in that their work is visually and conceptual quite dissimilar. Trevor Rush has been a standout artist since his sophomore year in SOCA, exhibiting still lifes and vanitas images that at first glance were “nice” studies in realism. On further inspection the viewer would notice a beautiful use of color and crisp, resolved, painterly descriptions of objects not seen often within an academic setting. Rush has thus furthered his skills over the last few years and this is evident in pieces like “Sold Out” and “One Percent.” Both satirical descriptions of the “American Dream” represented through simple objects, Rush brings a nostalgic format and process, paired with a young, defiant, and fresh voice producing incredibly intriguing images. Rush’s work ends up feeling more like Raymond Pettibon than a Dutch masterpiece, while still having the painterly “muscle” to stand up against the competition and assert itself as being high art.
Jeremy Stroup’s work however could not be more dissimilar. Stroup’s work is primarily sculptural, ceramic, organic and abstracted. Not only is this an unusual style and media combination for our area, but is rather rare in general. Much of Stroup’s work takes on a feeling of aquatic forms, from shells and coral to more active organic structures. Works like “Emerge” are also representative of Stroup’s use of Freudian associative forms as well, taking on multiple gendered representations. The objects Stroup creates tend to be dense, tectonic, and in subdued color families, making them take on almost self-conscious stances within a gallery context. Altogether, Stroup’s work finds a way to catch the viewer in subconscious and psychological ways while shying away from boisterous displays, making it difficult to find visual references to other artists throughout art history. In some formal ways, Stroup’s work can tend toward the forms and “presences” of Eva Hesse and Lynda Benglis’s work in the 60’s and 70’s, however the overall work is not congruent.
Equally dissimilar is John D. Myers work, taking the form of usually rather large, surreal oil paintings that depict a universe that is equal parts steampunk and abstraction. Myers’ work has tended toward the more colorful and less recognizable structures in the past, but the three pieces included in the Regional Biennial take what would seem to be a new direction and are more brooding, relying mostly on a gray scale and depict massive warships and mechanical structures that would seem to have less than peaceful intentions within the context of the work. In “Untitled”, Myers has created some sort of metal, technological structure which seems to be towering over the surrounding landscape, like some future Babel intend on imposing itself inside of this world. Myers skillful use of space within his images truly makes the viewer feel as though they are being offered a glimpse into another world through the picture plane as they can see something sublime happening on the other side.
While these three artists were chosen for the regional awards, the exhibition also includes the works of many incredibly talented artists, including Jerri Martin with “If I could hold you, I would Change your mind,” a heart-wrenchingly beautiful ceramic figure which nearly haunts the viewer with its vulnerability and elegant form. Andrew Dubach, another recent graduate and promising young artist, was represented with “Clown Shoes (a painting)”, which brings back expressionistic painting with a fervor. Dubach’s work gives the viewer a glimpse of a mind and a culture which is boiling over with ideas. Also, Catherine Blyth’s beautiful non-objective abstract piece “Above and Below the Red Line” was a great inclusion for the exhibition with its references to Terry Winters’ organic abstraction of the 80’s and early 90’s. Of course there are two many deserving artists to describe fully, but other visual treats included in this exhibition are Cara Lee Wade, Sara Auman-Smith, Joel Fremion, Rodka L Dammeyer, Ales and Renata Pancner, and Alayna Erne.
Overall, the 10th Regional Biennial Exhibition certainly lives up to the quality which its predecessors produced. These displays of our community’s artistic prowess much be supported and better recognized if we are going to produce an art scene and subsequent market that will become self-sufficient. The Biennial gives artists a chance to produce bodies of work, but that work still needs to be collected and encouraged.
For More Information:
“10th Regional Exhibition & Boycott! Posters”
Now-January 14, 2015