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Explorations in media
Artlink’s current exhibits highlights four diverse artists
By Dr. Beth A Kuebler-Wolf
Fort Wayne Reader
Artlink Contemporary Gallery features an interesting mix of printmakers and multimedia artists in its current exhibition. Together the four — Stephanie Carpenter, Adam Meyer, Deborah Robinson Miller, and Ashley Beatty — create a visually striking show which rewards the unhurried viewer.
Stephanie Carpenter’s body of work, “Semantic Sequences” features 100-year-old letterpress technology that Carpenter uses to explore “the limitations of language.” The tensions of language and meaning are a constant and effective thread through Carpenter’s work. A consummate craftsperson, Carpenter’s printmaking is a joy to look at. The A Hoard of Eeny Meanies series, with its deceptively cheerful coloring, resists attempts to recognize letter and number forms within large and small printed elements.
Carpenter plays with language and letters; one particularly interesting pair, called Inspiration: Ration and Individualism: Dualism invites us to visually consider the close root relationship in inherently contradictory words. Legibility is a theme in the printmaker’s work; she offers us a series of words whose letters seem to shimmer on the print- Evolution is a dazzling example. The Silver series is a series of images without words, adding up to a beautiful, evocative and mysterious whole. As well as being the largest body of work in the show, Carpenter’s “Semantic Sequences” is also the most developed, showing an artist who is a true master of her craft.
Adam Meyer’s work, showcased in “Liberations of Line and Matter” is born digital and abstract. Very different from Carpenter’s hand wrought letterpress prints, Meyer’s visual spectacles are made possible by digital manipulation. This works very well in a few large pieces in the show; Force_quit.jpg and Large Collage #1 are both striking examples of large scale prints which have real presence as objects and command attention. Meyer chooses a palette reminiscent of the 1980s, and some of his images just barely escape looking like New Wave album covers. If this is intentional, it should be done more boldly- and on a larger scale. In particular, one of the smaller prints, Spring 2016, deserves to be printed large so that it avoids that fate or embraces and overcomes it. Overall, though, the digital prints make a nice contrast to the hand printing methods sharing the gallery space
Ashley Beatty shows promise in her exhibition, “Overlapping in Proximity to the Sublime.” In particular, her printmaking deserves some sustained looking. Three layered woodcut prints including a symbolic self-portrait and Pinky Swear are full of energy and wit. Her Xerox transfer prints are well executed. In her artist’s statement Beatty discusses nature and the sublime. One wishes her landscape prints more clearly expressed a notion of the sublime rather than simply being a series of lovely images of a wooded grove.
Beatty’s most intriguing and beautiful work is Full Circle, a Xerox transfer lit from behind by LEDs. This work comes closest to invoking a traditional aesthetic notion of sublimity. A series of Polaroids printed into digital images demonstrates Beatty’s technical skill. The images themselves however do not live up to the potential of their medium, featuring rather bland images of road signs and local buildings. Her work is stronger in traditional printmaking and her Abstraction monotypes, placed close to Carpenter’s work, are able to hold their own.
Deborah Robinson Miller, featured in “An Exploration of Perspective,” is a multimedia artist whose deconstructed domestic objects are painted on, festooned with bits and pieces, and reconstructed into entirely new contraptions. Her show title fits well, for her ‘perspectives’ are both visual and conceptual. Pins and Needles, for example, is a deconstructed sewing drawer with the figure of a woman painted over sewing patterns and a toy shoe literally stuffed with pins and needles affixed at the bottom. The box has been reconstructed with one corner jutting out from the surface at an angle. It is here that Robinson places the figure’s head, slightly disjointed from the body and the rest of the image. This work combines a literal exploration of perspective (the placement of the woman’s head) with a conceptual exploration of gender expectations and perspectives. Pins and Needles literally features pins and needles, but placing them in the shoe at the woman’s feet suggests a deeper meaning — perhaps a feeling of discomfort with the role of the traditional housewife, which is suggested by the figure.
Sewing Drawer is drawer that Robinson Miller has deconstructed and turned into a flat surface for making a painting. A spool of thread and a pair of scissors are painted trompe l’oeil fashion over old sewing pattern pieces, and a red thread unravels from the painted spool onto the surface of the drawer. Here the exploration of perspective is a visual one and it is effective. Other works such as Grandma’s Toy Drawer also invite an exploration of both visual and conceptual perspectives. Robinson Miller thoughtfully explores gender expectations a gentle yet insistent voice throughout her show.
Finally, a word of appreciation for the Memorial Park Middle School art teachers, Amy Clark and Nalani Keesler, and their students. The hallway gallery devoted to their work shows a range of good work, from still lifes to more conceptual work that is to be commended at the middle school level. Clark’s and Keeslar’s commitment to their students, and to good work, is evident in this small show. I expect we will see some of these artists in future Artlink shows.
This four-person show is up until March 24th. Artlink’s gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday 12:00-7:00 and Sunday 12:00-4:00.