Matterhorn, 2013 by Alyssa Baguss
For "Untitled 10: SooVAC's 10th Annual Juried Exhibition," poet, curator, and cookbook author Heid E. Erdrich teams up with Jennifer Phelps, director of the Burnet Gallery, to present an intriguing assortment of artists. The result is a fascinating exploration of nature and animals.
In the front gallery, Alyssa Baguss's Matterhorn is prominent. The large mural on sectioned wallpaper takes up an entire wall, and depicts a mountain scene with a grey-pink sunset and glassy, reflective water. Instead of realistic mountains, though, Baguss creates the texture by using a pattern of triangles, which gives the rocks what looks to be a computer-generated appearance. The result is majestic. At the same time, it forces the viewer to question their experience and recognize it as a virtual creation.
Other artists in the show similarly take on themes of nature, especially in contrast to things that aren't natural. Miranda Brandon's digital photos, Impact (Bunting)
and Impact (Warbler)
, for example, show the form of what could be a bird on one half of each piece, while the other half remains a shadow.
Some of the artists contrast nature with urban landscapes. In Hot Air, artist Kristian Nelson creates a piece out of needlework and acrylic of a hot air balloon floating through a city skyline. There are trees below, and a lightning filled cloud in the place where the balloon's basket should be. In Candy, Nelson makes another cityscape, this time with a bubble-gum-type substance oozing everywhere.
Untitled 1 by Brandon Kuehn
Brandon Kuehn delivers some breathtaking paintings, where clouds of smoke overtake the blue-black sky in desolate rural scenes. Meanwhile, Susan Hansel, Donna Dralle, and Paula Barkmeier all utilize animal imagery to create introspective portraits to mystical (and sometimes surreal) effect. Jaime Johnson's tea-stained cyanotype print, Out of Africa, features a woman covered with dried leaves in a compelling work. Jon Mahnke's screenprint Morbidly somehow gives the feeling of muscle tissue, even as it tends toward abstraction.
Not all of the artwork in the show tackles the appropriation of nature (Amy Rice's work veers in a different direction, but is lovely nonetheless), but the prevailing through line of examining, drawing from, and unearthing the natural world holds the exhibition together, and asks us to reflect on our own place in the world -- even if we live in an urban environment.