Bath House Elemental
Story + Photographs by JR Compton
Elemental, an invitiational exhibition based on The Five Elements, at the Bath House Cultural Center, includes work by 35 artists, including Brad Abrams, Laura Abrams, Sybille Bauer, Elizabeth Baier-Mahy, Kathy Boortz, Sara Cardona, Diana Chase, J R Compton, Joe P. Davis, Viola Delgado, Kathleen Dello Stritto, Eliseo, Maria Guadalupe Diaz, Amalia Elmasri, Michael Van Enter, Maria Teresa, Garcia Pedroche, Dean Garrett, Amy Gerhauser, Juan Hernandez, Duane I. Johnson, Eli Lorenz, Diana Marquis, Noel Navarrete, Skip Noah, Jorge Rivero, Eloy Rodriguez, Rebecca Romanek Johnson, Shawn Saumell, Sandra A. Smertneck, James Michael Starr, Greg Stinson, T. Stone, Ginger Strand, Diane Walker-Gladney, Shaye Watson and Elizabeth Zaremba continues through April 26, 2003.
At the opening, I photographed some of the more obvious pieces I liked, including this one. I should point out that I'm deeply prejudiced in favor of Kathy Dello Stritto's work.
Her storm panorama mixes the elements of air, earth, fire t lightning, water t rain and clouds, and aether t the electricity, and the multiple metaphors, both obvious and less so. (At the Amon Carter later that week, I learned that thunderstorm art was, at least during the decades after our Civil War, often symbolic of war, coming war and the overriding fear of it.)
I doubt Kathy would own it being about war, especially since she's been doing interesting atmospheric conditions t skyscapes t for a long time now, and this piece, in particular, has been in the works for at least two years. But I like thinking of it that way, nonetheless. Critic's choice.
I've liked Amy Gerhauser's Shed since I saw it on the Longview Museum's site two years ago. It's a big, diaphanous kite (air, of course) charged with texture and filled with light. The dangling part of it drapes the floor (earth), and people tend to step on t grounding it?.
I wanted the cups at the four corners of Diana Marquis' wood and rock nest to flame with fire. Instead, I watched her fill them with water. It reminded me of one of Mary Iron Eyes' ritual installations or early Linnea Glatt, containing all the elements in an almost magical presentation.
I had to go back to the Bath House the week after the opening. I knew I'd missed things I needed to see, now sans the worry of speaking in public t I led my Meditation of the Five Elements outside in Linnea Glatt's A Place to Perform sculpture/stage next to the Bath House during the reception.
I'm glad I did, although I appreciated the quadranting of the gallery into four symbolic colors, even less than at opening night. I was so glad I'd chosen an element painted a color close to white.
Fire's orange is a particularly difficult color to compete with art. But all the colors tended to thwart my camera's white balance. Forgive me if I've rendered some of these pieces in less than high color fidelity.
One of my favorite fire piece, however, wasn't done by any local artist. I like that it's been splattered with layer after layer of paint, telling a short history of gallery color. As you can see, however, it was on the wrong wall. On the Fire wall, it could only have helped.
I completely missed James Michael Starr's simple, found art assemblage of a winged flyer, firmly planted in a circular base of mountains, thrust up from which a thin rod supports an angel of sorts. Perfect flight metaphor, time ravaged, almost historical.
Visit James Michael Starr's DARts Member page.
I saw Terri Stone's piece at the opening, but I hadn't the time to appreciate its sturdy, ripped and rippling, crimson flames. It seems so unlike the work of hers I've come to expect. Nice to be surprised. Fire, indeed.
Visit T.Stone's DARts Member page.
Another seeming utter simple piece is Eliseo's table of the world carved limestone. Flat, undulating, spiraling, concentric earth.
I didn't care much for the fat, dark, rounded Mother Earth these ritual objects dangled from in Eli Lorenz' piece, or the simplistic message, but the stringed mix of symbolic objects felt magically appropriate for an elemental exhibition.
In a similarly spiritual vein, Sybille Bauer's Blue Air is simplified to the point of abstraction, like microscopic projection particle waves of elemental essence.
Another name I've begun to associate with good stuff is Diane Walker-Gladney. Above this detail is a scissor thread thingy I flat did not understand, but the luscious, painterly paint applied to this grid of ocean below is just so wonderful.
As perhaps you know by now, we've been watching Kathy Boortz' work for awhile now. Her piece in this show is not, as we would have expected, one of her oddly formed birds or animals, but another self-portrait, this time as a dark angel, perhaps falling.
Grouped, as it annoyingly was, with all the other branching, fragmented pieces, one of which actually projects into her space t and suspended on a too noticeable, black mount (deus ex machina?) this piece didn't have the impact it could have with a simpler, more transparent (white) stand and space of its own, but it is nonetheless a plaintive self-portrait of suspended animation.
Other work I would have liked to show and tell here were Diana Chase's Make Waves fused and slumped glass waves curling and cycling. Unfortunately, I couldn't get any but nasty yellow light to transluce it, and that threw all the blues out of color whack. Like in the TSA membership show, there just wasn't enough light coming through the glass to make it shine.
Elizabeth Zaremba's tumultuous, mixed media Waterfall was full of fluid forms of crashing, splashing textures, and Elizabeth Baier-Mahy's Phase 4 monoprint was dense with lush clouds of color and form.
Nice show, and some great company to be exhibited with.
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