Women in Art at Northeast Lakeview College Gallery
Posted By Diana Lyn RobertsIn All, ArtComments 0
San Antonio, Texas. ART Magazine
Overwhelming as CAM can be, it affords the opportunity to see new work in studios, part-time galleries, and impromptu or off-the-beaten- path venues, presented on more-or-less equal footing with the usual suspects. Yet some places remain unlisted, peripheral, and awkward to access even in the thick of things, and fantastic shows and spaces can go unnoticed. One such gem was the recent exhibition at Northeast Lakeview College, the newest outpost of the Alamo Colleges. Despite the banal title, Women in Art featured an utterly engaging selection of strong works by six regional powerhouse artists at various career stages, in a gorgeous venue most people don’t even know exists.
The show was thoughtfully curated by Fine Art Department Chair, James Miller, for the campus-wide celebration of Women’s History Month. Geared primarily toward the campus community, getting information on exhibitions and openings can be tricky for outsiders not accustomed to searching online campus event calendars, or unwilling to go out of their way to find a gallery on campus. Still, the space is stunning and, unlike many campus environments, parking is available.
Beyond the public opening, there are two faculty numbers to call for a viewing appointment. While this sounds clunky, they’re more than happy to open the doors. In this particular case, it was well worth the quest. Miller’s bias toward ceramic sculpture came through, balanced by a range of both pedestal and wall-mounted works, and by painter Diane Mazur’s large, multi-panel abstract works, which dominated the high, well-lit walls. Splashes and slashes of bright color and texture on white grounds, these are among the most confident and compositionally complex of Mazur’s work from recent years, each panel deliberately worked to be visually complete from all angles.
Catherine Lee’s “Coppering” consisted of 40 smoky-white, raku-fired, blade-shaped elements wrapped with richly colored copper wire, elegantly installed along the length of a long, taupe-colored, free- standing divider wall. Five additional small-scale sculptural works in bronze or raku-fired earthenware provided a fully three-dimensional representation of this internationally recognized artist’s distinctive forms, textures, and palette. The architectonic nature of Lee’s “Cubic” series is further enhanced by crusty, kiln-fired nails that hold the glazed ceramic slabs together, tenuous survivors of the firing process.
Jessica Battes presented elegant, urchin-like ceramic forms, embellished with fierce-looking cast bronze quills, claws, and fasteners. Attached to densely formed, writhing, tube-like fabric bodies mounted to the walls, or presented under glass bell jars, Battes’ work operates on a continuum between marine form, lab specimen, microbiological structure, and psycho-conceptual emanation. The ceramic elements are exquisitely crafted, and beautifully integrated into a fully sculptural context.
Lenise Perez-Miller anchored the two end walls with a playful series of thin ceramic slabs, each folded or slumped into various shapes and positions, and matte glazed in distinctive, intense colors. Mounted to uniform white square backboards, the works were displayed in three grid-like groups that played equally off the bright colors of Mazur’s paintings and Lee’s more reserved tones and forms. For all their formal simplicity, titles like, “Toys Won’t Hurt Me” and “What Should I Play With Now?” suggest a deeper, cathartic process.
Collectively, all the works address notions of materiality, biology (real or imagined), and cultural expectation, viewed from an oblique or intuitive perspective and variously defined, examined, or undermined by an idealized or contrary perception. Along with her abstract works, Perez-Miller’s quasi-figurative, found-object assemblages like “Mistake: King for a Day” suggest the complexities of childhood identity formation, and the process of sorting through the clichéd expectations of gender and ethnicity to arrive at a fully personal sense of self. They are perhaps the most direct and engaging, simply because one cannot avoid the cute/creepy countenance of doll heads and body parts affixed to balls of twine atop old, metal, clip-on roller skates: simultaneously the ties that bind, strangle, hold things together, and can knock you on your ass if you’re not carefully balanced, or if you don’t see that pebble laying in wait as you’re sailing down the sidewalk.
JoLea Arcidiacono’s “Chromataphore” depicts a small nude female form in an acrobatic backbend provocatively entwined with an octopus, the porcelain-like surface unified by a complex of pigmented dots, suggestive of both biological and metaphysical camouflage. Other works like “Bumpy Red Bean” reference plant forms, seedpods, or perhaps exotic egg sacs. Titles like “Apoptosis” imply both natural cellular processes and more menacing possibilities.
Jamie Lea Wade’s ceramic “Anthozoan Brood” and “One of the Daughters” again raise biological and spiritual notions of descent with a large, mysteriously lumpy form covered with bumps and head-like structures emerging from the surface. Yet there is something inherently friendly in Wade’s creations, including two small prints titled “Traveling Teapot” and “Mother Coral” that work in tandem with her ceramic objects to spread a strange sense of joy and humor with their intentionally playful, elegant awkwardness.
The fact that the gallery is open only by appointment, on a college campus, and in a relatively remote part of town by most art-community compasses (1604 and Kitty Hawk) didn’t bode well for high visibility, despite the beautiful gallery and the strength of the work. Why the organizers (or those higher up the bureaucratic food chain) opted out of CAM publicity remains a mystery. Still, no one ever said art was easy, and art of this caliber is always worth the effort.