Gallery exhibit uses color to display emotion
Gallery exhibit touches on emotional, ethical issues
Published: Monday, March 5, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 11:03
The College at Brockport's Tower Fine Arts Center Gallery opened adjoining exhibitions Tuesday Feb. 28, titled Lucinda Devlin: The Omega Suites and Paper: On and Off the Wall. The exhibitions focus on the photographic work of Devlin and the mixed media works of Charles Clary, Lauren Clay and Anonda Bell. Clary, Clay and Bell are all known for their work with paper.
Dividing the gallery space in half, both exhibitions touch upon psychological and ethical issues such as the death penalty, fears of spiders and insects, and viruses. All four artists use color to portray emotion and contradictions within their work.
Brought to Brockport in conjunction with Coyote on a Fence and Sister Helen Prejean's "Dead Man Walking" lecture, The Omega Suites displays 17 images related to capital punishment. From 1991 and 1998, Devlin photographed the interiors of penitentiaries in twenty states where capital punishment is legal.
Each photograph pulls the viewer in, playing with vibrant colors and majestic scenes. Electric chairs made of deep mahogany wood or painted a macaroni yellow sit proudly in the middle of bleached rooms. Gallows stand brightly lit by the afternoon sun, with neighboring buildings painted in royal blues and bright reds.
The images are serene at first glance, as there's a lack of human presence. For a moment, the electric chairs and lethal injection beds appear as simple pieces of furniture in ramshackle prison rooms. The viewer isn't only looking at the implements and brutality of capital punishment, but simply the tools for execution. Then reality sets in. Every image in this collection captures the images confronting a convicted felon during the final moments of life.
This reality is both sobering and somber. The photograph "Lethal Injection Chamber, Territorial Correctional Facility, Canon City, CO" displays an upright lethal injection bed, which splays the victim out as if they're being crucified.
The On and Off the Wall exhibition exudes a lighter emotion, but still has a sobering edge. Clary's mixed media sculpture "Patiflasmic Diffusion" presents a series of calm blue, red and yellow blocks grouped together, with amoeba or cell-like cutouts intruding into blocks. Up close, it's hard not to admire the artistry of the piece. Constructed almost exclusively out of paper, the piece is carefully cut and crafted to create a sense of depth within each organic form.
Stepping away from the piece, it looks as if acid or a virus is ripping through Clary's work, eating away at the rectangles on the wall. Clary plays with color in this piece, keeping the hues light and playful, although there is a strong sense of destruction.
At a distance, Clay's "Blameless Sage, Diadem," another paper sculpture, looks like a giant dream catcher made out of hundreds of tongue depressors. Up close, the popsicle sticks turn into thin, meticulously-cut strips of paper layered on top of each other and held together by strips of plaster gauze, wire and papier-mâché.
"Sage" has a mystical air to it. The cool colors emit a spooky feel, like there is a strong history behind the piece, even though it was produced within the past decade.
Bell's work asks the viewer to confront their fears. Aptly named after various phobias — Apiphobia (bees), Arachnophobia (spiders) and Myrmecophobia (ants) — her work featured in the exhibition serves as a metaphor for how fears can sometimes consume a person.
Her mixed media piece, "Apiphobia," presents the image of a human body, swarmed by bees in a "cyclone" around the head. "Arachnophobia" shows large spiders crawling over a body, completely overtaking the human form.
Her third piece, "Myrmecophobia," displays a person being swarmed by ants. In all three images, the insects and spiders become part of the figures, forming a silhouette on each body. Bell's pieces commenting on how fears can sometimes overtake the mind and become a form of identity.
On display until Friday March 30, the show is free to the public and students.