A Vis­ual Arts Ex­hi­bi­tion, part of the 18 Days fes­ti­val, Muñoz Wax­man Gallery, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 1050 Old Pe­cos Trail, 982-1338 (week­end hours only); through Sun­day, March 20

Pasatiempo - - Art In Review - — Dou­glas Fair­field

Ju­ried ex­hibits — par­tic­u­larly big ones — tend to show the best and worst from wher­ever. To some de­gree, that’s what makes these of­ten un­gainly shows fun to pe­ruse. One is ex­posed to one’s share of dread­ful, even laugh­able stuff, but that’s usu­ally off­set by some re­mark­able and highly skilled work. For ju­rors, the se­lec­tion process can be gru­el­ing — some­time bru­tal — if quo­tas are set or ex­hi­bi­tion space is lim­ited. Re­view­ing such shows is chal­leng­ing. It’s in­evitable that some­one wor­thy of men­tion goes by the way­side, there is never enough space in which to fully jus­tify likes and dis­likes, and the se­lec­tions are so var­ied that it’s dif­fi­cult to get a bead on what the ju­rors set as cri­te­ria for who gets in and who gets the boot. In the end, the ju­rors’ mind-sets are on dis­play as much as the art is.

All of the above hold true for the New Mex­ico Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Mu­seum of Women in the Arts ju­ried ex­hi­bi­tion cur­rently on view in the Muñoz Wax­man Gallery at the Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts. The show is big at 135 works, artists from across the state are rep­re­sented, there’s a pro­fu­sion of me­dia — paint­ing, sculp­ture, pho­tog­ra­phy, in­stal­la­tion art, fab­ric art, fiber art, col­lage, works on pa­per, mixed me­dia, ce­ram­ics, glass, video — and, yes, you will roll your eyes at a few pieces for lack of artis­tic know-how and inane con­cepts yet stand dazed and amazed at oth­ers.

Not sur­pris­ingly, there is a host of fa­mil­iar names in the show, in­clud­ing Mar­garete Bagshaw, Janet Russek, Ma­ri­etta Pa­tri­cia Leis, Noël Hud­son, Page Cole­man, Phyl­lis Kapp, and Star Liana York, among oth­ers. It’s al­ways in­ter­est­ing to see what these artists have been up to in re­cent years and gauge whether their work has changed — for bet­ter or worse — or re­mained the same. For the most part, those cited are do­ing what they do best, and you can iden­tify their work from afar — no need to read the la­bels ex­cept for a ti­tle or two. But be­ing in­tro­duced to artists not pre­vi­ously known is in­her­ently a pos­i­tive com­po­nent to ju­ried shows, and this one is no ex­cep­tion.

The styles and tech­niques on dis­play are as vast as the dif­fer­ent medi­ums, which is a great learn­ing tool for young artists and school groups. Look­ing at work from il­lus­tra­tion and rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al­ism to stat­u­ary and nonob­jec­tive art, plus all ab­stract ex­pres­sions in be­tween, view­ers can deepen their un­der­stand­ing of what con­sti­tutes the def­i­ni­tion of art. Pen-and-ink, oil, acrylic, em­broi­dery, dig­i­tal im­agery, forged steel, pas­tel, stained glass, and carved wood are just a few of the tools and pro­ce­dures em­ployed.

Some of the in­stal­la­tion de­ci­sions can be jar­ring when mov­ing in tran­si­tion from one piece to an­other. For ex­am­ple, a poorly ren­dered head-and-shoul­ders por­trait of a woman — over­worked with torn frag­ments of hand­made pa­per and glit­ter strewn about — hangs ad­ja­cent to an au­dio-video piece that from above projects an im­age of a dancer onto a large, per­fectly rounded mound of salt on the floor. The con­trast and close prox­im­ity of crap­ola to high-tech cool is grat­ing. The con­nec­tive thread may be that both women de­picted have long, dark hair.

It’s also un­for­tu­nate that the bulk of the pho­tog­ra­phy en­tries are hung on a sin­gle wall, sa­lon style — stacked atop one an­other — where those above the hair­line can­not be seen clearly. It was frus­trat­ing not be­ing able to scru­ti­nize up close the beau­ti­ful blackand-white tonal­i­ties and tex­tu­ral de­tails in Shel­ley Moore’s dig­i­tal print Sum­mer Clouds Over Pe­cos

Na­tional Mon­u­ment. And like­wise for Lisa Blair’s blackand-white im­age Ranchos de Taos Next to Me, which is a self-por­trait of the pho­tog­ra­pher wedged in the soft cur­va­ture along the back of the fa­mous church. Blair is dwarfed by the wall’s tow­er­ing, ab­stract mass, while the slightly skewed per­spec­tive gives the im­age its dis­torted and sur­real qual­ity. The height­ened aura that sur­rounds the church may or may not be due to del­i­cate so­lar­iza­tion of the print or neg­a­tive or the re­sult of Pho­to­shop ma­nip­u­la­tion, but the el­e­vated place­ment of Blair’s pic­ture leaves one strain­ing to see nu­ance of light and shadow, while the pho­tog­ra­pher is barely dis­tin­guish­able. Over­all, the se­lected pho­tos are im­pres­sive, but the group­ing seems scat­ter­shot.

Per­sonal fa­vorites in the show that fea­ture adept crafts­man­ship, so­phis­ti­cated con­cepts, sly wit, and/or aes­thetic beauty in­cluded Eve­lyn Rosen­berg’s

Ki­moni #2, detono­graph and fab­ri­cated metal; Dara Mark’s Luna #3, wa­ter­color on translu­cent polypropy­lene; Mic Muhlbauer’s al­tar­piece Stuck in Limbo on a Tech­ni­cal­ity, clay and mixed me­dia; Carolyn

Sch­lam’s The Chair, oil on can­vas; Sarah Sil­tala’s Daybreak, oil on panel; Ka­rina Hean’s mixed-me­dia draw­ing Land­scaped II; Ann Dun­bar’s Past, Present,

Fu­ture, pa­per sculp­ture; and DeeAnne Wagner’s set of three skirts con­sist­ing of Ja­panese wood­block prints on re­cy­cled pack­ing pa­per and hand-forged steel.

If the ju­rors for this competition had al­lowed them­selves one more round of ed­its — elim­i­nat­ing about 20 more pieces — the show could have been a stunner and still re­tain its eclec­tic na­ture in terms of me­dia, styles, and tech­niques. De­spite a hand­ful of clunkers, the work in this ex­hibit demon­strates a myr­iad of cre­ative sen­si­bil­i­ties and speaks well for the women artists of New Mex­ico.

Mic Muhlbauer: Stuck in Limbo on a Tech­ni­cal­ity, 2010, clay and mixed me­dia, 20 x 40 x 2 inches

Clock­wise, from top: Eve­lyn Rosen­berg: Ki­moni #2 (Closed With Tie), 2009, ex­ploded metal form­ing detonog­ra­phy, 72 x 54 x 5 inches

Dara Mark: Luna #3, 2010, wa­ter­color on translu­cent polypropy­lene, 42 x 50.5 x 2 inches

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