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
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