The University of Rhode Island’s Fine Arts Center’s current exhibit on display, “Inter-Media,” includes various art mediums that are thought-provoking.
The exhibit features three outside artist work through different media.
The first group of 11 pieces was created by Susan Mathews who works in clay, yarn, wool and watercolor. Nine of them are three-dimensional works that use latex balloons to create unique shapes. Many of the pieces also use wool and glaze to keep the bright-colored balloons together.
Mathews also submitted two smaller pieces that were watercolor and thread on paper. In her artist statement, she said those pieces were her source of inspiration for the balloon pieces. “I was most interested in ways to confine, protect and restrain the balloons and what happened when I used different media to do so,” she said.
Her pieces can be thought of as a beautiful metaphor for the nature of life itself. She takes something fun and harmless and surrounds it using material also not usually seen as dangerous. This allows the viewer to realize that life is a two-way street; it is something worth celebrating and full of things to love, yet we will inevitably feel pinned down and be encountered with the unfamiliar at some point in our lives, as well. The balloons may very well represent our ability to rise above what might be holding us back from being truly happy.
Johnny Adimando, who works in printmaking and sculpture, submitted nine pieces. Seven of the nine had a very similar aesthetic, as they all consisted of a framed polymer gravure etching and intaglio on paper with a matching archival wall decal above the frame. The pieces are all in black and white, nearly symmetrical, and are made up of seemingly photographic images to create a collage, combining the art of photography and graphic design. Adimando’s last two pieces are much larger and three-dimensional, the image patterns printed onto hand-cut boards.
Adimando did not submit an artist statement along with his work, essentially leaving the meaning to be determined by the viewer. All of the pieces seemed to be connected due to the repeated imagery found in them. Images were repeated in the same work creating a pattern while others were found in multiple works. These images included skulls, snakes and other live animals, wings, greek and perhaps religious statues and outlines of hands. When these images are put together the way Adimando did, they create a strange sense of uneasiness in the viewer. They are seemingly coming together to portray scenes of doom, making the line between life and death seem all the more thin, causing one travel into a dark yet spiritual realm in which reality has been altered.
The last group of twelve pieces is collectively called “A Decadent World Night” and was created by Mara Trachtenberg who works in photography, sculpture and animation. She shows off both her photography and sculpting skills in her work by making small winged human sculptures out of sugar and then capturing them in various positions and creating a stop-motion animation of them.
In her artist statement, Trachenburg claims that the works have multiple meanings, both personal and conceptual. She says it is personal because her inspiration for these works first came to her in a dream and that by creating the works, it allows her to relive the dream from a different perspective. Her work also explores different concepts like religion, the issue of preservation and conservation, and generally what society has come to value.
“I sculpt with sugar to explore the hierarchal and transformative relationship between culture and nature; the power of culture to transform nature into symbols of decadence, frivolity, abundance and celebration,” Trachenburg said in her artist’s statement.
There is a sort of warm familiarness the viewer can feel when observing Trachtenberg’s work. Perhaps this is because it is so rooted in tradition. Renaissance artists painted winged humans in religious scenes all the time. It is quite interesting that Trachenburg was able to relate connect to the nature of modern society, as well. One could argue that she did this by incorporating photography and technology in her work when she could have featured the sculptures themselves. Her choices in presentation essentially connect the past and the present.
Overall, the “Inter-Media” exhibit truly has the potential to make a person gain a new outlook on the structure, ambiguity, and imperfect nature of life itself.