Make that “Nothing is Permanent” written hundreds of times forwards and backwards.
Or how about a rectangle of amber in resin containing 10,000 Q-tips in which are embedded the maker’s DNA? Call that work “Immortality.”
Those are two of the fascinating images, by Aaron Benson and Morgan Chivers respectively, on display in “How Simple Can You Get.”
It’s the annual national juried exhibition at the Creative Arts Workshop, which this year attracted over 400 artists submitting more than a thousand pieces.
The theme was to produce something that reflected complexity reduced to simplicity, while remaining true, distinctive, and visually arresting.
Whew! Quite a task. Screeners for CAW selected 50 pieces from 43 artists based on viewing jpeg images from that large pool of submitters. They hailed from as far away as London. It is the biggest group of contributors in the show’s nearly three-decade history, said CAW Director Susan Smith.
The show’s juror, who came up with the theme, is Yale University School of Art Dean Robert Storr. He selected the winners and the honorable mentions.
Click here for thumbnails of all the works in the show. It runs through July 26, with a reception on Sunday July 14, between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m.
At that occasion the top prize winners, Hillary Charnas and Rebecca Murtaugh, will be officially crowned. Murtaugh won for her sculptures called “Dynamic Blue and Autumn Summer” and “Shrimp and Grandview,” both composed of re-purposed house paint on plastic.
Charnas, who lives in the greater New Haven area, was selected for her digital photographs titled “Asi Es Mi Mundo” (This Is My World) and “Bad Situation.”
Hide That Depth Where Everyone Can See It
The images and objects in the show range from the figurative to the abstract. It’s a fine visual potpourri, and fun. But as the title suggests, you can walk quickly by many of these works, or linger. The show brought to mind a wag’s remark (maybe Oscar Wilde’s?): That all art to earn the name must have its depth hidden. The question is where do you hide it? If you can hide it on the surface, that’s what makes mystery.
Judging a show with such a challenge is a kind of nightmare when works across all mediums come in to reflect a theme. Do you judge based on who comes closest to the mark theme-wise? How about off-theme but still fantastic?
In his statement Storr wrote: “The premise for this exhibition was ‘simplicity,’ which, as we know from Shaker design to John Cage to Agnes Martin to e.e. cummings, is never really simple. At any rate not if it’s any good. The works in this show range from the nearly truly simple to the deceptively simple to things that are pretty complex. All are things that caught my eye, held it and made me think.”
An artist who was visiting the show on Wednesday didn’t agree with Storr’s choices. Of Charnas’s submissions, Ellen Schiffman said, “They wouldn’t be my favorites, although the concept of it appeals to me. Subjective,” she declared.
Like your reporter, she was drawn to Chivers’s effort at permanence through the obsessive reprinting of the fact that nothing is permanent.
As she peered at it, it grew more interesting. She saw a figure eight beneath the lines of type and she wondered how the artist achieved that effect.
“I might have said it’s [just] an interesting graphic,” she said until she discovered the optical illusion, as she put it, and puzzled over how it was achieved technically.
Schiffman looked around at the other works in the gallery. Then she came back to the Chivers. “It makes you want to faint. I don’t know if I’d want to live with it,” she said.
The works, all of which are on sale and can be taken home to live with, are very much worth a visit; you can make yours as simple or as complex as you want.