There isn’t any signage at “In Range,” the biennial faculty exhibition in the gallery at Creative Arts Workshop on Audubon Street stating explicitly that the 27 participating faculty artists swap ideas constantly, in conversations, or by dropping by one another’s studios while they’re working on their own art. But the pieces in the exhibit itself — which runs through Nov. 3 — suggest that they do, as common themes run throughout this delightfully diverse display of the CAW faculty’s ever-evolving talents.
Paulette Rosen’s handmade box Lifetime succeeds in being a memento of a life, filled as it is with timelines and accolades. The empty compartments suggest that these milestones offer only the sketchiest outline of an even fuller life. Also on display is a love of texture, the roughness of paper, the smoothness of cardboard, placed side by side and balanced.
Similarly, Beth Klingher’s two pieces, Dance of the Elephants and Continential Divide, suggest on one level very different subject matter and moments of inspiration. The color palettes of the pieces diverge. But they are united by their texture. They’re made from the same materials — broken pottery, Mexican smalti, millefiori, and stone — and hang together as a cohesive unit.
Connie Pfeiffer proves able to wring a lot of kinetic energy from thread, paper, and a few drops of acrylic paint in her Stitched series, and uses it to startlingly diverse ends. It begins with what feels like a discovery, that lines of thread can suggest tumbling human figures. Running horizontally, as they are in Stitched 2, the figures are like clowns at a circus, doing cartwheels or shot from a cannon, or springing from a trampoline. The bright spots of paint read as flashes of light, maybe from spotlights, maybe from cameras.
Then, in Stitched, Pfeiffer achieves an entirely different emotional effect simply by orienting the concept vertically. Maybe it’s because she uses two long strips of paper like towers, and maybe it’s because this viewer happened to visit the exhibit on Sept. 11, but the figures in Stitched suddenly read as tumbling downward through the air, the red spots around them glimpses of fire and blood. The thread people feel like abstractions of the Falling Man and so many others who jumped with him from the burning towers of the World Trade Center in New York 17 years ago. Pfeiffer’s piece becomes a moving memorial.
David Millen’s Support System similarly capturea the kinetic movement of bodies like Pfeiffer’s playful version of Stitched. His subjects are acrobats, frozen in a seemingly impossible position — a small miracle of a sculpture. Just as living people could never hold such a pose, the sculpture itself seems like it should tip over, but doesn’t. The title of the piece is a gentle pun, but also suggests a kind of healing.
Phillip Levine’s sculptures echo the love of texture in other pieces in the exhibit, and tap into the fun in Pfeiffer’s and Millen’s works. His two spirals find their counterparts in a few other neighboring pieces — Maura Galante’s prints, and Barbara Harder’s monotype, which likewise explore the iterating qualities of natural shapes.
Two painters, meanwhile, find ways to make scenes that could well occur in real life also seem a touch surreal.
Steven DiGiovanni might have run across an overgrown refinery in a patch of Connecticut woods somewhere, a legacy of the state’s industrial past. But it’s just as likely concocted from his imagination — or altered from reality — to find the right balance between machinery and nature. It’s possible to imagine not only that the machine is being taken over by the forest, but that the machine is generating the forest, or that the forest is generating the machine.
It’s the right image for our time, as we grapple with the ways we have changed the environment and the ways we must now adapt to the resulting changing planet; our role in upsetting the balance of the natural world, and the possibilities that still remain for us to restore and rejoin that balance.
Eric March’s King & Queen #2 is such a carefully rendered painting that it might take a second to see what’s going on. March renders both the simple illustration of a stand like you’d find at a county fair and the nearly photorealistic laughing faces poking through it with equal skill. Did March work from a single photograph? Did he pull it together from human models and his imagination? Whatever the case, the result is disorienting and fun — like an amusement park ride in that thick, hazy yellow late-summer light that’s already a week in our past, as we head into the crisper air of fall.
“In Range: Faculty Biennial” runs at Creative Arts Workshop, 80 Audubon St., through Nov. 3. Visit CAW’s website for hours and more information.