Rio Exhibit . . . continued from page 1
Ironically appropriate for Utah (the floor of an ancient sea that left its marks everywhere) Jorgensen's vivid imaginings often take nautical shape. What at first appears to be the title character in "I Am the Sea Freak" stands before a seascape of waves drawn from maps of the California coastline.|1| Or the "sea freak" may be the woman in the mid-ground captured in a net by sailors. This vignette, taken from an old illustration and interposed between the shaky line drawing in front and the precisely rendered maps behind, suggests another meaning for "freak"one who is captivatedand may account for the apparent sympathy of the alien creature, who gestures toward her. The roles are murky, but the meaning is clear from the inscription: Life is hard enough when you belong here. We emerged from the ocean to live in desert lands; many of us prefer those coastlines closest to our original homes, and our doom is to forever see beyond boundaries we cannot cross.
Jorgensen's large works form composite portraits of whole communities, stressing connections within the group while suggesting how identity emerges from their sum. In "reCollection (Provo)", these connections are made elaborately evident by a web of threads connecting and articulating numerous individual faces.|2| Printed on loose sheets of metallic-finish paper with a reflective surface that sometimes causes the negative image to flip to positive, each face is over-sewn with lines of thread that sometimes ignore the face, but at other times follow its forms like the lines on a contour map. At the edges of each portrait these lines twist off into space, forming tangles that eventually link it to the surrounding pages. The idea of a community as a web of connections isn't new, but what emerges here is a palpable sense of its complexity, delicacy, and yet the ultimate strength of that web: even greater, it would seem, than that of the individuals who comprise it.
Polish-born, New York-educated photographer Zuzanna Smolarkiewicz's cosmopolitan background finds an outlet in the technical sophistication she acquired while taking commercial product shots. Many photographers make a living doing portraits and weddings, but Smolarkiewicz doesn't make the kind of portraits paying customers want, and it's hard to imagine her subjects in white dresses. Her style feels familiar from much contemporary photography -- not just different from, but antagonistic to studio conventions -- but her careful attention to craft in her representations bespeaks an affection for her subjects that goes hand in hand with the way her uniformly unflinching eye conveys respect for their integrity.
Here again the larger work is an ensemble. The enigmatically titled "May I Miss You the Most" includes 24 “C” prints, each resembling a candid snapshot. Individuals and settings recur occasionally, as if drawn from a group of friends seen in their common haunts. |3-5| Everyone is appropriately dressed for the bars and beaches where they were shot. Poses, if anyone is actually posing, are casual and available light is the rule. In a reflex nod to photographic candor, the negatives are printed full-frame, including the edges of sprocket holes that also identify the format as 35mm. At first so much severe image making alienates the eye, making the work hard to enter into, and viewers may be tempted to pass by without looking closer. Yet this feeling mimics how such an inner circle might close ranks against a stranger. Closer inspection reveals how much Smolarkiewicz's camera has penetrated that resistance. One possible, unwelcome reading requires realizing that every portrait is also a mirror held up to the viewer.
In "May I Miss You the Most," contrast between the subjects' casual self-presentation and the photographer's attention to technique creates distance between them. A series of individual "Reflections" close that gap with an intimate point of view and grease pencil comments handwritten in the margin. That the artist here addresses her subjects is syntactically clear from lines like "I photographed you…” from "Reflection on Lynn," but they are also poignantly felt: "Reflections on Liz" includes the words, I hate you almost as much as I love you / but mostly I just miss you.|6|
Smolarkiewicz sometimes indulges in rhetorical image making. "Do me a favor and start flattering yourself" features a blond woman with a blank expression standing before a curtain made from a wild jungle print: the wallflower in captivity. Here as elsewhere she reminds us how difficult it is, in a world where photographs make up so much of our visual input, to find a truly new mode of expression.
All of watercolor painter Chelsea Hertford Taylor's portraits consist of two or more images closely juxtaposed. Often they are on two or more separate sheets of paper collaged together. One image depicts the subject, seen so close up that the nose or cheek is enlarged while the chin and hands seem shrunken and powerless. The other proffers an extraneous object with no clear meaning or connectionthe carcass of a wrecked bus or a T-shirt decorated with a digestive trackrecalling the sort of haphazard associations that sent the Surrealists into raptures.
Absurdity is part of how Taylor sees the world, and anxiety is arguably the most frequent expression on her subjects' faces. The artist shares this anxiety, and captures it by painting the heads so large they nearly defeat her medium. This is bravura painting, but the subtle washes that render flesh tones can only be controlled so far, and the completed faces threaten to fall apart at any time like so much understanding. Making a virtue of necessity, Taylor uses similar puddles of paint in the margins and other seemingly accidental marks to balance or energize her painted figures. In "After the Fact," Taylor collages a face onto a torso painted separately, the stripes on its shoulders knotting together on one side and turning into a puddle of paint on the other.|7| Beneath, four small pages spill across the space, carrying several zigzag lines that droop and finally lead to a depiction of a ship in a bottle. Be careful following this or any other lead, Taylor seems to suggest: where it leads us may not suit our needs, and the track once followed cannot be retraced. The most resonant title in the show may be her "Bad Paintings Happen to Good People."|8|
Ever since the 1980s, many persons who think art should carry something more than formal structuresomething like contenthave turned to women in search of new stories and different points of view. All three women at the Rio have new ways of looking at the persons who surround them. Just as importantly, they also have the ability to invent and discover new ways of showing what they have seen.||
I Am You, featuring works by Eva Pollock Jorgensen, Zuzanna Smolarkiewicz, and Chelsea Hertford Taylor is at the Rio Gallery through June 9.
Jim Frazer . . . continued from page 1
But Jim Frazer's exploration is not confined to the art arena. He is literally an explorer. In the 1990's Frazer published several articles about his trip into the Belize jungles and created a video about jungle exploration. He has also written an -- as yet -- unpublished book called, Nearly Forgotten: Tales from the Chiquibul Forest of Belize, combining a narrative of his jungle trips along with the oral history and experiences of the people who live and work there. Frazer also wrote articles in 2003 and 2004 for South American Explorer about Confederate expatriates in Brazil and rain forest pharmaceuticals.
In 1999, Frazer was led to Utah by the University of Utah's dance program, which his oldest daughter, Jamie, entered. His son, John Nisbet, also studied dance here and currently performs with Ballet West. Frazer was also intrigued by the photographs of the early exploring expeditions of the American West. Once in Utah, he spent a good deal of time photographing our deserts and traversing our unique wilderness areas while he continued to exhibit in solo and group shows in his home state and in Utah.
Before long, Frazer's landscapes started becoming more and more abstracted and manipulated to be almost unrecognizable from their original form. Elements were extracted and text was added. During an installation exhibit at the now defunct New Visions Gallery in Salt Lake, Frazer stopped cutting and digitally manipulating his images and began creating universe/space type objects from scratch-oddities that hung from the ceiling, lit up or made weird noises. This is the exhibit where the tinkerer and explorer made the big jump and began to really experiment. Frazer has always had a strong interest in scientific and theoretical possibility; by the reality that some of what we believe to be true now will in the future be seen as foolish and what we think of now as crackpot may someday be accepted as fact. This brings us to his boxes.
Frazer's "Curiosity Boxes," which will be on display from June 8 to July 27 at the Finch Lane Gallery, are a culmination of many of the artist's wonderings and wanderings up 'til now. The boxes refer to the Baroque wunderkammer, which often mixed genuine natural history specimens with fantastic items such as unicorn horns, and displayed them alongside works of art.
Frazer's boxes contain microorganisms that masquerade as jewelry and scientific diagrams that function as decorative elements while text from fiction is used as scientific labels. These uniquely constructed boxes, made from a variety of materials, open to reveal worlds of tiny discoveries and ideas. They are like those elaborately decorated blown Easter eggs that you crack open to expose wondrous and fascinating things inside. Except the egg is Frazer's brain and the things inside are more marvelous and beautiful to look at, even as the artist explores such topics as the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider Experiment in Long Island and the Poincare Conjecture.
One of Frazer's "curiosity boxes" addresses the anxiety surrounding the possible reversal of the Earth's magnetic force. A small oak box opens to reveal a magnified ammonite, set within compass points, on a bed of crystal-looking bismuth and magnets. The magnified fossil spirals down to its center while the tiny compasses at the four corners of the box have needles that point in every direction. The inside lid of the box contains a mathematical illustration plotting the earth's slowly changing magnetic field. Since ammonite is often used as an indicator of geologic time, the spiral literally and figuratively looks back through time
Anyone who knows Frazer knows his fascination with the Fugitive Ray, a fictional phrase that has made an appearance in the text of several of the artist's past works. In this exhibit, Frazer actually makes a box to hold a Fugitive Ray. Of course this box also contains both real and pretend scientific gauges, which may or may not measure some aspects of the ray it holds inside. The Fugitive Ray is a prime example of potential and imagined science transformed into reality through art. Frazer is able to step in and out of both worlds of science and art, to mingle and transpose them so well because he perceives each as having the same fundamental purpose of exploration and experimentation. Some viewers may theorize that he is merely manipulating our perception of reality vs. fantasy. Not so. Frazer aims to give equal validity to both, and to all possibilities, with his art. To borrow one of Frazer's favorite quotes from filmmaker Trent Harris, "Just because I made it up doesn't mean it isn't true." ||
Jim Frazer's Curiosity Boxes will be on exhibit at the Finch Lane Gallery June 8 through July 27 with a reception June 8th, 6 to 8 pm. More of his work can be seen at http://www.jimfrazer.com