THIS MONTH AT THE OJAI ART CENTER is my solo exhibition ‘Within Glass’, featuring a plethora of works expressing surreal plant forms, fleshy growths, geological quirks–all within the confines of a glass enclosure. Combing elements from my current primary working mediums–oil and acrylic paintings, digital photography and prints, 3-dimensional mixed media, and small-scale sculpture–the installation is a conglomeration and congregation of a variety of separate but related works spanning many years. Much of the work revolves around growth: forms of growth, processes of growth, mutations of growth, and the containment of growth. Amidst the cornucopia are images rooted in the recognizable (as with the photographs of flowers), paintings which bleed into the malleable realms of the surreal and abstract, and a series of sculptures which seamlessly combine natural stalagmites with man-made materials into anomalous objects for the contemplation of time, infinity, and evolution.
Color is always a vital part of my art. Color is a highly intelligent mode of communication which is mostly unacknowledged by humans, but which is clearly prized by plants and animals alike, facilitating inner-species and inter-species collaboration. I maintain that color speaks more directly, intuitively, and meaningfully than ideas or concepts (despite what my higher-education art training would have me believe). Every individual color has a unique message to convey, the juxtaposition and mixing of colors creating an infinite rainbow of communication.
The installation of art within an inaccessible glass case makes physical the unspoken rule of ‘look but don’t touch’. Unlike an ordinary museum or gallery show, the possibility of illegally touching the art is absolved–it is touchable only with the gaze. Luckily there is plenty to absorb visually; yet the visceral qualities and themes within much of the work creates a tension: what is inherently physical can only be approached visually. As with a zoo exhibit, it is impossible for the viewer to occupy the same space as what they are looking at. Not so far removed as to be virtual, this scenario resonates with the virtual game: accessing some other person, place, data, information via a looking-glass screen. Our existences on the internet–social media, email, online shopping, even online banking–have in many cases taken precedence over the physical experience they represent and strive to emulate. After all, isn’t it more convenient to have your money as numbers on a (secure) server with an accredited financial institution rather than cold cash stashed under the mattress? Why spend half an hour going to lunch with one friend when you can share with 10,000+ followers on Instagram in an instant? And at the (relevant) extreme: why go see art in person when it can be seen online?
The physicality of art–and of existence, for that matter–is vital to effective and meaningful communication and expression. Viewing a painting or sculpture on a screen will never replace experiencing it in its native habitat: physical space-time, as it really is. An image on a screen provides some inkling of what it is like off screen; perhaps even some of its content and emotional qualities are transferred across the lit-up digital looking-glass membrane. Perhaps when we listen to an MP3 file–a song which plays in bits and pieces–we can put the pieces together to hear the music. Perhaps we really are connecting with and expressing ourselves to every single follower on Instagram when we post a picture of ourselves waking up in the morning. Can technology make virtual reality as viable, effective, and relevant as physical reality?
Come find out for yourself at the opening reception for ‘Within Glass’ at The Ojai Art Center on Saturday, November 12th, from 1-3 PM. The exhibition runs only through November–look within the glass while you can!