Cornish’s 2013 BFA show is titled Expo 13 and displays the fruit of 45 graduates’ arduous art school endeavors. Cornish College of the Arts may teach the fundamentals, but these emerging artists use techniques so disparate that there are many extracurricular influences and experiments at work. Several graduates showed work in traditional mediums, such as painting, photography, and print, but others showed work that straddled these lines. Some did this brilliantly, while others—well, let’s just say, others will have more time to work on their concepts.
For the reader’s sake, I will attempt to divide and classify the show. There were, however, several artists who did not neatly fit within a classification. For that, I applaud them, for they are the essence of contemporary art. Their work just might not find as many walls as other “more hangable” art.
One such artist who blurred the lines between recognizable mediums was Miles Toland. His three paintings overlaid with projected video imagery were expertly crafted and fully developed. Toland’s skills with paint and canvas are formidable, showing a truly realistic rendering of the subject matter and ease in portraying the surreal, but the artist far surpassed the expected and brought the canvases to life by layering projected video. In one work, the canvas portrays a man down and out on the street. The projector starts up and the man moves ever so slightly. Leaning against a street-side magazine stand, he drinks from a malt liquor beverage, which spills when he sets it down. Different aspects of the scene come to life as tie passes; a crow enters the picture and the newspaper dispenser transforms into an RGB field-sequential color system display of undulating primary colors. There are simply too many details to recount, and in each detail there are many subtle nuances that take multiple viewings to absorb. The other two works that Toland is showing are even more layered and border on the surreal, but viewed together they reveal a complete picture of enlightenment as well as the work of a truly gifted artist capable of creating in paint, video and concept design.
For something completely different, one can head to the second floor to step into JD Banke’s show. Banke has created a fully immersive collage of painting and objects, the hand of the artist covering boards, screens, found objects, the wall and even the floor. Banke has shown before to a wider audience, a March solo show at Vignettes, at which time his art was candidly called “slacker art.” Apparently that is a thing. His aesthetic isn’t for everyone, but for some it is new and fresh, amateur on the surface but deep in context and consistent in presentation. Even Banke’s price list fell squarely into the realm of art, hastily scribbled out, the title of his show curved around the top of the page and the lines of the ledger were irregular and crude. The title, simply put, ties the show together: “The beauty of it all is that you create your own beauty out of it all.”
There were paintings for art purists, and two artists at the show are certainly ones to keep an eye on. Chloe Allred paints the figure. Her large canvases composed of small brush strokes create dynamic environments and lifelike characters. Allred uses a painterly approach, a real understanding of the figure, and nods to Impressionism to create a scene filled with depth and texture,.
Also working in oil on canvas was Matt Huff, a painter who creates paintings of an imagined world. Huff’s paintings are ambiguous in subject; perhaps they are set inside of the human body, something out of Fantastic Voyage, or maybe they are meant to transport the viewer to a distant world, a landscape unlike anything known to man. The paintings are smooth and glossy; the artist’s brush strokes only reveal themselves on close inspection. Huff’s art is full of depth and shadow and is endlessly intriguing.
At Cornish, sculpture isn’t always built up in clay, or chiseled away from stone. Deanna Wade used duct tape to create seven life-sized sculptures of pop icon Britney Spears that fill a green screen backdrop in the second floor galleries. The subject matter seems trite, but the execution is phenomenal. Wade created each of her Britneys to represent a phase in the entertainer’s career, starting with the not so innocent schoolgirl, progressing through five incarnations to a final pop mega. Each sculpture—hair and all—was created from the full spectrum of colored duct tape. They are dispersed throughout the green backdrop, as if awaiting their close-up.
One artist that particularly impressed me was painter and printmaker Ross Jimmicum, whose work appears deceptively simple. Jimmicum hails from Neah Bay and is a member of the Makah tribe. His work is steeped in his culture, a strong component of his identity and source of inspiration. Using a set of highly defined symbols from the Makah, Jimmicum created intaglio prints with his own unique twist on the stories of his people. What impressed me most about Jimmicum’s work was a simple step in which he took his etched copper printing plates and had them chrome plated, transforming a tool into a work unto itself. It is not just a gorgeous object, but another work with its own meaning. The shiny plates become mirrors in which the viewer is reflected among and within the symbols of the artist’s culture, visually merging the viewer with the artist.
Among the photography on display, the work of Natalie Friedman caught my eye. A triptych of large images depicting a screaming woman fill up one wall. The ink jet prints are high in contrast, stark white and jet black. The images are blurred and their lack of clarity leaves them wide open to interpretation. These large-scale images are dramatic and full of emotion, sure to leave a haunting impression on the viewer.
And as in all large group shows, there is always something that grabs your attention unexpectedly. I am not usually a fan of collage, but I was taken with the work of Gregory Young. Young created 3-dimensional monotone collages with spiritual and somewhat demonic overtones. Appendages splayed out in all directions while possessed characters are lapped up in flames. The collages are set against black backgrounds covered in white markings manically scribbled on in paint. The cuttings lift off of the board, casting shadows which dramatically enhance the chaotic scenes.
There are so many other works, most with artistic merit that you need to see for yourself. The Expo is expansive; it covers 2 floors, climbs 20-foot tall walls, and features a 38-minute video of a trip to Cambodia. Nearly everything is nicely framed, and almost all of the work is for sale, something that is not the case across town at UW. The show is only up until May 24, so plan a trip soon to see all of this art in one place.
Jeremy Buben goes to art galleries, museums, performance dance shows and the best gumbo restaurants in Seattle. All of the time. You can read more of his suggested events and short subject posts at his blog Le Dandysme.