By Michael Eilers
Arizona Daily Wildcat January 18, 1996
The average person seems to try to avoid looking at the walls of our aging Student Union, wary of seeing peeling paint or dripping water. However, a new collection of paintings from area and visiting artists line the walls of the venerable Union, a free e xhibition that's a little easier on the eyes than the average decor. Due to the efforts of Sandra Taylor and campus Galleries Curator Julie Sasse, the Union is freshly stocked with high-quality artwork for your viewing pleasure.
Student Union Gallery
A series of lithographs and paintings by visiting artist Kimberly Paul Arp are on display in the volunteer-staffed gallery. Arp's lithographs are dense, polychromatic pieces with an aggressive, energetic style. Taking inspiration from influences as varied as ocean fishing and voodoo rituals, Arp uses layered, distorted images to compress experiences on paper.
Lithography, or wet-plate printmaking, seems as akin to alchemy as it does to art- the overlapping inks and blending colors produce organic, kaleidoscopic images and add a feeling of barely controlled chaos. Arp uses this medium to his advantage, choosing vibrant, earthy colors that layer and contrast. His compositions, a mixture of slashing lines and intensely detailed shapes, combine metaphoric figures of dogs and snakes with images of fire, destruction, and shattered structures. Full of movement and obj ects in collision, his pieces are a little bewildering to the eye, but have a strong underlying composition.
Despite the innocuous title, "Fire Gate Boat Red Bird Rescue" is one of the strongest pieces, with a fiery palette of 8 different inks including several metallic layers. "Santaria House with Hurricane Boat Sacrifice" is another excellent example, flatteni ng the perspectives of a three-dimensional space in a style reminiscent of early Cubism, and using the resulting layers to add narrative and motion to the piece.
Arp also has several paintings on display which show a skillful use of found material and sculptural accents. The paintings are more playful than the prints, with sharply contrasting colors and any natural elements. On Friday , Febrary 2nd, Arp will have a closing show from 5-7 p.m.
The Student Union Gallery is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and is on the first floor of the Union across from the T.V. lounge.
"The Master and the Dream Can Join," a selection of works by three local artists, covers the walls of this second floor study area. Members of the International Friends of Transformative Art, these three were invited to bring a selection of their works to the Union.
Judith Walsh's pieces are marked by an interesting technique. Her paintings have a sculptural style created with "encaustic" on wood, a wax-like material which absorbs the oil paint and gives it a mellow tone. Ripples and gouges in the wax surface emphasi ze lines and shapes in the paintings.
Walsh's figures and scenes are playful and chunky, with the simplistic and crude lines of a child's crayon sketches. This simplicity is a facade, disguising deeper and darker subjects hidden just beneath the surface. "Pinicate Sunrise" appears at first gl ance to be a rough child's sketch, but closer inspection reveals slightly sinister details, such as an exposed, fleshless spine used as a perch by a carrion crow. "The Angel of Suburbia" has a similar whimsical air, but the true focus is deep irony, as th e holy housefrau floats above a sea of identical houses trapped in a stagnant grid. Each one of her painting requires a second glance, and there are things to discover behind the brightly-colored facades.
Barbera Crisp and Deborah McMillion-Nering continue the exhibit with similarly excellent technique, but weaker subject matter. McMillion-Nering's dense, miniature watercolors are brilliant examples of the medium, and are marked by unusual use of color whi ch gives them the feel of illustrations for childrens' literature. The miniature canvases seem inspired by a Victorian-era sensibility, with bustled dresses and elaborate hairstyles everywhere. Fairies, sylphs and similar mythological creatures are also d epicted. While the little canvases are involving, the subject matter is handled in fairly obvious ways, and the overall effect seems more decorative than artistic.
Crisp's large oil paintings are also excellent examples of the medium, using a muted palette of pastels and thick, sculptural strokes to depict her subjects. Again, the subject matter is curiously empty: uninspired titles and twice-done subjects serve to flatten the otherwise promising works. Borrowing from the common symbolism of New Age revisionist mythology, Egyptian, Greek and Celtic symbols along with geometric shapes are depicted on the canvases, in a fairly pat fashion. Crisp's paintings are wonder ful to look at, with skillful use of color and composition, but it seems the subject has been done to death. "Predator Mirror" leaves the viewer staring into a pair of leonine eyes, and is intended to remind the viewer of their animal origins: unfortunat ely, all you have to do to be reminded of humankind's bestial nature is glance over the headlines of the daily newspaper.
The gallery is located on the second floor of the student union, across from the Arizona Ballroom.
Finally, way up on the third floor a selection of works by Tom Ortega are scattered around the walls. At first glance, most of his pieces seem to be run-of-the-mill Minimalism, with a few scratches and an occasional blob of paint being the only compositio n in evidence. Several of his more sculptural works break through this clich approach, and use found materials in interesting patterns.
Ortega, an Arizona artist who shows throughout the southwest, uses a wide variety of materials in his composition, from melted plastic scraps to linoleum tile and etched metal plates.
"Where Everything Comes Together" is an evocative little piece that combines ceiling tile, scraps of children's wide-ruled paper, and pencil scrawls, echoing a child's classroom. The stifling, boxed in structure seems to serve as an ironic comment on clas sroom atmosphere.
"Seen It All" is another mixed-media piece with bubbled, melted plastic, metal scraps and paint in a similar geometric pattern. Both pieces inspire a variety of reactions, slightly dazzling to the eye yet full of suggestive materials and shapes. Ortega's use of geometric shapes and structures is reminiscent of late Mondrian, who's paintings came to resemble boxy, colorful stained-glass windows.
The Rotunda Gallery is on the third floor of the Student Union, above the Arizona Gallery.