On-campus galleries exhibit 'whimsical' and 'bizarre'

Few student artists on this campus complement and contrast each other as well as Sol Zimmerman and Kelly Morris, graduate students in the MFA program. Morris and Zimmerman have shown together before, and it always seems to be to their mutual benefit.

Both artists possess unique, superbly focused artistic vision. The only immediately apparent similarities are a reliance upon repeated, familiar symbols (bottles, whiskey glasses, cigarettes, haunted faces) and a use of geometric shapes to form compositions. Both artists paint in a dense, layered style that involves photographs, lithography, and product wrappers.

Those familiar with Morris' work will immediately recognize symbols and themes from his past works. He seems fascinated by the abuse of the human body, and uses the symbols of alcohol and cigarettes to depict the suffering so many of us willfully inflict upon ourselves. Tortured bodies depict quite clearly the effect such abuse has on our physiques as well as our minds, yet the abuse continues this is the mystery Morris continues to explore.

In a larger piece, done in earthy greens and browns, block letters proclaim "We are the consciousness of the Earth," in a scene that parallels self-abuse with the abuse of the planet. In Morris' vision, our self-destruction is also projected outward, onto the world we are destroying with our consumptive lifestyles. Morris' deft, minimal brush strokes belie an underlying complexity that makes his paintings mesmerizing.

Sol Zimmerman uses many of the same symbols to explore a different side of human nature, plumbing the depths of grief and loss. In a wall-size piece of vibrant colors and textures, small letters proclaim "Never wanna be alone again" as haunted, weeping faces peek out of dark corners. Seemingly casual, thick brush strokes create faces with just a few lines, filling the canvas with detail, and repetition of forms adds to the impact of the piece. Many small photographs and prints (along with the ever-present candy wrappers that show up in earlier works) add to the weight of the piece, personalizing it, even as the themes explored point toward the overall human condition.

Their pieces are showing through November 10 in the Art Department Student Gallery (formerly the 830 Gallery) in the upper half of the Joseph Gross Gallery, next to the Art Building. Hours are 11 to 5 p.m. weekdays and Sundays.

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