Painter John Fitzsimmons has several works that depict him and also delve into human behavior. In one painting, for example, he appears in an assertive, even aggressive mood, contrasting with a depiction of him as a passive figure. “Once the Waters” portrays four Fitzsimmons figures; three face forward and make gestures while the fourth turns away. “Twenty-Five Years” conveys a sense of conflict while “Once It Was,” a top-shelf work, depicts Fitzsimmons cupping his ear as if listening to something far away. In the background, there’s a faint outline of a forest.
It’s easy to apply facile labels to these pieces. Hamlet on canvas comes to mind, and so does the painter as psychoanalyst. Both of those are inaccurate. The appearance of the painter in the works isn’t for self-assessment or ego fulfillment. Fitzsimmons, in various guises, appears as a vehicle, as part of an artistic process.
In addition, he’s not claiming to have staked out a definitive position on human beings. Rather, the paintings seem to suggest that humans are complex, dynamic, intense. That’s one perspective. Certainly, the works are open to interpretation.
The exhibition also showcases Patrice Fitzsimmons’ ceramic sculptures, including several figurative works. In “Cardinal,” three small figures are set within a cage. A second piece shows four figures wailing, weeping, in a moment of anguish. The sculpture doesn’t identify or even hint at the cause of their distress. Rather, it conveys emotional pain.
“Weeps in the Desert Ochre,” the best of her works, is wildly imaginative. It shows a lone figure climbing stairs toward some kind of ritual structure, an altar perhaps. Thirteen arms, each without a visible connection to a body, spring out of a wall and try to reach out to the figure. He or she appears dazed by the scene, uncertain how to proceed. This is a work with a fluid narrative, offering questions instead of conclusions.
Elsewhere, the show presents a variety of other works: plates with a greenish hue, from Patrice Fitzsimmons’ “Cabbage Series;” oil paintings like John Fitzsimmons’ “Where None Fall,” depicting flowers; his work, “ Pleasure-Bird Whistles,” which celebrates nature. He also has several non-figurative paintings on display, including “My Intricate Image,” a large work with a wide-open approach to color.
The overall exhibition provides good exposure for both artists. John Fitzsimmons has shown his work at various venues, including group shows at Auburn’s Schweinfurth Art Center and the Delavan Gallery. The current show displays a cross-section of his work, extending from paintings like “Once It Was” to non-figurative pieces. Patrice Fitzsimmons, meanwhile, is relatively new to the exhibition scene. The Edgewood show does a nice job of introducing her work.
The Nature of Being is on display through April 3 at the Edgewood Gallery, 216 Tecumseh Road. The gallery is open Tuesdays through Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 445-8111.