The museum’s biennial exhibit, which invites regional artists from
26 counties across Central New York, is a big show with something to
appeal to every taste and well worth the trip. “The juror, Susan L.
Stoops, the curator of contemporary art at the Worcester Art Museum in
Massachusetts, really did a good job of selecting works that were quite
interesting, have a lot of visual wall presence, and are very
thought-provoking,” Murray says. She wanted several pieces from each
artist to illustrate the wider range of an artist’s work rather than
limiting the display to a single out-of-context glimpse.
Organized into two groups, based on lines and shapes, Murray started
with large installations as anchors to balance and support the smaller
works between. “When I organized the exhibition,” Murray adds, “I tried
to make meaningful relationships between the pieces within it.”
Lines dominate the first gallery, through Daniel Buckingham’s
installation involving tree branches entwined with neon light on one
end of the gallery, and the mixed-media installation by Phil Young, of
corn, plastic and hanging wires, on the other end. The artists
represented there range horizontally from Aimee Denault, a
Philadelphia-based undergraduate student raised on a New York organic
farm, to the octogenarian Mary Gaylord Loy, of Clinton.
But if asked to guess which work belongs to which artist, one may
incorrectly surmise that the graphite drawing of a miniature world
within an “eggshell” belonged to the elder and the urban-graffiti-esque
panel belonged to the younger. This exhibition defies such expectations
and leaves the gasp of the unexpected in its wake.
The expressive drawings, usually of animals, by Donalee Peden
Wesley, are “frightening and disturbing and poignant, all at once,”
Murray points out. Susan D’Amato’s large-scale, nearly photographic
charcoal drawings of parts of the body as “metaphor to our human
identity, vulnerability and mortality” are eerily provocative.
In the second gallery, Lou Getty’s sweeping “Reveries of Henrietta
Buttons, RN” gives a haunting and whimsical account of the musings of a
fictional turn-of-the-20th-century nurse on Chinese medicine and
alternative healing. Tiny dioramas provide peep shows of insight.
Syracuse artist Arjan Zazueta’s intricately embroidered paper towels
are reminiscent of Aztec basketry but with a nod to contemporary
disposable culture, bringing an ephemeral blend of the two disparate
civilizations. The color-drenched, almost figurative works of Melissa
Johnson, of Manlius, progress into the fluid and organic paintings of
Madeline Silber of Oneonta. Providing a second anchor, Utica artist
Dorene Quinn’s “Off Road” uses a natural material, bark, to impose a
totally unnatural and startling set of tire tracks across the gallery
and up one wall.
Balanced against the mixed-media collage of Lisa Gregg Wightman of
Rome, whose work is “lyrical and poetic meditations of material,” says
Murray, are the assemblages by Dan Bacich of Syracuse, “which are
DeWitt’s John J. Fitzsimmons’ bold paintings of lone figures become
another anchor. Katharine Kreisher, of Schenevus, uses techniques that
“span the entire history of photography” in her work. By using pinhole
photographs and digital images, she is able to achieve two different
perspectives on the same object or scene. Stephen Honicki, of Scotia,
creates scenes that are likened to film stills, using photographs and
text to tell the story of the long-distance relationship of a gay man.
Syracuse artist Mary Giehl presents an array of light-infused
“garments” crafted from monofilament and grown crystals. The pieces are
evocative and ghostly while at first glance being fanciful. Yvonne
Buchanan, also of Syracuse, uses digital video to “create experiential
moments” with stirring non-events that evolve into the rhythmic.
In the Edward Wales Root Sculpture Court, the main hall, the exhibit
continues with lavish ceramics for a fictional dinner table for heads
of state by Stephanie Rozene of Oneonta, and a series of digital prints
that look like a study of some future archeology by Lynn Schwarzer of
Worried you won’t have a docent along on your visit to help your
understanding of the artwork? Bring along your cell phone and dial into
sound bites recorded by many of the artists to explain and give meaning
to their work in their own words. With 31 artists in all, you will be
hard-pressed to choose just one favorite.
The 62nd Exhibition of Central New York Artists will remain
on view through May 2. MWPAI is located at 310 Genesee St., Utica.
Museum hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. For more
information, call 797-0000.