by Britt Beedenbender
first published Artscope Magazine 11 November 2007

Cotuit Center for the Arts
4404 Falmouth Road/Route 28
Cotuit, Massachusetts
Through November 17 [2007]

This collection of diverse works created by 10 emerging artists from “New England and beyond” was brought together by co-curators William Hekking and Jessie Nickerson. The exhibition is an entertaining, thought-provoking and at times edgy assemblage of diverse works that Hekking said “offers a macroscopic view of artistic practices taking place in the contemporary world.”

The viewer is lured into the gallery by the sound of a singular chime that emanates from Richard Johnson’s mesmerizing found object construction entitled “Revolutions per Minim.” An artist who considers himself foremost as a composer, Johnson is an inventor and a builder of creative instruments which incorporate sound, movement, design and in this instance, an element of unpredictability.

Don Burton’s interactive two-part video and sculpture installation is engaging in its subtle brilliance. The work is inspired by his walks through the woods where Burton has encountered long forgotten stonewalls, those colonial markers placed on the landscape to assert our settlement of the wilderness. Burton describes his interior forest as a look at “how we use our land and the environment” and examines that impact though time-lapse video graphed imagery that “holds memories of our recent actions in the space,” thus offering the curious viewer an unexpected experience.

More traditional in nature are the paintings of Tasha Cough and Meredith Pardue. Cough achieves an ephemeral quality to her abstracted landscapes through the use of subtle tonalities applied as a wash then overlaid with richly applied details of impasto color and elegant graphic lines. By contrast, Pardue’s brightly colored and painterly canvases are raw abstracts, which she described as “the random action of painting with controlled, deliberate mark making to describe each form.”

The narrative tableaus of Anna Bayles Arthur and Ryan Bartley reveal highly imaginative worlds in which various elements engage in a creative dialogue. Arthur’s invented botanicals co-mingle with figures and forms that move weightlessly while they grasp and tug at one another in space. In these “image constructions,” Arthur combines broad areas of transparent color over which passages of highly precise drawing is added. Bartley creates fable-like stories in his exquisitely colored watercolor collages. Populated by animal composites, these layered images are whimsical, highly elaborate and purely inventive.

A few of the artists have ventured into self-reflective forays that have yielded a number of notable pieces. While Zoe Darling’s photographic series if a nipple, taken everyday over three months, may be an expression of the repetitive nature “that holds everyone’s daily life together,” her found object creation “Little Love Book: An Ode to Roe,” is a far more compelling and creative discourse on what she calls “the visceral physicality of the human body.” Birth control pill packets open up to allow the typed proceedings of Roe v. Wade to accordion out across the table simultaneously criticizing the politics of reproduction while celebrating choice and the egg.

Mapping her life, like a molecular biologist charts a compound’s structure, Sue O’Donnell combines graphic design with conceptual narrative in her “Relationship” triptych. Using a timeline, O’Donnell diagrams such elements as Rules, Guilt, Mom and Risk, Love and Realization as they vie for dominance and recombine over time to create her present being. First memory takes the recollections, both the significant and the mundane, of those early years and charts them in white as thought bubbles set against a stark black background. One is engaged as much as one desires; the thoughts read like a diary and unfold like a novelette.

A three-week residency in the dune shacks of the Truro Highlands on Cape Cod provided photographer Martin Anderson with the opportunity to explore “alternative processes of making pictures made with (the) pinhole devices I make myself from tin cans and cardboard tubes.” Anderson has captured the essence of these remnants of a disappearing culture in nostalgic images that are ghostly conjurings of the surreal dune landscape of the Outer Cape. Anderson’s impressionistic pictures are, “the reflections, glimpses and shadows that are the pictures of our memories and the pictures of our dreams.”

A fitting end cap to the exhibition is the four-part series by German artist Barney Berns, who manufactures interiors utilizing pop-culture objects, such as Barbie dolls and combat toys, then photographs them enlarging their scale. He incorporates the work of renowned artists in each tableau as a part of the interior decorations. While there is an underlying tension and undercurrent of inherent violence, a sense of humor prevails. As Berns described it, “…there is a certain criticism of the art object. I am sick of art always being so serious.”

Britt Beedenbender