Full disclosure: I am by no means an artist, nor am I an avid adventurer in the world of the visual arts. That said, one need not be an artist to appreciate art, just as one need not be a musician in order to appreciate music (though such experience certainly helps).
Time (Im)material is an art exhibit at Union South running through the end of November. As the name implies, the exhibit is comprised of four individual exhibits all focusing on different aspects of time and its relevance to us and to everyday life.
Upon entrance, there is a paragraph visible on the wall explaining the various artists and – very briefly – the exhibits. This provides enough background for the layman (me) to interpret and grasp the art while still allowing the viewer to draw their own conclusions and form their own opinions of what the exhibits are trying to say – such is the beauty of art.
The first piece sure to grab the attention of the viewer is the collection of string and handiwork laying on the ground in a particularly decisive pattern. This is a perfect introduction to the work of Susan Johnson and one fifth of her overall exhibit in Time (Im)material. This particular piece strongly evokes images of the intestines, which, according to the listing of materials used in its creation (“gut, hair, thread, paper”), is intended.
Accompanying this piece are four others, each following the pattern established by the “gut” sculpture. Each is done in a different medium (lace, acrylics, graphite after a water lift-off, another acrylic). These works are also evocative of a maze, though one that has no ending, perhaps suggesting the cyclical yet winding nature of the passage of time. On viewing, the artwork evokes a feeling of contentment and safety due to the soft, colorless nature of the work and the soft mediums with which it was created. Due to that fact, this may be the easiest exhibit to wrap one’s mind around.
The second piece in the amalgamation that is Time (Im)material is a collection by Michael Velliquette. Each piece evokes aboriginal influences both in color and shapes. The colors are very bright, and – like the shapes that make up the works – clash with one another.
Each individual work shares the same basic shape and color theme; however, there is a clear progression from one work to the next. The only constants in the works are their shapes, colors and the starry, cloudy night sky that is the background. The meaning of these pieces is perhaps best explained by the introductory paragraph to the exhibit: These pieces lie in the “chimerical realm outside of time and space.” Certainly, they are very spacey, abstract works, yet they are very intricate and have many artistic details worthy of even the layperson’s appreciation.
Third comes the most abstract of the works on display at Union South: those of Trent Miller. Miller has four works, two charcoal on paper, and two very colorful oil works on a much larger scale. The first of the charcoal works, titled “Traveler I,” depicts what appears to be a mountain with a village in its shadow. A ladder from the village reaches to the summit of the mountain. All of Miller’s works on display here were created with the idea of time’s effect on the artistic process – this means that they were created by layering images on top of images.
This is a very cool idea, and the second charcoal work displays a very chaotic picture, perhaps a close-up of the village in the initial “Traveler I.” Miller’s final two works are colorful oil works. The first, titled “Another New World,” keeps with the layered, chaotic theme. It is hard to tell what is really going on; however, one particular component stands out: The word “Eden” is written in black in the very center of the painting.
Perhaps Miller is pointing to a new Eden, as the title suggests. Either way, both this and the next painting (titled “Dredgers and Drifters”) depicting two people wading in water searching for something, lose the viewer in their layered complexity, giving a feeling of being lost and overwhelmed. Miller’s work is quite abstract, yet its intricacies – like Velliquette before him – are worthy of a view and meditation, though they may be too jumbled for much to be gleaned in the way of meaning by any but an avid art lover.
The final piece is also the most progressive and “modern.” It is a collection of video screens of varying sizes and placements, each showing the same video, yet in a staggered time frame. Like Susan Johnson’s maze-like pieces, it shows the cyclical nature of time, yet in a very different form. On each screen plays the daily cycle of a typical person: The sun rises, the subject is sleeping, they wake, go about their daily business, the sun sets and they sleep. This seems like a cool idea initially, and though it is interesting, the progression of the video is simply too long to maintain the interest of a typical person wandering through the Union.
Time (Im)material is a thought-provoking exhibit worthy of anyone’s time. If you happen to visit Union South before the conclusion of the month, be sure to stop in and give these worthy artists 10 minutes of your appreciation.