Karen Moss is the deputy director of exhibitions and programs at the Orange County Museum of Art. Brilliant curator and Irvine Fine Arts Center’s “All Media 2010” juror. You think I’m going to second-guess her choices? Hell, no. Fact is, she nailed the winners and curated the good work, with a streamlined clarity of vision. No filler. No clutter. Anything I’d say to contradict it would just sound stupid. In the world of art smackdowns, I’d get my ass handed to me.
Let’s talk about her winners:
FIRST PLACE: I can’t say for certain what sculptor David French’s glossy, pearl-white sculpture I Believe means, but it certainly catches your attention. A smooth surface, like a heart or the flat surface of someone’s back, is wrapped and held by a sensual wave of ridges, protrusions and spikes, suggesting that our beliefs are untidy, twisted things despite the whitewashing. Because the color of the Styrofoam and fiberglass piece is painted a similar color to the wall, it’s almost as if some madman’s creation—and what else are our beliefs but that?—is appearing from a hidden place and spilling and flowing out into the room.
SECOND PLACE: The stunning, digitally manipulated photograph Ravaged by John A. Stewart was the first piece I saw in the exhibition, and it had me coming back again and again to take another look. Reminiscent of Michelangelo’s homoerotic The Dying Captive, the young man pictured is nude from the torso up, his hands wrapped above his head. The picture is cracked and peeling, the edges of the picture and much of his face looking like blistering film stock. The placid, nonchalant attitude toward decay and death suggests Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Sexy and haunting, I hope there’s more of Stewart’s work down the pike.
THIRD PLACE: The unabashed glee of creation is writ large in the clever photographic installation Dance, Dance, Dance by Beatta M. Bosworth. Nine photographs of a woman pivoting, prancing, leaping and throwing herself into the air are suspended from the ceiling by wires. As patrons pass by—or the center’s air conditioner blows—the pictures weave and sway ever so slightly, implying movement. A CD player and tiny speaker system play a dance tune, adding to the ambiance.
It should also be noted that there were a handful of collectible photographic pieces and two assemblages that didn’t receive awards but are strong enough that I think they also deserve recognition: Emet Martinez’s photos Paris Christmas Eve #1 and Paris Christmas Eve #2 are full of French romance—wet streets, people under umbrellas, architecture, holiday reds and yellows. Both are digitally doctored so that the expected smoothness of the image has roughened and pixilated.
In Coral Lee’s photograph Exposure, the dark interior of a cathedral lit up by two rays of sunshine coming from above may or may not be manipulated, but the result is fairly intriguing, suggesting the presence of the Divine, photographer’s luck or an illumination of the Church’s dank secrets, depending on your point of view.
From the angle Jim Topping took his picture Stairs In the Tunnel-Hoover Dam, I couldn’t tell if the steps were going up or down. The coldness of the steel, concrete, metal conduits and exposed electrical wiring left me feeling as if I were in an isolated war bunker.
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Eileen Anderson’s mourning at ecology’s altar assemblage, Tears for the Earth, felt unfinished and roll-your-eyes obvious, but I couldn’t took take my eyes off her puzzling assemblage Fragility. A small black shadow box holds an angel with butterfly wings hovering in front of a metal mandala. Chains have fallen off and landed on eight spotted quail eggs below it, crushing several of them. Attached to the top of the box is a brass measuring-scale beam, with stirrups supporting a single quail egg on each side where the pan would usually be. Odd, for sure, but the idea that freedom is transitory—the angel is still trapped in the box, despite no longer being chained—left a lasting impression.
“All Media 2010” at Irvine Fine Arts Center, 14321 Yale Ave., Irvine, (949) 724-6880; www.cityofirvine.org/cityhall/cs/finearts. Open Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Through Jan. 22, 2011. Free.
This article appeared in print as "Win, Place, Show Us More! The winners of the Irvine Fine Arts Center’s ‘All Media 2010’ contest and other pieces of note."