Arts & Culture » Visual Art

Common Ground

A new exhibition brings two 'artists with soul' under the same roof


An impressive, jam-packed exhibition opens Thursday, Sept. 5, at Capitol Contemporary Gallery featuring two respected Boise artists, sculptor Sue Latta and painter Richard Young. Their respective emphases involve different media, but this strong work reveals a mutual appreciation for transitions, both inside and beyond themselves. These works map the interior landscapes of the artists, and the fact that the two of them chose without hesitation to title the exhibition Passages underscores that.

"Dirty Little Secret" detail - SUE LATTA
  • Sue Latta
  • "Dirty Little Secret" detail

Latta, a longtime master in the use of industrial and other non-art materials in her sculpture, expanded her repertoire with the use of resins, rubber and digital photography some time ago, enabling her to move from predominantly floor-based structures to wall displays and allowing greater spontaneity in the studio. Now, her innovative use of Instagram photography and filtering techniques in combination with her use of resins has given her technique a fresh versatility.

First, Latta creates a set of nine works that underscore her newfound freedom of action. Interestingly, out of little more than a whim to begin with, there emerged three triptychs with compositions fashioned from piled and standing nails, Instagrammed photo images, and finally white resin tablets imprinted with text. Each successive piece in these triptychs is an extension of the previous one, creating intuitive narratives. It is hard to overstate the impact these had on her art.

"Last Embrace" - RICHARD YOUNG
  • Richard Young
  • "Last Embrace"

Particularly intriguing are the manipulated photographs encased in clear resin and positioned to be lit by the sunlight that pours through the gallery's front windows, creating a sundial effect. For example, a barely recognizable bicycle in "Ghost" is submerged beneath a sheet of gray-white filtered light, like a creeping fog. "The Cure" is a striking resin piece entombing a handwritten narrative by her granddaughter that resonates like a souvenir from an earlier time. One needs to spend the time to appreciate all these pieces contain, including their social commentary.

Richard Young's half of the exhibit contains 32 paintings and multimedia works going back to 2016, including more recent and new pieces, and demonstrating his prolific and varied studio career. It is an art that is compelling and deeply personal. Typically, Young's imagery takes unexpected twists and turns, with each successive series of works a departure from its predecessor; but they are always informed by a spirit of discovery, taking us along with him.

As his work makes clear, Young's sometimes-eccentric, always-fresh perspectives are inspired by not only his own life experiences, but a mix of aesthetic influences including visual and literary Symbolism, 19th-century Romanticism and Surrealism—the latter revealed in his dreamlike settings and the bestowal of icon status on everyday objects. All of these are among the ingredients that fashion his worldview. Another recognizable element of Young's art is his penchant for duality (or what he calls "contradictions") involving personalities, loss and regeneration, above and below ground, structure and substructure, within and without—each of which necessitates and defines the other.

The bulk of Young's water-based oil paintings on exhibit are from series completed between 2015 and 2018, and the loss of his wife, artist Cheryl Shurtleff, to cancer is understandably a presence. The 2015-16 Objects of Memory and Loss, completed months after her death, depicts felled trees in scenes that look arranged rather than haphazard. These are not clear-cuts. The mood is melancholic and sorrowful, but there is a promise of regeneration. An anthropomorphism is here too, where trees and stumps feel like stand-ins for human casualties or departures. "Last Embrace," depicting a fallen tree still connected to its stump by a thread, evokes a couple parting with one last lingering touch.

"Memento Mori" - SUE LATTA
  • Sue Latta
  • "Memento Mori"

In the spring of 2017, Young attended a two-month artist's residency in Iceland during which he completed a number of paintings he collectively calls Mapping the Unknown. The eternal whisperings surrounding an outpost like Skagastrond would be ripe for contemplation, and he took advantage of it, re-examining and exploring previous notions of the loss and regeneration concept. In Mapping, rugged, jagged volcanic forms peek out of deep waters or thrust up like missiles. In mirror-image paintings like "Life lines" and "Submerged," he transforms the frigid underwater caverns into electrocardiogram test results confirming the existence of renewed life. Below surface views depict the "dark or hidden side" of icebergs and outcrops in "Above and Below," and extended reflections depicted in "Embrace."

With the abstract waterscapes of the Bridging the Gap series (2018) we find ourselves in a different liquid world. Ribbons of waterways bend, twist and rush across anonymous landscapes in mysterious ways. Some go nowhere. Young imparts this phenomenon with the look of fabric as they course across a surreal, non-descriptive settings. The waterfalls hang like bath towels from above, and he seems to be reveling in the gap between reality and the imagination.

Young's new multimedia work, collectively named Passages, deals with the looming demise of loved ones, a subject of which he has become familiar in recent years. Here he uses sepias of found, anonymous head-and-shoulder photos transferred onto printer's blocks and arranged across the top of each work. This lineup of the disappeared is reinforced by accompanying dark images of empty houses and deteriorating billboards. In the midst of this series, "To Jean" presents the moving image of his dying mother in the same manner. These are frank without being maudlin, elegiac rather than simply funereal.

Given the nature of the art here, Sue Latta and Richard Young prove to be artists with soul.