Arts & Culture » Visual Art

Give me the Works!

2005 Juried Student Exhibition

by

On display through February 12 in Gallery 1 of the Liberal Arts Building at Boise State University is a selection of works by students. The show's title is The Works, and it lives up to the name by being a heaping helping of plurality, both in style and material.

Though some of the pieces here do succeed on the less is more theory, most are well worked over, heavy with detail and very aware of the visceral and tactile qualities of the mediums out of which they are worked. To begin: there's a lot of blood. Lisa Roggenbuck's very large oil painting titled, Mod, depicts a young female whose flesh is being treated very badly. Deep gashes stack up in a pattern of stripes on her arms, the lines of her mouth have been aggressively continued to form a sadistic grin. I say sadistic because her cheeks appear to be cut open nearly to her eyeballs. Torture is fashion. As a figurative painting it has visceral appeal, but the most vivid of its features is its wealth of blood. Susan Latta's piece, Excoriate, comes from the dungeon as well. It is more conceptual in nature, featuring long slats of rubber hanging from large screws, the points of which face out. A sticky, organic matter coats the hanging slats, which appear to have been abused to excess and in the end look more like meat than rubber. Excoriation can mean both, a strong censure or a tearing away of the skin. It is the later of the two definitions that Latta seems to have had in mind, though it is hard to put the torture into context. Bloodiest award of all, however, goes to Crystal Duskey, whose piece depicts a bathroom floor slathered in the broken parts of a scale and the entrails of a human being. In an age of therapeutic necessity like ours, spilling ones guts has become an industry. Duskey's work may be a touch literal in that regard.

Pete Kutchins went all out for his piece, simply named Gomi, which combines about one hundred pounds of electronic detritus with the practice of macramé to form a creature that seems to take the technological age back several eras in biological time. Plugged into the wall the creature hums with white noise; all its supposed circuitry for naught. Is this what a macro-devolutionary mutation looks like? Caleb Chung makes ambitious use of material as well in his sculptural piece Toy of Creation. Under the title he lists his mediums as alabaster and air. Sitting atop a wooden stand the piece depicts a large, heavy hand, palm facing up. The hand is plump and powerful looking and reminded me immediately of the heroic classical figures Pablo Picasso was painting in the early 1920's. As a special effect one is told to place a Styrofoam ball above the alabaster hand. Doing so triggers a blower housed in the wooden stand and the ball is made to be suspended mid air above the open palm and gently bent fingers of the sculpture. The blower is very loud and the Styrofoam ball wiggles madly against the illusion. The effect is what you might call solidly comic.

In the end, there are several pieces impressive for their complexity and/or ambitious use of material. I was drawn more toward those that succeeded on the less is more theory. Dan Omas' piece titled, The Natural Self with Drawn, has a complex visual strategy that involves multiple exposure and psychological narrative, but I like Kate Bowen's Last Morning for its quiet ambiguity more. Maria Kauffman's graphic design piece, Time Wounds All Heels, works because of its efficiency, brevity, and of course, wit. Joseph Jordan's Marrow Spoon has just the right mixture of delicacy and rigor to be alluring. Any more of either would have made it, oh how do they say it in advertising, "edgy." Candace Nicol's pieces titled, Take it Off and Dull, are in your mind before they can be in your face. Monica Clayton's TV Nation captures the anonymity on both sides of the screen. These small scale works feature digital prints adhered to the backs of thick pieces of Plexiglas. They glow just like miniature television screens, and the images are like surveillance video from a ghost world. April VanDeGrift may have contributed my favorite piece in the whole show. The trouble is I don't exactly know why. The piece is called Collage, and it fascinated me in the way one is fascinated by the mutterings of someone who is asleep and having a conversation. It is rendered in pencil, and she makes great use of erasure and subtle shifts in value to create an unassuming and humble piece of strangeness.

The Works is on display through Feb. 12 at Gallery One, Liberal Arts Building, Boise State University. Hours are Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sat. noon-5 p.m.