Visual

Accreted Terraine

An artist’s amusement park

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Guest curator David Francis offers a cornucopia of delights in “Accreted Terraine,” the new exhibit at the Museum of Northwest Art. This theme challenged 42 artists to depict things that multiply or accumulate.

Many of the artists have backgrounds in the natural sciences and their work depicts data accumulation, such as Adele Caemmerer’s “Morning watch, 3 weeks Rickshaws and Green Buses.”  Some of the creations are lovely to look at, like Russell Prather’s “Loaf,” which glows vividly and disappears as you walk past. Others, like Rick Araluce’s “The Ancient Dream,” will appeal only to your intellect:  miniature telephones, half-buried in mud, murmuring softly.

The main floor is an artist’s amusement park: floor-to-ceiling creations define the space with color and moving shapes. Sonia Wheelwright’s aluminum mesh draperies create a labyrinth for visitors to get lost in. Exhibits on the wall cast shadows and reflections. Each work embodies some unique concept to whisk you on a separate journey. 

Robert Campbell, a teacher at the esteemed Cornish College of Art, grabs attention with three video screens, entitled “Telepresence in the Datascope.” Watchers are transfixed by what appears to be an Oriental painting in three panels, which subtly become abstract compositions, then clouds in a sunset, a pincushion pulsing as if about to give birth as a flock of birds fly by and a feather trembles in the wind. All this, he says, inspired by watching the shoreline at his Vashon Island home.

The most perfect expression of the accreted terraine theme is the beautiful “Mount Waddington Reliquary” by Anna McKee. It hovers near the entrance, shivering slightly as you pass, as if to suggest centuries of drifting snow. The delicate, fabric mobile is a “document and requiem” for vanishing glaciers that have moderated Earth’s climate over thousands of years. The 126 mesh cylinders, suggesting ice cores, surround tiny ampules of ancient water. 

Upstairs, co-curators Emma Jane Levitt and Shelly Leavens have answered a different challenge, identifying 11 works in the MoNA collection which imply a duality between solitude and society and assembling artists to create a new piece in dialogue with each of these. 

Does their “Alone/Together” theme always communicate very well to the viewer? We shall see. However, many interesting works have been assembled. Levitt herself, as artist, answers a glass sculpture by Jeremy Lepisto with her “Interweaving Orbits,” a minimalist meditation of five paper rectangles, meticulously cut and folded.

A 1986 self-portrait by Mary Randlett is paired with seven photos by Allyson Klutenkamper, including a fine self-portrait of her shadow.

Clayton James’ beautiful painting, “Yellow Light” (1961), achieves an apotheosis in a response by Aaron Habas, whose “Undulation” decorates the downstairs gallery. Here on the second floor Aaron has built a large light box, glowing with beeswax. In its brilliantly lit frame, a monumental disk appears to be a globe. Aaron confides—being a sculptor—that he had to trust the “light to be the light.” And it succeeds, spectacularly.

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