There is plenty of captivating work to appreciate at the Memorial Art Gallery's 64th Rochester-Finger Lake Exhibition, currently on view in the Grand Gallery. Guest curator Alex Nyerges, the director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, was tasked with selecting 100 works from the 623 submitted. Eighty-one artists are represented, 31 of whom are new to the Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition series. The show offers a great window into the current interests and concerns of some of Western and Central New York's most talented artists from a wide range of ages and many walks of life.
The full circle of blooming nature and its remnants are explored by Rochester-based writer and artist David Dorsey, whose work is represented here in three striking paintings. The first two in the line, "Eggplant and Bok Choy" and "Still Life with Pocket Door," are painted so vividly with almost unreal, vibrant colors that they seize viewers' attention, enticing with beautiful freshness. The living is cast against the long departed with his third painting, "Skull Unearthed Circa 1930," a stark work of a pale room washed in clean light with a weathered skull propped atop a cardboard box. The quietude of the work is enhanced greatly by the single black audio speaker sitting silently on a shelf and the nearly toothless, gaping maw of the human remains.
Plenty of artists in the show celebrate and showcase the concept of form in diverse ways. Inanimate objects take on their own life and personality in Christine Sullivan's big, bold painting, "The Cardinal," which with highly textured impasto strokes depicts mostly white and one single red piece of laundry on the line, undulating upon the invisible tides of the air. In Lee Hoag's "Capsule Dream" and "Dream Drill," glass and earthenware vases, metal Jello molds, and other manmade objects flow together to create new, elegant objects of imagined utility.
Christopher McEvory's mixed-media "Release of Form" explores what a lack of order might look like. His work is a panel filled with what appears to be a field of ever-shifting waves of matter and energy, the reflective surfaces referring to each other part of the whole.
Similarly, Jack Wolsky's "Ain-Yesh #3" is an encaustic work that refers to the mystical Judaic (and Buddhist) concepts of Being and Nothingness. Wolsky, who has now participated in 22 Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibitions, quite effectively captured the look of open, vibrating space, golden and shimmering with potential.
Jonathan Merritt's two large black-and-white photographs, "Solace 1" and "Solace 3," are also an homage to thresholds, each attempting to replicate the emptiness and revelations found in the low light and loneliness of traveling at night. Merritt captured what seem to be empty, cold spaces, in which indeterminate objects and forms begin to arise from the dim world. "I want viewers to stand before these images and become lost in the visual confusion, to find consolation in the stillness of an undecided world," says the artist in a provided statement.
For the first year, Jonathan joins his father Stephen Merritt, who is a Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition vet. The elder Merritt's fine forms are found in public and private collections all over the country. This show includes his "Cairn Study," a slip-glazed, balanced stack of terra cotta discs and other shapes, which refer to the way people have always marked graves and commemorated places of importance with stacked stones.
John Griebsch also explores the way humans have marked the earth, by photographing evidence of industry from his 1952 Cessna. If you think your photography supplies are pricey, imagine factoring in gas for enough flights to get the shot right. In "Steel Mill and Water Truck — Gary, Indiana USA," Griebsch captures the rusty maze of a steel mill, cut with a fluffy puff of smoke that actually seems clean by comparison. In his two other photographs, of quarries, he captures the shadowed-and-lit patchwork of dissected land, the stitches of tire tracks, and dried trails from the flow of water which reveal something of the topography.
It would not be difficult to write an entire review exploring Syracuse-based artist Meredith Cantor-Feller's enigmatic "American God of Domestic Excess," which can be viewed as a commentary on how we have become led so astray by all that is marketed to us. A seemingly discontented woman sits in her undergarments with a faraway gaze, amid balloons with "CLEARANCE" on them, with a horse bit around her neck. She is surrounded by staging devices: curtains and a photo of an exterior that are weakly posted to the wall behind her, and hang as limply as her posture. The unhappy lady seems utterly resigned, waiting for the uncertain to arrive.
Donalee Peden Wesley of Marcellus is among the few artists in the show who dip into the dystopian. In the mixed media work, "Better Living Through Chemicals," three men sit outdoors wearing coverall suits and bird-faced plague-doctor masks (made theatrical by Venetian dramas), each with black birds perched on their bodies and around them, vigilant. In the field behind them, animal skulls and remains are hung on posts and on wires
"The drawing speaks of our reliance on chemicals to solve our problems, be they real or imagined," says the artist in a provided statement, citing that industry has told us we need modified food, dangerously extracted gas, and factory farmed animals treated with antibiotics to be kept "alive in squalor." The work is filled with a patient sense of doom, and in the artist's words, these combined scenarios are "a prime condition for the next plague."
First-timer Dale Klein offers perhaps the most hope-filled piece in the show, an absolutely gorgeous aquatint and etching print of "Hadang," who is the Senegalese matriarch of the family that hosted Klein's daughter when she studied abroad. In her artist statement, Klein touches on the hospitality as well as the fiercely defended independence of the people, both of which are present in the stance the subject. A global family was acknowledged and celebrated in this work, after gratitude moved Klein to travel and embrace the woman who cared for her own kin.