Review: "The 66th Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition" 

click to enlarge Syracuse-based artist Mary Giehl's wall-mounted crochet work, "The Question is Why." - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
  • Syracuse-based artist Mary Giehl's wall-mounted crochet work, "The Question is Why."

This year's iteration of the biennial Rochester-Finger Lake Exhibition has a strong emphasis on experimental drawings and many from that group were among my favorite works in the show.

There's some really skillful sculpture, ranging from furniture and vessels to whimsical characters, and two video installations. This year's selection of paintings includes flawless traditional still life (Ithaca-based Patricia Coonrod's work is near photographic), breathtaking depictions of familiar landscapes (Joseph Accorso's "High Falls Spring Runoff"), engaging abstracts (including "Electrical Storm, New York" from one of my favorite local artists, Alan Singer), and gorgeous portraits of every aesthetic. The range of included artists appears to skew younger than in past shows, which is wonderful, as this region has many hardworking and serious emerging artists.

With 62 artists featured in the show, it wasn't easy to decide which pieces to mention in limited space. So I wrote about my Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition Top 20. We encourage you to check out the show for yourself (and tell us which pieces held your attention and why).

Canandaigua-based artist Jeanne Beck's mixed-media installation "Book of Longings" hits just perfectly. A fragile-looking cascade of tiny "pages" are suspended amid equally-fragile chains, dominating an entire wall. The light bouncing off each of the metallic-painted, paper pages acts as a beacon as the pieces gently shift, beckoning you closer to discover the work's secrets.

I initially mistook Rochester-based photographer Dick Bennett's photo "Genesee Country Village Smoke House" for a charcoal drawing, in all of its gorgeously grainy and layered gray tones. A cluster of what looks like haunches hang from meat hooks, veiled in pale smoke, with the further-back slabs of meat dissolving into the shed's shadowy interior. It's such an enveloping image that you can almost smell the scene and feel your eyes begin to water.

"A Map of Getting Lost" by Belinda Bryce (Rochester) looks like a city — any city —from above; Google Earth on street view but set to dark mode. The slightly imperfect, crowded grid of streets butts abruptly against a narrow darkness on the left; is that a body of water, or where the urban crush suddenly drops off? Red dots peppered in a mysterious pattern mark unspecified significance, and a swath of subtly encroaching shadow covers part of the map, as if delineating the divide of day and night.

Rochester artist Colleen Buzzard's "Hard Merge From Left," which won the Elmer Louis Award, contains a fascinating and playful push-and-pull of line and form through the dimensions. One part sculpture, one part drawing, the work includes a meandering, tangled wire sculpture cradling a geometric paper form; a drawing on the gallery wall that flows from the wire and mimics its form; and the shadow of the 3D form on the wall below it. The work somehow feels sentient and made me consider other, imperceptible dimensions.

Ronan Christopher Louis Award-winner Cory Card of Rochester has two graphite drawings in the show that are as skillful as they are lighthearted. "Sweepings 17: Dust Conglomerate" and "Sweepings 12: Belly Button Lint II" are painstaking replicas of dust clusters twisted with strands of hair, surrounded by an open sea of white paper. The drawings are so detailed that the first time I saw them, in an exhibit at Rochester Contemporary Art Center, I assumed some wiseass just stuck a clump of studio detritus under glass. When I read his name on the labels at RoCo, I recalled a friend of mine told me of his work, recounting how he was chatting with Card over his work and absently brushed at the drawing, trying to clear the dust. Good thing they're shown under glass.

Syracuse-based artist Susan D'Amato's mixed-media work "Taxonomy of Air: From the Ten Thousand Things (Installation)," is another wall-swallowing behemoth. But instead of flashing signals at you from across the room as Jeanne Beck's work does, the grid of pale, delicate rice paper panels in D'Amato's work beckon with their subtlety. Each small piece of paper bears a different ink drawing and is pinned to the wall so that the panels shiver a bit when you approach (or breathe). The drawings are delicate wisps of organic material, some resembling tiny, uprooted marsh plants, others looking like matted hair drawn from a drain. As simple as the sketches are, there's a dimensionality to them in the way each new line scratches away some of the layered pigment, and the irregularly-torn edges of each paper adds to the raw, organic feeling of the work.



The 66th Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition continues through September 15.  Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Avenue. Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays until 9
p.m. $6-$15; half-price admission Thu after 5 p.m.; free to ages 5 and under, SNAP card holders (plus 3 guests), and UR students, faculty, and staff | 276-8900; mag.rochester.edu,

ROC-FLX programming includes two days of artists' talks: Thursday, July 18, features Christina Brinkman (ceramics), Andy Buck (wood sculptures), and Kaori-Mei Stephens (painting); and Thursday, August 22, features Lucia Falsetti Guarino (photography), Ani Hoover (mixed media), and Andrew Zimbelman (animation). Both events open at 6 p.m., with talks at 7 p.m. Included with museum admission. RSVP at mag.rochester.edu.

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