Few Wyoming juried exhibits purport to survey the entire state’s contemporary, innovative, and under-represented artists. Now in its second year, “Rendezvous,” the summer collaboration between two galleries at opposite ends of Wyoming, is the best example of one that does. In a number of ways, the 2018 version is stronger than last year’s.
As in 2017, gallerists Camellia El-Antably and Mark Vinich of Cheyenne, and David K. Klarén of Pinedale, organized the show and selected enough work to fill their two galleries for the entire summer. Both galleries opened their halves of the exhibit in early June. In mid-July, the galleries will swap, allowing all the work to reach completely different audiences.
The rules were adjusted this year to allow submissions up to 48 inches square. Partly due to larger work being submitted and chosen, there are fewer total works than last year, but about the same number of artists participating. The result is a more cohesive and inviting display at both venues.
If you see both halves of this exhibit — and why shouldn’t you, since Cheyenne and Pinedale will display both, and summer highways are easy — you can fill your eyes and mind with a diverse swath of contemporary Wyoming art, and come away feeling like you’ve seen much more than two art shows.
The roster of accepted artists includes 10 returning and 23 new participants — this good turnover suggests the organizers are getting the word out beyond their immediate personal networks, and sticking with their mission to “showcase … artists working outside the more traditional expressions widely seen and accepted throughout Wyoming.”
This review will focus on artists and media that I found interesting or that were not discussed in last year’s reviews, but know that there is much more to be seen. For a complete list of exhibiting artists and the exhibit schedule, visit https://claypaperscissors.com. As always with small art galleries, call or email to confirm hours before setting out.
Robert Martinez (Riverton), known for jarring conflations of rap with treasured tropes like eagle feather headdresses, contributes two large pieces to the show. “Rail Robe” is from Martinez’s extensive series of drawings combined with scanned and printed vintage documents. In “Rail Robe,” a pre-1867 railroad map of the Union Pacific line and its connections, from Lake Michigan to the Pacific Coast, is turned sideways to make an upright rectangle. The map appears to have been printed over a meticulously executed graphite drawing, which escapes beyond the left and right borders of the map. The image is the standing figure of a Native man wrapped in or carrying a grizzly bear robe, complete with furry lifelike head draped from the man’s shoulder. The man and bear fill the part of the map roughly corresponding to Plains Indian territory, especially if one includes the regions occupied as tribes pushed west from the Great Lakes in the eighteenth century. The bear and the man look directly at the viewer.
Martinez’s second work is “The Issue,” an approximately 24- by 36-inch painting that combines airbrushed acrylic and oil with collage on stretched canvas. Out from a blue, white, and yellow fog, a Native rider leaps his mount over an unseen obstacle. We know he is Native because his cowboy hat sports feathers and his face and hair are dark. The rest of his outfit is somewhat generalized, as if extrapolated from an indistinct photograph. He rises in the saddle, holding at arm’s length a rifle. If not for the gun, he could be a bronc rider. Behind the horse and rider, collaged into the background, is a 1991 BLM Land Status map of Wyoming. There are so many layers to think about here that I will just say poor old Steamboat will never look the same to me again.
A strong cohort of abstract artists, mainly painters, makes a stand in “Rendezvous.” Here are just a few samples.
“Gelb,” mixed media on Dura-Lar by Joseph Cipro (Alpine), shows what thin washes and pools of color on polyester film can do when scraped, sponged, allowed to crawl, or left alone. Bands of color, constructed from vertical and horizontal strokes in a variety of golds, greens, and dark purples, surround a glowing center. Textures evoke burnt paint, lichens, sunny windows, ingots. Even my crummy iPhone photo of it rewards contemplation. I think the artist should have foregone a window mat and given this piece a shadowbox frame to celebrate it as an object.
Speaking of object-like paintings, Pamela Gibson (Jackson) produces encaustic works on square panels with deep cradles, so that the paintings stand several inches off the wall and become three-dimensional. Her two works in the show are lusciously decorative and potentially thought-provoking. Their thick wax surfaces, in creamy mint, orange, and mocha suggest giant petits fours, but the “icing” is scored, embedded with objects, and beautifully manipulated. Their abstract compositions hint at bold seascapes and invite endless speculation. The titles, however, press viewers in a narrow literal direction, closing abstraction’s open door. “When I’m 64” gives the game away utterly, and “I Heard The News Today” makes it unnecessary to look further than the bits of scorched newsprint embedded in the surface.
Jocelyn Slack (Wilson) offers a trio of abstract monoprints that are an exciting departure from her narrative work. Confined to a rectangular image area of about 8 x 9 inches, each imprint consists of freeform watercolor and water soluble crayon transferred from an acetate plate. Puddles of pigment, hints of texture, and the occasional mark accumulate in suggestive arrangements that stop short of referencing a noun. This leaves the viewer to decide for herself. “Monoprint” #6, #7, and #8 feel like experimental pieces, but they are delicate and lovely and remind me of Helen Frankenthaler’s famous monumental woodcuts, in miniature.
Photo-based work is abundant and rigorous in the Rendezvous exhibit. Ed Sherline’s “Stairwell,” with its dizzying M.C. Escher-like complexity, pulls the viewer never-endingly down (or is it up?) into a deep shaft. The depth of field in this image snaps everything into focus; the old cement plant in Laramie proves a gold mine.
Two photos by Susan Moldenhauer (Laramie), “Experimental Pinhole: Amputated Tree 2017” and “Experimental Pinhole: Outhouse at Ucross 2017,” have that fuzzy glow from the center, and soft-focus velvet shadow at the edges, that are hallmarks of the traditional DIY pinhole method. Regardless of the titles, each image is the haunting portrait of a different solitary cottonwood tree that has lost limbs; the cut stumps stand out with an almost infrared glare. The trees’ massive size, crusty bark, and leafless twiggy filigrees suggest autumn and endurance.
Barbara Bogart (Laramie) offers “Metamorphosis,” a miniature triptych collected upon a vertical panel of brushed metal. The three purely abstract photographs are a bit bigger than business cards, and they are so colorful and glossy that at first I thought they were paintings, or baked enamel. But they are macro photographs of weathered and otherwise changed metal surfaces that Bogart seeks out and finds worthy of scrutiny. The images are about rust, which is about transformation. She sends her digital files to a local press for printing on metallic paper.
Luke Anderson (Laramie) is one of our most interesting young representational oil painters right now. In my view, however, his entries in this and last year’s “Rendezvous” have not been his best work. “The Shape of Clouds,” an oil of a pronghorn buck standing in front of a huge cumulus cloud, is probably well done and even beautiful to the viewer who sees only this piece. But in the arc of Anderson’s recent bodies of work, it is safe and unsurprising.
Anderson is capable of painting observations and imagined forms that one would never expect to see in western landscape paintings. Some call that magical realism, but I beg to differ. I would encourage him and the exhibit jurors to trust us with his bolder and stranger efforts.
Sally Wesaw (Thermopolis) supplied two works, the painting “Blue Bison 1” and the mixed media collage “Blue Bison 2.” These pieces look raw and primitive at first, but in both, the figures of the animals attract and satisfy the eye. It’s clear that Wesaw has studied bison and is painting from her heart.
Christopher Amend (Gillette) is to my knowledge one of the few artists in Wyoming who absorbed, transformed, and carries prolifically forward today the traditions of the faculty members who put their stamp on the University of Wyoming Art Department in the 1960s-’80s. Richard Evans’ treatment of the figure, especially its Mannerist distortion, appears to undergird Amend’s practice.
In his large-scale, graphically impeccable linocut print “Philosopher,” a trademark Amend female figure with huge hands and feet is bundled tightly into the rectangular space of the print block and contemplates a smooth oval form between her fingers. She wears classical drapery and cradles a book in her lap. Because this is Amend, no way is it not heavy with symbolism and obscure personal meaning. I choose to see the woman as Sophia, goddess of Wisdom, pondering the Philosopher’s Stone (that false and foolish promise of eternal youth) and keeping the other hand on a better touchstone: the lessons life has taught and will teach her.
Uncluttered and thoughtful presentation notwithstanding, there is much more in every category to enjoy in both galleries. I just can’t write about it all: ceramics, fiber art, acrylic pours, wall sculpture, photographs, and painting, by contemporary Wyoming artists.
After spending time at this rendezvous of Wyoming art, I felt as delighted and satisfied as I do after spending time with Wyoming artists themselves.
Clay Paper Scissors Gallery, Cheyenne
June 14-July 7 and July 20 through August 2018
1513 Carey Ave., Cheyenne, 82001
Mystery Print Gallery, Pinedale
June 7-July 16 and July 19 through August 2018
221 S. Sublette Ave., Pinedale, 82941