In the spirit of Forrest Gump’s assertion that “life is like a box of chocolates – you just never know what you’re going to get,” the Albuquerque Museum invited 2,000 people to visit 97 local artists’ studios over three consecutive Saturdays and pick their favorites.
The result is “Public Selects: a Crowdsourced Exhibition” with works from 12 studios by 13 artists in a sampler of media chosen by 1,100 respondents.
The winning artists are Jane Abrams, Timothy Cummings, Kristin Diener, Elizabeth Fritzsche, Thomas Christopher Haag, Ed Haddaway, Kei and Molly Textiles (Kei Tsuzuki and Molly Luethi), Jami Porter Lara, Orlando Leyba, Dennis Liberty, Suzanne Sbarge and Kevin Tolman.
As Perry Mason used to say, “I’ll stipulate” that this is an excellent show while endeavoring to hit some highlights in the space allowed.
Abrams is a closet alchemist who skillfully carves wood as well as she paints canvas and was the first-ever tenured female painting professor at the University of New Mexico. The personal cost of her academic career can be seen in her bas relief self-portrait featuring a scar for each year she spent at UNM.
Not surprisingly her work content ranges from the spirituality of her study of Ayurveda, the Vedic medicine of India, to the genocidal Latin American conflicts of the 20th century.
Cummings has spent time in the trenches of pop surrealism but is too individualistic to be group lumped. His mastery of the human figure is era and movement transcendent in works like “Aura of a Face” 2014 and “Sparkler” from 2010.
In “Aura of a Face” Cummings includes the beginnings of a geometric Indian mandala, placing him in Abrams’ philosophical neighborhood. His work is definitely in the chocolate truffle section of the box. Cummings also has the distinction of being the only selected artist born in Albuquerque.
Diener is a jeweler who is really a sculptor. The show does a nice job of presenting both aspects.
Fritzsche is an extremely talented potter and sculptor who works in porcelain and cast iron. She has individualized her training in the Japanese tradition of Arita porcelain and made it her own. Her breathtaking variety of shaped vessels and pure sculpture are filled with the joy of creation.
Her ceramics and castings are serious, beautiful and filled with a sense of high humor. Fritzsche’s works have creamy centers.
Haag is a wow mixed-media artist with overwhelming energy who works found objects into visual poetry brimming with metaphor. My single favorite is his stunning collage “Quetzalcoatl Returning the Power to the People” 2015.
Haddaway is a juicy-fruit sculptor who incorporates humor, a great sense of asymmetrical composition with the insouciant playfulness of childhood. He bounces between natural surface rust and wear on old steel to brightly painted shining surfaces in works like “Un Oeuvre D’Art Trop Important” 2015 (rusted) and “Palm Tree Tangle” 2004 gorgeously painted. He always comes through with rich flavor.
Kei and Molly Textiles is an artistic alliance between Kei Tsuzuki of Japan and Molly Luethi of Switzerland. The duo first collaborated during a craft fair when their respective daughters were in grade school. Their jointly designed and executed textiles range from a mural scale “Global Tree” 2015 and a series of smaller tea towels made during the past four years.
Their works on linen/cotton fabric celebrate folk art traditions with content gleaned from southwestern landscapes, village life and the geopolitical implications of human environmental impact. With bright hues and tart sweetness they are the gumdrops in the box.
Lara creates shining black licorice ceramics with a modernist flare for design with ancient Pueblo pottery techniques. Her work is beautiful.
Leyba makes fascinating and tasty paintings that delight the eye. His “Marjorelle’s Ghost No. 3” 2015 is my pick.
Liberty has abstract expressionist roots but is pushing his landscape work beyond realism into the netherworld of theater. His excruciating attention to detail and ability to capture the energy of water and clouds in motion elevates his painting into the realm of sweet dark chocolate. The show includes Liberty’s “Mother Well,” a masterpiece featuring cascading water while punning homage to the late Robert Motherwell.
Sbarge divides her time between studio work and arts administration as the director of 516 ARTS. In the studio she creates painted collages in the spirit of European surrealism. Her work is beautifully executed and she has a wonderful sense of color. My two favorites are “Cardinal” 2011 and “Island” 2014.
Tolman is a perennial favorite with luscious paint quality and solid abstraction. My favorite this time is “Acequia/Summer Song” that puts you way down deep in life giving water.
We have to thank curator Andrew Connors for making the show possible and his assistant, Titus O’Brien, who visited the winners’ studios and chose the works on view.