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Climate change brings mixed media and painting of two artists together

“Golgotha (Ziggurat)” by Andrew Fearnside is a stunning example of his “Desert” series at the Page Coleman Gallery.

“Golgotha (Ziggurat)” by Andrew Fearnside is a stunning example of his “Desert” series at the Page Coleman Gallery.

The Page Coleman Gallery is hosting “The Fires and the Floods,” mixed media by Gail Gering, and “The Desert,” recent paintings by Andrew Fearnside, through June 18.

In Coleman’s search for emerging contemporary artists, she often finds artists who, though working apart, find common ground. In the case of Gering and Fearnside, our rapidly changing environment due to the effects of global warming and related climate extremes have helped inspire their efforts.

I’ll leave it up to you readers to decide who or what the culprits or causes might be for our current climate catastrophes.

The nice thing about this show is that we can set aside the obvious polemics and focus on the artistry. Both Gering and Fearnside are skillfully pursuing self-examination and spiritual reflection on some level that truly individualizes and informs their aesthetic.

Gering has developed an elaborate etching process involving photography, digital intervention, lots of hand work and patinated metal. Rather than printing from the resulting etched plate, Gering uses the plate itself as the substrate of her final layered images.

Her rich mixture of text and texture gives each piece its own character while avoiding the production-line quality of printmaking.

In terms of content, Gering bases her imagery on fact-based research and personal experiences in the new normal of climate violence. Her “Trying to Get a Flight out of Here” is grounded in her real experience while visiting Cancun, Mexico, which was in the path of a major hurricane.

Gering’s image of a thatch-roofed hut imposed on an article about the dangers of being near sea level in a hurricane features a lower text panel in bold type declaring “everyone was fleeing to the airport trying to get a flight out of here.”

“That River Tried to Pull me Under” by Gail Gering is one of 28 mixed media works drawing attention to our changing environment in her “The Fires and The Floods” series.

“That River Tried to Pull me Under” by Gail Gering is one of 28 mixed media works drawing attention to our changing environment in her “The Fires and The Floods” series.

Most of the time when I see artwork featuring lots of words and reliquary-style single arms reaching forth, I walk quietly toward the exit, but I found myself drawn to Gering’s “That River Tried to Pull Me Under.”

Gering’s image of an arm reaching upward with its hand formed in a posture of both supplication and resignation is beautifully presented against a mottled blue sky and a not-so-friendly deluge of dark blue water.

Fearnside has a long career in art and performance, with past shows in New York, Chicago, Santa Fe and Albuquerque. But, like many creative people, he went into a hiatus that ended with a series of seed paintings in 2014.

Fearnside calls the small sketches on discarded office paper seeds because they gave birth to his current paintings. What Fearnside brings to his personal renaissance is a wonderful sense of color and a heartfelt need to explore what he calls his “inner Golgotha.”

His work is inspired by a combination of biblical stories and the dynamic high desert landscape of New Mexico. The results are stunning in works like “Golgotha (Sandias),” “Golgotha (Ziggurat)” and “The Ark (Desert).”

"Fire-Scarred Landscape" by Gail Gering highlights the impact of contemporary weather extremes caused by climate change.

“Fire-Scarred Landscape” by Gail Gering highlights the impact of contemporary weather extremes caused by climate change.

All three paintings are imbued with the luscious hues of southwestern sunsets, adobe walls and Pueblo architecture, and highlighted with Christian symbolism.

My favorite of the three is “Golgotha (Ziggurat),” with its Pueblo-style stack of buildings topped by leafless trees and crosses. The dazzling palette and romantic presentation are simultaneously dreamlike and reality based.

Another strong painting is “Bottles and the Sacred Heart,” a mural scale Fearnside still life that blends early cubism (circa 1908) and abstract expressionism (circa 1950) in a manner that may have impressed Picasso in his day.

Fearnside and Gering are traveling parallel paths. Fearnside is soul searching and dreaming of an earlier human innocence, while Gering is playing the clarion to awaken us.

There are 40 works in this exhibition worthy of note, making it a well worth a leisurely visit.

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