Marvels and Wonders: Eclectic Work at Corners Gallery
Oblong cages containing blown glass plants hang from the ceiling in Corners Gallery: articulate, yet organic forms painted in earthy shades of yellow. The plants are tubular and solid, each grounded in a base of circular glass orbs. Beside them are two other glass plants mounted against the wall, shielded in containment. Their titles read their so-called species’ names: Efflorescence bachatus for the larger, flower-covered one, and Ocular globule (juvenile) for a smaller form covered in glass circles. These objects, sculptures but ones given the façade of life, are captivating with their mystique of age and their alien-like (or at the very least novel) features. They exemplify the “urge to seek and gather novel organisms for contemplation and display,” which the artist, Robin Cass, writes about in her statement. “Although it is in our nature to categorize and define,” she continues, “we relish the sense of wonder that accompanies an enigma.”
Wonder and curiosity are in fact the binding force that grounds the gallery’s current show, All Manner of Marvels: Wonders Seldom Seen, qualities exemplified through Cass’ work but also present in work by nine other artists also included in the show. Curated by Ithaca artist Steve Carver, the group exhibition is openly diverse and unquestionably playful. With its intent of eclecticism and its inspiration taken from the “cabinets of curiosity” of 16th and 17th century Europe, it includes any manner of marvels (so to speak) from animals to medical implements. In this case, the artworks are the curiosities, and delving into artists’ visions through viewing their work is one of the show’s many pleasures.
Perpetually biased toward my individual tastes, Minna Resnick’s mixed-media print Neither Do They is a definite winner with its sly humor and biting social commentary. In the forefront is the line drawing of a woman reading a sheet of paper as she lies on her stomach, naked except for her shoes and socks. In the background is a large blown-up female silhouette, as well as a line of women in old-fashioned bathing suits, their faces obscured but red-lipped smiles tauntingly painted on. Compositionally speaking, the piece is beautifully executed, but it is also sharply thought-provoking with its allusion toward childhood (a rubber ball carefully positioned) and its critique of commercially fueled notions of how one must behave as a female in one’s strive for social acceptance.
Lou Beach’s collages are equally as comical with their odd use of juxtaposition and brash characters. Poltroons on Parade depicts complete chaos as a dog-like character with a crown bears arrows from his chest, while a metal, snake-powered and oil-dripping robot shoots a flaming missile from his mouth. The environment is Roman or Grecian with pillared buildings, and a knight lies dead on the ground. Still, however violent, the piece maintains a playful edge. Looking closer still, it includes references to Washington D.C. and perhaps political chaos in general.
Marshall Hyde’s work, drawings and a sculpture all paying ode to a monkey, are perhaps closely linked to cabinets of curiosity-type fare. Beth Hylen’s sculptures and interactive journal (in which she asks viewers to write a few words) all focus on notions of hope as prompted through feathers. Robin Whiteman’s four porcelain figures of goddesses and animals produce a near spiritual environment, like tokens of self-discovery and communion with the creatures within. Conversely, Wayne Kruse’s painting Masquerade Boogie appears colorful and colorfully narrated. Gary Panter’s Balm (Couple & the North Pole) is also perfectly odd and entertaining, which includes two characters (one a man in dress pants and slicked hair looking quizzical, the other a woman wearing only a blazer and an acoustic guitar) who are, for no known reason, simply standing in the North Pole. Steve Carver’s own work, too, is a colorful collection of textures, words and images, and Bill Hasting presents watercolor drawings as well as an impressive sculpture made from plastic fencing that examine and exhibit organic forms of living objects and sea life.
It sounds redundant to say there is much here in this show, but there is. All Manner of Marvels asks you to open your eyes to curiosity and take in all that you find. •