Student exhibition spotlights diverse and unique works


[img_inline align=”right” src=”” caption=”Lisa by Elisabeth Monsterjhelm”]”Alternating Currents” is the title of this year's exhibition of the work of 21 artists/students graduating from the Studio Art Program of
McMaster's School of Art, Drama & Music.

This is a show that develops no particular overall theme or curator's message. Instead, it is made up of moments of inspiration, flashes of energy and a diversity that is summed up in the students' own explanation of the title: “We work together with a grace of style that is specific to each of our artistic activities and so we remain alternate.”

As an illustration of the diversity of this show consider the following: A puzzle table constructed by Alex Hoare, called “The Propaganda of Symbolic Meaning.” The artist has created a table top of tile-like wooden blocks, each block painted with squares containing historical symbols that Hoare has researched and documented in an accompanying catalogue.

This is a fascinating piece that works on many levels – as an example of formal geometry and shifting patterns; as a provocative conceptual work that questions the uses and misuses of symbols; and as an interactive puzzle piece that invites viewers to create their own patterns by shifting the tiles about on the top of the table.

Among several beautifully realized self-portraits, my eyes kept coming back to a painting by Margie Mahovlich-Delost, a painting of the artist brushing her teeth in her own cluttered studio space. Delost says that she had taken an anthropology course and was intrigued by the idea of what an anthropologist would think of our various female cosmetic processes.

I liked the painting because it seems like such a feminist take on all of those thousands of art-historical images of women bathing themselves, washing their hair and so on. I wonder, for instance, what Degas would make of this very matter-of-fact female performing this very mundane act?

Terry Donovan also has created a wallpiece that has that has lots of art historical precedents – the idea of the man in the box, the familiar, Kafkaesque presence who feels the walls closing in on him. Donovan has taken this old idea, however, and through a simplification of forms and a really inspired use of materials, created an exceptionally powerful image of angst and claustrophobia. Donovan's wallpiece looks as if it was designed expressly to fit in to the gallery space, to hang among the Museum's collection of German Expressionist prints.

And the polar opposite, Laurel Panton has painted an abstract composition on canvas and mylar. Called “Turmoil,” the painting seems to celebrate the sheer joy of painting, the delicious exhuberant application of paint to canvas. This is a painting that reminds us of that strange, emotional excitement that can be generated by viewing rich, lush colour on a flat surface.

And another wall-hanging, a metal quilt, superbly crafted by Jo-Ellen Grundy, is an imaginative combination of traditional female craft technique and the hard-edged modernist forms and materials of the Minimalists.

Finally, if sculpture is your preference, how about a site-specific artwork by Matt Walker? Walker says that he fell in love with the Museum's Gaudier-Brzeska birdbath maquette. His take on this McMaster landmark, situated in the gallery's lobby, is designed to complement the larger piece and is neither piously respectful in its form nor satirical in its intent.

Twenty-one students, more than 21 ideas and no boring art – what
more could you ask? The student show will run until May 21.