Earth bound: Chroma digs into landscapes

Tamara Harrison Kirschnick, "Sumac."
Tamara Harrison Kirschnick, "Sumac."

Ever since the recent "microburst" stripped limbs from trunks and ripped trees out of the ground, I've had branches and roots on the brain. Our daily landscapes often go unnoticed until their parts are suddenly amputated and displaced, lying mangled in the streets like battlefield casualties.

But that's not the case with the nine artists whose work comprises the exhibition, "Rare Earth," currently on view at Chroma Projects Art Laboratory. Whether painting realistic ocean vistas, in the case of Robin Braun, or glazing an abstract sweep of horizon across a series of ceramic plates, as Catherine White does, each of the participants looks closely and thinks deeply about the possibilities of the natural world.

"Rare Earth" curator and Chroma Projects owner, Deborah McLeod, excels at creating interesting juxtapositions throughout the show. For instance, Tamara Harrison Kirschnick's multi-paneled oil painting, "Sumac," lush with vibrant foliage, hangs in the window behind Dalya Luttwak's bare-limbed, iron sculpture, "Brownweed Grass."

McLeod also wisely places the least accessible pieces in the show–-  J.T. Kirkland's minimalist "Of a Thousand Hills I and II," which consist of barely discernible polyacrylic arches superimposed on heavily grained wood–- between easy-to-like work by local favorites Braun and Frederick Nichols.

Nichols' silkscreen prints of creek beds, dizzying in their detail, find a parallel in Greg Hennen's acrylic-on-panel and gouache-on-paper paintings of woods. Using less riotous colors than Nichols' near-psychedelic palette, Hennon's stylized landscapes are flat yet filled with patterns and lines that call to mind intricate Japanese textiles.

Ashley Williams' delicately colored oil-on-mylar pieces, on the other hand, take landscape in a direction that's neither abstract nor realistic but rather fantastical, fusing earth and anatomy in ways simultaneously revolting and compelling. In "Beast #2, 449," bulbous rolls of pinkish brown fat–- watery in some places, sprouting fine fur in others–- descend into tentacle-like roots, some covered in octopus suckers. At the top, however, the figure transforms into mountains that echo Chinese landscape painting.

Williams carries her distinctive aesthetic into three dimensions in the pedestal-top sculpture, "Breathing/Sleeping (from studies in malacology)." Tactilely inviting, the clay and wax piece, in colors ranging from ivory to sepia, consists of small spheres, cylindrical open-mouthed polyps, and tiny bowls, some with knobby surfaces, all clustered together to form the topography of an imagined coral bed.

Whether realistic or abstract, the richly varied works in "Rare Earth" make viewers reconsider the lay of the land.

The group exhibition, "Rare Earth," is on view through June 26 at Chroma Projects Art Laboratory. 418 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall.202-0269.

1 comment

Great Article. I'm really enjoying Chroma's exhibits and especially love Ms. McLeod's clever signage and exhibition style.