CULTURE- ART FEATURE- Seeing green: Art does its part
Is art selfish? That's the loaded question scheduled for discussion at a November 16 McGuffey Art Center brown bag lunch (mark your calendar and make an aesthetically pleasing sandwich). If your first inclination is to shout, "Yes, artists are the most self-absorbed people on the planet," I suggest you visit McGuffey's "Artivism" exhibition before the nosh.
Curated by the Virginia Museum of Fine Art's John Ravenal, "Artivism" features work by 37 Virginia artists– a veritable who's who of past favorable columns– who have contributed pieces exploring the intersection of art and environmental activism. Fifty percent of the proceeds from sales will go to the Charlottesville Waldorf Foundation to support building "the greenest school in North America."
Not your average group charity show, the caliber of the work on display is stellar. Worth the walk to McGuffey alone is Clay Witt's "Tree of Life." Incorporating materials such as gold leaf, red clay, Japanese paper, and rust, Witt's large mixed-media painting features a central tree of raised golden circles and flames that call to mind elements from Tibetan Buddhist thangkas. A serrate-edged vine of blood red snakes like a dragon in and out of a smoky background, shifting and turning with a dark, sacred energy.
Another compelling piece is Susan Crowder's "Love Nest," in the middle of the main gallery. Crowder, whose public sculptures of organic materials are rarely seen locally, presents a chipped and rusted iron bedstead overflowing with a mattress made of dried grasses and flowers. It's an inviting sea of textured greens and browns, with an occasional spot of magenta, crowned by a freeform wreath of straw dangling from the headboard. The piece is simultaneously surreal and nostalgic, reminding us of where we truly sleep.
Other artists further the idea of art activism by calling on viewers to complete their work. William Bennett offers a wall-mounted scheme and sign-up area— beautiful in and of itself, with arcs of small mirrors, intersecting gold lines, and cast bronze organically shaped stars— for a multi-participant outdoor piece entitled "Sun: Burning Bush Baking Bread."
Christopher Humes, meanwhile, presents 10 "Seed Guns," molded of red clay powder, organic compost, and wildflower seeds, as part of an ongoing project called "plant the piece." The pistols' raw ugliness transforms into beauty when purchasers literally bury violence.
Art isn't always selfish and, in the case of "Artivism," it can lead to a better world.
"Artivism" is on view at McGuffey through November 18. The Charlottesville Waldorf Foundation will receive 50 percent of all sales to support building an environmentally sustainable school. Curator John Ravenal gives a gallery talk at a reception on November 15 (contact McGuffey for the time). 201 Second St. NW. 295-7973.