CULTURE- ART FEATURE- Art-o-maton: Fiore's machine dreams


Guilt– probably not the reaction Rosemarie Fiore was going for with her wide-ranging exhibition, "Painting, Performance, Machines" at Second Street Gallery. Yet, confronted with her flame-emblazoned lawnmower sitting on its patch of grass in the middle of the gallery, that's exactly what I felt. For me, mowing is a procrastination-inspiring chore. For Fiore, it's an art-making opportunity.

Just like making waffles. Or scrubbing the bathroom floor. (Seriously.) 

If you put an automation-loving 1950s housewife in a blender with a mad scientist and flipped the switch, Fiore is the conceptual-artist smoothie you'd produce. Any modern-day mechanized convenience seems to inspire Fiore to ask, "I wonder how I can convert that to make marks?" Fiore then documents every aspect of the process, from drafting schematics to rigging a camera to record the performance of the "re-purposed" machinery to displaying the results.

In the case of the lawnmower-powered "Appetite," Fiore outfitted the mower's underside with removable fiberglass molds and then proceeded to munch up self-help books and paint-filled whoopee cushions. (Seriously.) Four of the dented fiberglass shells, paint-splattered and flecked with grass and text fragments— e.g. "you can"— are on display, as well as a video made with a mower-cam Fiore affixed to the mower at ground level.

In an interesting twist, Fiore herself became the automated machine for her affiliated show, "View from Clear Creek," at Les Yeux du Monde. Inspired by Lesson #6 in an instructional book and accompanying video by Bob Ross, promoter of do-it-yourself cheesy landscape painting, the exhibition includes Ross's book and video, Fiore's easel, another video of Fiore painting along with the TV Ross, plus 18 oils Fiore produced following Ross's step-by-step guide.  

But therein lies the weakness in Fiore's work: the end products are not always as ironic, fun, and visually engaging as the concepts and performances. The Ross-inspired paintings— performance aspect aside— are pukily saccharine, while Fiore's windshield-wiper and waffle-iron paintings are mostly blah. Her pinball-produced oil-on-vellum pieces and enormous Spirograph-like paintings made with an amusement park ride (seriously) fare better at dynamically holding the eye.

Where Fiore truly shines with her automatic artifacts is in her "Firework Drawings." After exploding fireworks on paper, Fiore cuts out and collages the resulting color-saturated marks into abstract compositions. Absolutely dazzling, these pieces offer depth and motion even as they incorporate fiery fragments like magenta coronas. Here Fiore seems to have found an ideal blend of mechanization, randomness, and control.

Rosemarie Fiore's survey exhibition, "Painting, Performance, Machines," is on view at Second Street Gallery through May 31. 115 Second St. SE (in the Charlottesville City Center for the Arts). 977-7284. Fiore's affiliated show, "View From Clear Creek," runs through May 31 at Les Yeux du Monde. 115 South St. 973-5566.