Culture- ART FEATURE- Split personalities: Artists switch hit at PVCC

Last winter, in one month Rob Tarbell was showing tongue-in-cheek porcelain sculptures at Second Street Gallery, and the next he was displaying ethereal smoke drawings at Les Yeux du Monde. No doubt some viewers scratched their heads, asking, "What kind of artist is this guy?" 

Now, in a birds-of-a-feather-flock-together move, Tarbell has curated "The Others," a wide-ranging exhibition at Piedmont Virginia Community College bringing together 21 artists who each work in two or more visual arenas that vary in terms of media, aesthetic approach, or both. Richmond's Gordon Stettinius, for instance, is primarily known as a photographer, but "The Others" reveals he's also a printmaker (albeit a slightly creepy one who uses blood for ink in his erotic "Burlesque").

Each participant shows two pieces, one displayed in the Dickinson Building's North Gallery, the other in the South Gallery. The arrangement isn't ideal for compare-and-contrast purposes, unfortunately, since the works are often so different it's hard to remember who did what from one gallery to the next. 

Some cases are easier to suss out than others. Brad Birchett's gritty series of 12 abstract mixed-media drawings, "Urban Renewal," finds aesthetic reflection in his cairn-like installation of stones, "Action to Object." Likewise, Fiona Ross's intricate ink-on-paper drawing, "Float #1," resembling something frothy in a Petri dish, resonates in terms of shapes, texture, and composition with her organic-feeling ceramic sculpture "Lotus." It's fascinating to see how Ross explores an idea two dimensionally in black-and-white and then re-works its basic premise in three dimensions, incorporating color and varied materials, like feldspar refractory concrete. 

In other cases, the match is harder to make. For instance, in the South Gallery, Chris Norris, in collaboration with the artist collective "Feast," presents a satirical photo diptych, "Drunk on Doughnuts," depicting a lush-figured "lady who lunches" daintily overindulging in pastries. But Norris' North Gallery piece, "Crown of Swans," is a large comic-book-like acrylic painting that pulses with saturated color as three swans writhe amid flowers atop a deer's head. Though vastly different, both works reflect Norris's focus on dramatic detail, cartoon-ish humor, and interest in excess.

But putting aside the connect-the-dots challenge, "The Others" is at heart an exuberant collection of mostly regional artists (the majority based in Richmond) whose work has caught Tarbell's eye. The energetic current underlying the show seems to be Tarbell's joyful reply to puzzled viewers, "Why choose between either-or when you can be both-and?"

The group exhibition, "The Others," curated by Rob Tarbell, is on view through August 21 at the V. Earl Dickinson Building at Piedmont Virginia Community College. College Drive. 961-5202.


1 comment

Thanks for the great review. I love the "why choose between.." quote. I'm with Rob!