Spacey: Samelson's inspired doodles

If the work in Andra Samelson’s exhibit at the Fayerweather Gallery, the cosmic-theme “Ephemeris” looks like the sort of thing that someone might have doodled while talking on the phone, it’s for good reason. According to her artist’s statement, Samelson– who had been looking for a new, more direct art– came up with the concept at the core of her exhibit while doodling and talking on the phone. 
In fairly large, irregularly shaped ovals (a shape that reappears over and over again), Samelson fashions thick galaxies of stars made of concentric circles or spirals separated by the darkness of space laid out here in waves of cross-hatching. This basic idea she repeats a few times with ink pen before she begins to apply it to other styles and methods. In a few works, she uses a more pointillist style for a lighter effect; in others she applies thick swabs of black ink for a much darker one.
In Samelson’s conception, “Ephemeris” is an antidote to the wave of conceptual, computer-generated art currently making the rounds. In actuality, it’s glorified notebook marginalia. Samelson really doesn’t expand upon or develop her concept so much as she simply reproduces it on a scale beyond the means or, most likely, interest of the typical doodler. 
It’s a little impressive seeing the sort of curlicue doodles people absent-mindedly draw not just taken seriously, but also presented in forms as big as four feet across. But not that impressive, really. It might have helped had Samelson somehow played up the humble origins of her concept with her work, but she seems to be treating it seriously here.
As it stands, this is not the homage to the cosmos Samelson tries to present so much as an homage to the artwork of distracted people taken seriously. In other words, Samelson’s newfound astronomical interests come across as a little phony and more than a bit opportunistic.
She does include a few works that depart from the cosmic aesthetic to a degree, and they are the most interesting pieces on display. These smaller works of ink on rice paper take for their subjects complicated, odd, and irregular shapes– large, slumping frameworks that look like toothpaste tubes, bowls, or doughnuts. What these works have to do with Samelson’s cosmos (phone doodle) theme is unclear (were they inspired while talking on the phone and dropping acid perhaps?). They certainly show a unique aesthetic and visual spunk lacking in the other stuff.

Andra Samelson’s “Ephemeris,” an exhibit of cosmos-theme drawings and paintings, runs through March 12 at the Fayerweather Gallery. Rugby Road. 924-6123.

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