Rich Tu definitely has a style. His illustrations are engaging and contemporary, though they harken back to the tradition of the beautiful Japanese painting style that so many of you had in poster form in your dorm room (myself included.. Tsunami, anyone?). Tu twists the idea to a modern feel, using muted colors with stark black, and dark and pensive subjects.
Portland painter Hickory Mertsching has a penchant for life, death and nature: both wild and man-made. His still lifes, done in oil, showcase a confluence of symbolism with many conflicting elements. Throughout his work, one sees a running commentary of environmental negligence, and human impact through littering and deforestation. Animals juxtaposed with crushed beer cans and chainsaws showcase not only the symbolic reference of destruction but also the aesthetics of defacing the environment through litter and clear-cutting. The animals interact, oblivious to the objects, as in real life: nature cannot defend itself nor comment on our treatment of it.
It is hard to view Mertsching’s paintings without feeling a paroxysm of guilt toward existing and participating in a time of such extreme usability; within a culture that bulldozes through natural resources, sidelines scientific research in the name of profit and economic interests, everyone meets a moment where they have to wonder just how bad their impact is on the world and what they could be doing differently.
Even so, Mertsching’s paintings focus on a larger set of paradoxes than just that. There is the implied confusion within viewing the animals, of which it is uncertain whether they are alive or dead. Many of the landscapes, some on fire and under immediate threat, are not fully realized and hover curiously within the white, negative space of the canvas. The direct confrontation between life force and waste, is beautifully arranged and painted in such a light that the garbage gains an antique presence, a glowing look, one that only highlights the ridiculousness of how we treat our environment.
Mertsching’s words on his own work:
“My paintings are about illustrating and presenting unavoidable natural realities by utilizing mundane objects as symbols. The realities constantly challenge our existence and are powerful enough to be beyond our control, always offering more to wonder and question. Such as the rise and fall of a garden in the span of summer it offers sustenance but requires toil for any reward of consumption. Within this cycle all allegorical manners of life occur, crossing paths, pursuits of enlightenment, conflicts of survival, and the passing of time.”
Lernert & Sander embrace the urge for cosmetic overkill in Natural Beauty where they apply 365 layers (1 years worth) of makeup in one day to see how much is needed to go from a natural look to an outrageous one. Makeup artist Ferry van der Nat and his assistant Vanessa Chan helped to execute the vision, slathering a host of Ellis Faas products on Belgian beauty Hannelore Knuts, who was recently named the new face of Swiss fashion house Akris. Lernert & Sander began collaborating in 2006; since then they’ve done everything from melt a chocolate bunny with a hairdryer to repurpose household appliances as sex toys in the name of video art.
Artist Mark Dean Veca opened his new solo exhibit Made For You and Me at Cristin Tierney January 31st and is on view through March 9th. The title of the exhibit is a lyric from the Woodie Guthrie song This Land is Your Land. The song, originally expressing an anti-capitalist sensibility, has since often been appropriated to convey capitalist sentiments such as growth through consumption. Interestingly, Veca’s work often reverses this same process. He re-appropriates corporate images to comment on corruption, consumption, and a generally waning culture. Appropriately the gallery statement calls his work a kind of “Sinister Pop”. This is particularly evident in his piece titled Tailspin. The piece depicts the Exxon-Mobil Pegasus pointing down, blue on one side, red on the other, and spinning. Tailspin subtly references a society’s consumption dependent on energy resources that are exceedingly spinning out of control.
Kyle Bean’s sculptures are made out of everyday objects such as straws, baked goods, jello, and even matchsticks. His latest eggshell sculpture doesn’t necessarily answer the question “What came first the chicken or the egg” but it sure is beautiful.