Art Center’s members show reflects on the events of 9/11
If you possess a fully functioning nerve end somewhere in your body, you can hardly have witnessed the events of Sept. 11 and not been affected. Perhaps you shared your concern and horror with a neighbor or co-worker, the resulting conversation and exchange of feelings allowing you the luxury of a temporary calm perspective; perhaps you only agitated each other further, inciting a mutual yet somewhat unfocused fear or anger. Or perhaps you turned away, hoping for the best, accepting that somehow America would prevail.
All of the feelings that occurred that September day seem accurately represented in Chico Art Center’s latest exhibition, Art in the Aftermath of 9/11: Artists Reactions.
The show features a wide variety of media—sculpture, painting, collage, and so on, and almost every point of view is here, from jagged, found-art sculpture with provocative names to calm fields and landscapes bearing patriotic panaceas as titles.
Among the more interesting pieces:
Dorothy Wood’s “A Little of Each Is in the Other” is easily the most elaborate of the sculpture/found-art pieces in the show. It consists of great chunks of fractured concrete, smashed wiring and wall plug boxes, masses of wire, and so on. It looks initially like the remnants of a demolished building mounted on white, oblong wooden pedestals. Behind, and up the wall, undulates a blue-painted, silken sheet, its irregular, wave-like motions induced by a hidden fan behind the work. As eye-catching as all of this is, what is most intriguing about the piece, however, is a nest situated at a natural bough in the rubble. Within the nest are two eggs: one black and one white. The message seems to be that there cannot be good without evil, that these perplexing twins birthed by the human race will ever be with us. More specifically, the suggestion exists that the terrorist-created rubble on the shores of this country is but a reflection of similarly created chaos elsewhere. This is a thoughtful and thought provoking piece.
Reta Rickmers’ “The Means Don’t Justify the End” is a collage that depicts doubled images of planes flying into twin towers and bright red gas pumps, as well as a woman cradling an infant, a fireman exhausted, men praying, and someone brandishing a rifle. Above it all is a great hand squeezing oil from a lump of coal, the resulting liquid drops poised purposely over the gas pumps. All of these deliberately arranged, clipped-out images are set against a subtle gold background. Rickmers seems to criticize American oil companies’ policies in the Middle East, policies that can fuel fanatical terrorist assaults like those on 9/11.
Shirley Perkins’ watercolor portrait of Osama Bin Laden suggests a ghost. The faint yellows in the skin, the cadaver-like greens in the robes, and so forth, all contribute to a kind of elusive quality that seems mirrored by actual events in Afghanistan. However, mostly the portrait suggests death.
“Nine Eleven and Nine Tenths” is a curiously humorous piece by Bill Abel. The bright red, white and blue colors immediately catch one’s eye, and the peculiar red and white banded tendrils suggested by the wooden branches attached to the cracked tree-trunk base remind one of a Dr. Seuss drawing made three dimensional (specifically, I thought of the Cat in the Hat’s stovepipe chapeau). The cracked wooden base suggests a broken tree, while the lively limbs imply regeneration; it’s an effective piece that immediately invites a smile and then offers hope through contemplation.
However … there is an odd ominous vibe broadcast by an Iraqi banknote dangling almost unnoticed from one of the branches.
This show ends Sunday, May 26.