Oh, the humanity

Chico State’s Humanities Gallery offers two rich exhibits

HANG IN THERE<br> Belinda Hanson’s <i>Transparent Longings </i>installation challenges the intellect and pleases the eye.

Belinda Hanson’s Transparent Longings installation challenges the intellect and pleases the eye.

Photo By Carey Wilson

Six dangling translucent bladders, scintillating with dusky, orange-filtered artificial light and sparkling with clear ambient sunlight from the building’s high skylights, are suspended over six sky-blue, ‘60s-era school-room chairs.

In a corner at one end of the room, a heap of assorted sable-colored animal pelts excrete a segment of logging chain, the burly iron links dusted with a patina of rust. Following the chain a foot or two from its origin beneath the pelt pile one comes to a matte-black cube about a foot on a side, with a tightly packed stack of yellow butter (or perhaps margarine) sticks built on top of it. The heavy chain has obviously been held a foot or so above the butter stack and dropped in such away as to bisect the neatly organized stack, crushing, separating and adding or revealing interior texture to the malleable material.

It’s an awesome and somewhat freakish tableau echoed from across the center aisle that divides the exhibition space by another pile of skins, this one more fleece-like, as if a mixed herd of goats and sheep had shed their skins and left them piled atop a length of chain that was doing its best to imitate the sinuous tail of a rat.

Weird, you might think—and yet suffused with beauty and life, or at least the intimation of life.

Such is the mysterious power and presence of Transparent Longings, by Belinda Hanson, which is currently viewable at the Humanities Gallery in Trinity Hall on the Chico State campus.

The show’s mysteriousness is only deepened by Hanson’s artist’s statement about the installation, in which she says: “With this installation, I am referencing the current human dilemma as I sense it, frozen on a precipice of choice, watching while the moment stretches before us into time. And we long to attach ourselves to the certainty of a direction … movement instead of stasis. Longingly, we catch glimpses of the possible. We have a choice to rescue ourselves … or not. A poignant moment.”

For the viewer of the installation, trying to find any literal or easily decipherable correlation between the physical manifestation of the art and the intended intellectual and emotional content invested in it as stated by the artist can become an exercise in conceptualism: Translating the abstract images into coherent and specific symbols is an act of artistry that can transpire only within the mind of the viewer. Hanson’s statement points out a direction for interpretation, but leaves it up to the viewer to take that direction.

Running concurrently in the gallery adjacent to the central space that houses Hanson’s installation is another, nicely complementary exhibit, Two Wools, by mother and son Susan and Dan Woolridge.

The Woolridges’ art is whimsical and celebratory of chance occurrences and perceptions. Susan’s pieces are constructed from small objects and journal entries that she made over the course of a year. During that time, she set herself the task of creating a piece of art from things she would find on her daily walks in preparation for an upcoming book, Foolsgold: Making Something from Nothing. Glued to journal pages or the bottoms of the boxes they are arranged in, the objects include aluminum can pull-tabs, bits of old film boxes, seed pods, acorns, leaves and flower petals. Like Hanson’s art, Susan Woolridge’s invites intellectual participation.

Dan Woolridge’s paintings and drawings exude the joy of painting and drawing. Spontaneity seems to be a key element, and enjoyment the object and goal. To quote a kid’s critical phrase that defies intellectualism: “It’s good. I like it.”