Making sense of change

 





I don't give art advice often, but I suggest you make anappointment with yourself to see Don Decker's solo show before itcloses and the group show, "Virtual Subsistence," as it gains itssecond wind.

Decker's work in "Disclosures" will stay on the walls untilSunday, whispering wisdom through visual fissures and holes thatspeak to his maturity and curiosity. Though founded on the idea ofnature disclosing itself-of the seasons unearthing the debris oftheir passing-his work speaks to what's hidden, veiled, frozen andreleased within our lives, even within our social structures andpolitical machinations.

It all began while walking his dogs, he said in his artiststatement. As he took to the trails, he noticed the way icechanged, the way plants transformed, the way cracks and holes andtransparencies intensified the small mysteries that inhabit thebigger ones.

Using everything from galvanized sheet metal to resin, foam,plastic and even fireweed, he recreates these small mysteries.

Made of resin and fireweed, "Disclosure 1: Fireweed" carries asimple elegance and frailty, as if a trace of something alreadygone. Much the same size in terms of square footage, "Disclosure:Receding" appears voluminous and thick, like dirty spring snow onan emerging blue spring.

The two shows on either side of his work have a suitablycolorful and meditative quality. Kathryn Carovano's paintings in"Short Stories" convey a sense of quenching desire and taking wing.On the other side, "Change Makes Art" by Karmen Staveland and LauraNutter invites viewers to rearrange 200 five-inch canvases based onwhatever system they choose.

What started as a exploration of color by the two artists slowlychanged as viewers organized the small paintings into subgroupslike "animals," "ferns," "figures," "monsters and weird things" andso on.

Across town at the MTS Gallery, "Virtual Subsistence" mixespoems, stories, paintings, prints, sculptures, fiber work, mixedmedia installation and performance art by contemporary AlaskaNative artists. In her curator's statement, Gretchen Sagan speaksof subsistence as survival and modern day existence as "hybridizingthe age-old practices of our ancestors with new survivalskills."

The works in the show explore the deep tissue of identity,anger, pride, beauty and humor. Two drawings of a woman byAakatchaq hang side-by-side, one painted with paint and wood stainon birch-finish plywood, the other with charcoal and ink on wood,and yet both tied to each other in texture and hue.

"Mutation," a whalebone carving by Susie Silook, appears wildlycontorted on a pile of rocks, its carved spine but a part of a realspine.

Elizabeth Medicine-Crow's mixed media installation includesclothes and jars of jam and salmon and more on painted pedestals,but also a can of Spam and a box of Pilot bread.

Just digesting and appreciating the visual work takes a lot oftime, but the written work takes even longer. The curators putbinders with the poems, essays and stories on music standsthroughout the gallery, but I advise reading this work online, notall at once, but often and slowly.

Highlights include Joan Kane's exquisite moments of poeticimagery that spread exponentially with each reading, or thewrenching immensity of Cathy Rexford's "Communion" in which shebegins, "It is our need of those quiet moments-the white space-butwe would never call it that."

"Disclosures" and the other shows at the InternationalGallery of Contemporary Art until Sunday, November 1. | "VirtualSubsistence" continues until November 15 with a First Fridayperformance by Allison Warden from 7 to 9 p.m. November 6. Find outmore about events and read the show's written work at virtualsubsistence.com/writing.html.

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