Small exhibit packs an artistic punch

Art by Ruth Ann Reese

By Sarah Weinman

The 2014 Artists-in-Residence Exhibition at Craft Alliance – Grand Center is a small show, but it’s big on content.  Though it includes only three types of media (metal, fiber, and clay), these belie the sheer variety of artwork.  There are seven artists in the show; below, I discuss four whose work greatly interests me.

Working in clay and mixed media, Ruth Anne Reese explores the ideas of growth and change in her pieces, which evoke Victorian Gothic / horror imagery.  A piece with the complex title Question: What are we pretending not to know? Reply: … that we are powerful beyond measure is a white, porcelain, three-dimensional Pan-like creature with an octopus head (tentacles and all), mounted on a scalloped wood frame with an antique magnifying glass.  Reese’s pieces are surreal amalgams of creatures: human-headed birds, deer-headed people, a hand sprouting leaves.  Everything is in flux, in a state neither animal nor human but somewhere in between.

Like Reese, metals artist Hunter Creel also uses the human body as a jumping-off point.  Creel’s whimsical sculptures range from 6” to 18” high; each is given a bright coat of paint.  They are round like potbellied stoves, stand on three or four feet, and feature protrusions like knobs and vertical or horizontal handles.  These “body parts” bring to mind human feet, arms, legs, etc.  Creel creates them by hammering sheets of copper over differently shaped forms.  The roundness and bright colors of the pieces lend them a toylike quality.

Ceramist Evan Wagman tackles emotions, a topic equally as challenging as the human body, by creating intricate organic forms from brightly glazed terracotta which resemble internal organs or multicellular organisms.  Wagman’s pieces reflect “unseen emotions resulting from exposure to pressure, strain, and influence.”  Viscerous Stretching is an acid-green, globular piece with openings that allow the viewer to see inside.  The artist considers physical space as part of physical manifestations of emotions.

We move from the volatility of emotions to the regularity of pattern in fiber artist Jenna Jacobs’ work.  Jacobs’ four brown-toned round pieces titled Triangula I, II, III, IV display geometric patterns of tubular beads and white-dyed triangular shapes.  She prefers patterns “somewhere between organized and random because the ambiguity requires investment to interpret.”  Indeed, before I read Jacobs’ artist statement, I interpreted these works as depictions of single-celled organisms seen under a microscope. 

The 2014 Artists-in-Residence Exhibition is on view at Craft Alliance – Grand Center through Aug. 24.  Craft Alliance – Grand Center is located at 501 N. Grand Blvd. in St. Louis City, in the Kranzberg Arts Center at the corner of Grand and Olive.  Gallery hours are Wednesday – Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m.; and closed Monday and Tuesday.  For more information, please call the office at 314-534-7528 x302 or the gallery at 314-534-7528 x303, or visit