DISPATCH - April 30, 2011 (Saturday); 6:45 p.m.
GREENPORT, Long Island
Janet Culbertson's art glitters. Shiny metallics shimmer where beauty and ugly collide. Environmental devastation is her muse. Cultural genocide is the side-effect.
Culbertson doesn't flinch when portraying ecological destruction. In her paintings, all that remains of life are shells of factories, cemeteries, abandoned highways or dusky landscapes of concrete.
If some of the work is eye-catching, so be it. That's what can happen when asphalt melts, planets burn and bright billboards of by-gone times is all that remains in a ravaged landscape.
Culbertson has devoted her life to making artwork that visually warns what apathy will render. These images and more I expected at the opening of Culbertson's solo exhibition, "Vital Signs", at The South Street Gallery in Greenport.
What I didn't expect was the impact of the group show installed across the hall.
An intimate and detailed painting by Anna Jurinich (THEY are killing our children) depicted hundreds of figures reacting to circumstances that may or may not be revealed. All inhabit a chunk of rock that seems floating in outer space.
The only trouble is the rock-like world isn't isolated. Streams of gun fire or lasers kill those in its way. On top, a female figure bathed in light holds an infant. The areas immediately beneath are brushed with gold. At the bottom of this astroid-like "world," death and murky grays hold sway.
The painting is a contemplation of motherhood and the way innocence and grace is lost to mothers as their children grow and dangers appear, Jurinich explained. Danger can be willing sought by children or thrust upon them.
The artwork is also meant as a metaphorical mirror. It's always "THEY" who are killing, bringing war, wrecking destruction. But who is 'THEY?," Jurinich posed. The answer depends on what side of the war you're on, she said.
Jurinich then offered this: The answer is that it is always "us" (the human race) that are "THEY."
Near Jurinich's painting is a bold and layered wall piece by Maureen Palmieri (Part of the Circle (detritus)). Layers of textured elephant-leaf-like-sheets made from plastic, paper and other substances juts into the gallery. Sheets are collaged with or made from dirt, plants, tar, plastic and parts of her garden, she said. Palmieri considers each layer to be a separate drawing that is collaged into one artwork.
Sitting between the two works is a floor sculpture by Gina Gilmour. The monocolor piece (off-white) is entirely coated in rice. It seems quiet, unassuming, even contemplative. Except for the handgun buried on top (Rice Over Gun II). Across the room is Rice Over Gun I. Buried beneath its field of rice is a machine gun.
I asked if they were toy guns beneath the rice. Gilmour responded, "It's a gun." Artwork in the series demonstrates how weaponry competes with food for governmental funding (and societal choices). The art highlights the choice of sustaining life (rice) or destroying it (gun), Gilmour said.
VITAL SIGNS: A SOLO EXHIBITION BY JANET CULBERTSON remains on view through May 30, 2011 at The South Street Gallery, 18 South Street, Greenport, NY 11944. www.southstreetgallery.com Janet Culbertson's website: www.janetculbertson.net/
BASIC FACTS: Janet Culbertson has 25 paintings on view in a solo show held at the gallery. She is displaying several series that span her career. This includes her latest painting made in response to recent violent international overthrows and the role technology has/is playing. Also on view is a group show of artists' works that ruminates on peace, war and what it means to be alive. Artwork include an interactive installation featuring a single simulated butterfly (Ephemeral 2.0 by Joseph A. Esser).
EXHIBITING ARTISTS: Janet Culbertson, Roz Dimon, Joseph A. Esser, Gina Gilmour, Anna Jurinich, Maureen Palmieri, Barbara Roux, David Slater and Lorena Salcedo-Watson.
© 2011 Pat Rogers and Hamptons Art Hub. All rights reserved.