By Arlene McKanic
Yellow arrows on the floor of sTudio 6 of the Rockaway Artists Alliance guide you around their latest exhibit, “Destinations,” now up through April 27.
Using a variety of media, 20 artists depict destinations that are near, far, internal, spiritual and mystical. Musings about travel are also hung on the walls, including Lao Tsu’s “A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”
The first work is “Take Me Through,” an oil on masonite painting by Gwendolyn Marcinek that looks like a road on which the traveler takes that first step of 1,000 miles. The next works are Veronica Mahoney’s simple but highly evocative “Jamaica Bay, Warming Up,” “Kerhonksen, Early,” “Louse Point” and “Jamaica Bay, Early Spring.”
Jonas Mlenak’s “Last Resort” is a boardwalk (in Rockaway?) splashed with strong, white maritime light, while in Marcinek’s “Fog” bicycles seem to be dissolving, happily, into a blue mist. Ruth Gellis has acrylics of “Canadian Rockies,” and “Sedona, AZ,” and Janet Dever presents with her watercolors “Antelope Canyon, AZ” and “Lizard Head,” which are warm renderings of the southwest desert.
Robert Sarnoff’s small and punchy prints, “Reading Levels,” “Money Talks,” and “Big Momma Day,” show the downside of travel, namely, rude, ugly tourists and their filthy lucre. “Big Momma Day” shows a fat magenta-colored woman reclining in a lounge chair that threatens to collapse beneath her weight.
“Empty Hangar,” “Full Moon Over Brighton,” “Untitled #1” and “Abandoned Building,” are photos by A.J. Furman, most taken in the outbuildings around the studio itself. In “Abandoned Building,” hard sunlight and sharp shadows fill what looks like an abandoned concrete building, though it’s the building where RAA holds classes for schoolchildren. “Empty Hangar” is a view through the windows of the warehouse behind the studio.
An “Istanbul Couple” sits easily together in one of Joseph Rothenberg’s black and white photos. She’s dressed from head to foot in black, and her white wimple makes her look like an nun. Rothenberg’s “Taos Pueblo” shows an adobe pueblo starkly outlined in sun and shadow, while “Inverary” shows a bank of rain clouds shadowing a sleepy coastal Irish town.
“The idea was destinations in travel,” said Katherina Romanenko, the show’s young, Russian-born curator. “Travel is not only physical. Life is a journey: destination and destiny share the same root. So it’s also the journey of the person who comes to the exhibit. People see this and they remember their own traveling.”
Katherina’s husband, Constantine Gedal, who had a couple of startling paintings in “The Russians Are Here” show last winter, returns with two more surreal works, both “Untitled,” both graphite on paper. One shows an old woman in white between two spinning wheels who is confronted by two fish. In the other a man sits before a background of tortured looking pine trees. The torsos of babies hang down from the drawing’s top edge. The man appears to be blind — his eyes have no pupils — but Constantine says he’s not blind at all. Eyes, he said, would have made him too particular, and he wants the old, Homeric looking man to be representative of the human race.
Edward Coppola’s “The Triumphant Return, or He Never Saw It Coming,” and “When It Rears Its Ugly Head,” are also strange, science fiction-like works in shadowboxes. In “The Triumphant Return …” a golden man holds up a laurel wreath to what looks like a little loud speaker while another golden man aims a gun at him — obviously, this must be what “he never saw coming.” A pair of pliers are embedded in a landscape that looks like hardened green lava. In “When It Rears Its Ugly Head,” another golden soldier aims a rifle at an alien whose eye is one large green glass lens. A bride and groom are half buried in this landscape. Other elements in these works are transistors, crystal doorknobs, metal wire, and a worm-eaten piece of driftwood. They compel the viewer’s attention; you could stare at them for hours and never get to the bottom of them.
Christina Jorge’s “Journey to Life,” is a headless, armless torso of a pregnant woman sculpted out of clay that’s been treated to look like bronze. Her back is hollowed out, and inside is a curled up baby boy, waiting for the first journey. Christina created this in a workshop in Tuscany, and the model wasn’t even pregnant. Not surprisingly, Christina worked in obstetrics and neonatal and now has an art therapy class at PS 114.
Madeline Braisted’s “City Lights — Amsterdam, Tokyo and Rio,” are stirring acrylic paintings of those cities, all lit up at night, while Annette Jaret’s watercolors of “Middlefield, Ma.,” “Talkeetna, Alaska,” and “Palmas del Mar,” offer more rustic pleasures.
Mary Kelly’s small but intense “Old Spanish Governor’s Palace” recalls an old sepia toned photo. Interestingly, the shadow cast by the frame lent the work a bit of melancholy. I noticed at this exhibit that the frames around the paintings and photos were carefully selected, and some were even gilded and fancy, which was a bit of a change from past exhibits.
Stephanie Damoff’s “Mica, Belgrade, 1998,” “Kursumli An, Skopje, 1994 (a Turkish ruin),” and “Street Sale, Belgrade, 2001” are also photos. The first is a portrait of a frowzy but proud woman, the second is the facade of a beautiful crumbling building, and in the last items for sale are spread out on the hood of a Mercedes. The objects, a dress, a skirt, shoes, doilies and other junk are laid out as precisely as instruments and smocks in an operating theater.
In Arthur Bongiorno’s “Buttercup — Brazilian Swedish Girl,” a green-eyed blonde in a bright red top stares out voluptuously from a window.
Sheryl Humphrey’s “Melusina” is certainly one of the most powerful works in the exhibit. It’s a large, split screen, oil-on-linen painting with symbolism as dynamic as a tarot card’s, and colors which are just as rich. On the viewer’s left half a sleeping woman is dressed in a red and white checkered gown. It’s night, and the roses are in bloom in the arch above her. Her hair is straight, brown and center-parted. Beside her is a smooth Ionic column and in the background is a large, castle-like building on a field of lush grass. The woman stands on a beautiful carpet.
The right side of the picture is violently different. It’s daylight. The half-woman is naked, her hair is a startled blonde frizz. The building behind her is burning, the land behind her is a cracked playa, and she’s standing on a splintering wooden porch. The column is crumbling, and a dead vine with dangerous looking thorns curves threateningly above her head. Obviously, we’ve entered the metaphysical portion of the show.
In Elizabeth Sibilia’s “The Taking and Girders,” a desperate figure pushes through girders made of strips of newspaper.
“Country Mysticism,” “Rebirth,” “Heavy” and “Tofino,” by Tricia R. Louvar are digital prints, in black and white and in color. In “Country Mysticism,” we see a “One Way” sign and the back of a stop sign in a lonesome, snowy landscape. Beside them is a sign that warns of the coming of the Lord. “Rebirth,” is a color print of a forest that seems to be recuperating after a fire, all in sizzling greens and yellows, with a cobalt blue sky. “Heavy” is a crowd on a foggy beach and in “Tofino,” a bunch of people in bright yellow rain slickers looks like its either posing for a photo or looking at something. They stand before a waterfall and are bracketed by trees whose soft looking needles are the saturated green of “Rebirth.”
Finally, at the end of the journey, there’s an open cardboard suitcase in which one is invited to put one’s comments.
Destinations is another winner for RAA.
sTudio 6 is at Fort Tilden, 260 Beach 116 St., Far Rockaway. Call 718-474-0861.