Monthly Archives: May 2012

A Sincere & Humble Proposal | Rachel Smith’s, Cristina Hernandez’s & Rachel Schrader’s “Immanence”

By Chelsea Terry

The art center has felt more open this week than it has in quite a while. I attribute the change to seniors Rachel Smith, Cristina Hernandez and Rachel Schrader’s senior show, Immanence. The gallery has been transformed. The three shows are designated to three corners of the space, leaving a wide area open to walk within and view the final show.

A humble artist’s statement prepares me for senior Rachel Smith’s finished product. Her words are inviting, referring to her reader as “dear viewer.” With this statement alone, she manages to create an atmosphere of calm and reverence, despite the many students milling about the lobby as I make my way through each artist’s work. In fact, all three artists have managed to create a similar feel with their art. Even beyond the parallel content of their pieces, these artists have created a space in which the viewer feels surrounded and comforted, despite the amount of white wall that peeks out from behind the mounted paintings. Smith’s installation is a large part of what has transformed the art center into a new and inviting space. The bells, or chimes, that descend from the ceiling, hung from thin thread, create a ceiling that shimmers and sways as you pass beneath it. Smith approaches her dear viewers with humility, imploring them to approach her work with an open mind and an open heart, and most of all, a willingness to listen for the inspiration that is so evident behind the work of her hands. A small tent, draped in white cloth, has been erected in the center of the gallery. The white cloth lies flowing out onto the floor in a train.

Smith calls this the bridal veil, symbolizing the church as the bride of Christ. This installation is meant to mirror the Tent of Meeting mentioned in the Bible as a space that believers who “desired to be breathed upon by God” would visit; I am intrigued by this concept, and the tent becomes to me something of the past, existing within our gallery as a reminder of God’s closeness to us, if we desire it. Smith’s entire portion of the show is permeated by sincerity, whether through the handwritten labels indicating various sections of Seattle, seen dangling from the chimes, or through the attention paid to the positioning of the curtains on the Tent of Meeting.

While Smith’s installations encourage interaction, Rachel Schrader’s mounted paintings encourage contemplation and observation. Her six pieces are spread out upon the wall, a single metal stool placed before them, inviting me to sit down. The colors and the shapes that Schrader has created on her canvases combine to form six very otherworldly and ethereal pieces.

 Schrader admits to a sort of divine interaction as the inspiration for her finished products, claiming that her work is imagery meant to be “infused with the immanence of God’s presence.” She wants her viewer to leave the space with feelings of peace, serenity and tranquility. The combination of light and dark within her work provides for a beautiful metaphor, which Schrader alludes to in her artis’t statement, of the challenges and the stress of everyday life, and how God can take those trials and tribulations and transform them, leading us back into the light.

I make my way to the third and final exhibit, featuring work by Cristina Hernandez. My eyes are immediately drawn to the small set of paintings mounted upon the wall; her beautiful depictions of waves are inspiring. The backbone of Hernandez’s concept has been the breaking down of barriers that separate us from God in today’s world. She uses the biblical story of the woman at the well as a powerful example of God’s power to overcome these barriers and to restore us back to Him. I take in her drawing of the woman; the composition is beautiful, as is the expression on the woman’s faith. The woman is characterized by a mixture of emotions, emotions that resonate deeply with me; however I fear that by attempting to identify these, I would detract from the power that Hernandez’s drawing holds for all viewers, who I believe are meant to form their own interpretations. The well installation is a lovely addition to the scene that Hernandez has set; it further exemplifies the parallel that she is illustrating between the Holy Spirit and the properties of water. The third panel of her set of waves shows a brick wall unable to stand against the wall of water that rushes against it, further proof of God’s faithfulness and power to deconstruct barriers.

I walk away from Smith’s, Schrader’s and Hernandez’s show Immanence feeling refreshed. The sincerity of their beliefs and their convictions was evident within their artworks; their concepts were conveyed and executed beautifully in the final product. They have managed to illustrate, paint, sculpt and simply create work that alludes to God’s immanence and reminds us of His everlasting love for us.

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An Invitation for Reconciliation: Rachel Schrader’s Cristina Hernandez’s and Rachel Smith’s “Immanence”

At SPU we are so accustomed to talking about spirituality and faith that sometimes our encounters with the Presence can be diluted into something insincere. However, the current show in the Seattle Pacific Art Gallery, Immanence, serves as a catalyst to intensify an experience with God. Rachel Schrader, Cristina Hernandez, and Rachel Smith bring together 3 collections that invite us to encounter the works of the Holy Spirit. Abstract and realisic paintings, a portrait of the woman at the well, and a unique tent unite to call us to reconciliation and fellowship with God. Centered on the unavoidable immanence of God, the three artists successfully let us receive “something greater than what [they] have created by [their] own hands.”

The first thing to strike you when you walk into the gallery is Rachel Smith’s Tent of Meeting. In the Old Testament, the Tent of Meeting was meant to be a place of peace and holiness. Here, one can experience the breath of God; here,the immanence of God is undeniable.

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The curtains from Smith’s Tent of Meeting earnestly invite you to sit and experience holiness. Once inside, the sheerness of the curtains allows light to shine through, bringing peace. Though the space is  small and lacks privacy, when you sit inside your heart is called to repentance towards God. Instead of feeling the desire to be breathed upon by God, you are reassured of fellowship with Him.

Not only is Smith’s tent an invitation to push away our human thoughts, but it is a reminder of God’s boundless love for his people. The front curtain, hinting at the train of a wedding dress, amplifies this unconditional union between God and man. Though this reference is familiar to all of us, Smith’s work glows and creates a mysterious, monumental presence in the gallery space. Smith’s piece  suggests a very specific and genuine definition of reconciliation.  The piece is not  complex, but it is effective, and its message of God’s immanence is undeniable.

ImageAs you walk around the gallery space, the next thing you notice is the well in the corner and the portrait of a woman. Here, Cristina Hernandez makes a complimentary reference to the Samaritan woman who conversed with Jesus at the well. Jesus told this woman that he could give her “living water, ”eternal life, the only gift that could satisfy her desires. Experimenting with the parallels between water and the Holy Spirit, Hernandez illustrates this reconciliation between God and man. Through the woman’s portrait, the reconciliation between God and the sinful nature of man is illustrated successfully.

ImageEven through the “division, discord, prejudice, and hatred” that consumes our world, God remains faithful to the wicked. Hernandez’s portrait of the woman at the well meaningfully captures this hope for renewal. Evocative and detailed, the drawing of the woman at the well holds an expression of wonderment and adoration. One factor that detracts from this powerful statement is the perfectly rendered face. The women’s face is so flawless that it threatens to become bland. Interestingly, as you interact with this portrait, you are reminded of your own testimony. The immanence of God is something that cannot be ignored, as the Samaritan woman’s expression testifies. We cannot stop God from breaking down our barriers. The portrait offers an evangelical invitation to share the Samaritan woman’s relationship with Jesus.

Rachel Schrader offers paintings that display a combination of “abstraction and realism” to represent the immanence of God. Each piece represents the human struggle to find identity in the midst of tribulation. The layering of the paint highlights our human desire to be overpowered by the transcendence of God, the immanence of God. Schrader’s work overall shows her interest in the human struggle. 

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The paintings are distinctive for their rich, cloudy darkness at the edges,  representing human struggles and hardships. Through strong color contrasts, Schrader creates a strong visual metaphor for beauty through suffering. As the darkness disappears and light shines through, God’s nearness, God’s immanence is acknowledged.

However, while Schrader’s paintings appear mysterious and go some way toward expressing the mystery of God’s transcendence, there is something obvious about their methods. They are very sincere, but the viewer longs for added conceptual complexity.  Schrader does, however, succeed in inviting the viewer into a place of restoration. The artworks resonate with attentive viewers, calling us to humility and a recognition of our own brokenness.

Blending together personal experience, the pitfalls of human nature, and the closeness of God, the exhibition Immanence calls us to experience God’s simultaneous presence and transcendence. It issues an undeniable and particular invitation. We cannot help but share this personal testimony and fellowship with God through interaction with each of the works. For a moment, we reflect on God’s grace.

Esther Lee

An Invitation to Self-Reflection | Cody Evans & Heaven Burr’s “Vain and Honest”

By Chelsea Terry

The three panels towered over me as I stood beneath them pondering the significance of the exposed muscle and the golden halos. I suppose saints were human, after all. Yet we forget that, I think. It seems as though saints, in our minds, and within the church, are glorified to the level of Christ. But we’re all human: them and us. Shifting my gaze slightly, the shattered bust of Mary came into view, beautiful and exhilarating like the concept behind it. Cody Evans manages to clearly and sincerely communicate his journey of faith through that one piece alone; the breaking down and the building up of faith is a story that resonates with all who have traveled a similar road to a faith-based relationship with Christ.

Stepping away from the reconstructed Mary, I walk beneath the carpet installation. As I stand beneath this physical and metaphorical rug, I think about the message that Evans is attempting to convey. Issues that are too controversial, too painful to discuss within the church are so often swept under the rug, meant to be hidden from view- out of sight and out of mind. My only wish after experiencing this piece was for redemption; I wanted to emerge from the shadows cast by the rug and experience enlightenment. However, I was disappointed. And yet, maybe that is the point. Enlightenment does not always come; answers are not always available to those who seek them.

While Evan’s deeply spiritual content evokes thought, Burr’s more lighthearted and upbeat collection of clay models and mounted paintings provides the viewer with a refreshing reminder that femininity is beautiful, whether it is expressed in a Tiffany’s Necklace or a Hermés scarf. I walk around a partition to enter Burr’s portion of the show and am confronted by rows of bright colors, patterns and diamonds. Burr’s girlishly labeled doilies pose the ultimate question: Is it ok to enjoy the material side of femininity? Society so often demeans women, deeming them superficial and materialistic for the part they play in this “shallow” world. But honestly, is there a problem with embracing this aspect of femininity, or with feeling good in your clothes, like a “supermodel” even?  I don’t think there is, and Burr doesn’t seem to think so either. Her question lingers in my mind as I continue to view her pink, purple, diamond- and glitter- dominated paintings. The clay creations of designer apparel and accessories are raised neatly upon a podium, reminding me of the glorified nature of fashion. They appear as aspects of Burr’s “wish list,” moving from a pair of Miu Miu heels to a Tiffany’s necklace. I feel confronted by her show; her defense of this so-very-feminine side to womanhood shifts the question to me, forces me, and the rest of her viewers, to have an opinion.   To be vain and to be honest- how does one reconcile the two?

Both Evans’s and Burr’s shows exemplify an unabashed bluntness that provokes viewers into self-reflection. Evans’s use of gold parallels Burr’s; the glitz and the glamour of upscale fashion and merchandising conveys a certain message to consumers in the same way that the church conveys its own message to attendees. Both shows deal with identity – with the exploration of, and the journey to – and we as their audience are privileged to experience for ourselves bits of the journey that they have undergone and relayed to us within their artwork.

An Honest Struggle: Heaven Burr and Cody Evans’ “Vain and Honest”

By Leah Keller

Some interesting artwork is on display at the SPAC Gallery this week. Two very different artists tackle questions about identity in their show Vain and Honest. Divided by a temporary partition, the gallery seems to be split between two worlds. The first world, that of Heaven Burr, is one filled with a “wish list” of glitz, glamour, and girlhood. Several small panel paintings are hung on the partition; these paintings depict gemstones and diamonds, and have a background of color-blocked triangles radiating from a single point. When looked at closely, the use of glitter and the raised application of the paint create an interesting aesthetic. The combination of bold colors and angular geometric shapes catches the viewer’s eye, and the repetition of similar content and form leaves the visitor wondering what the meaning behind these paintings could be.

Burr’s Wish List is the most notable portion of her show. Her wish list is not merely a list, but miniature re-creations of designer clothing and accessories crafted from clay. These figurines are each displayed with a paper doily that says the item name in a girly font. These individual doilies match three that are also on the wall, with the title Wish List written on one, and a description of Burr’s grappling with materialism and what it means to be a woman on the other two. Burr states that she does not think that materialism is a bad thing, but she asks the viewer to answer that question for herself. The viewer is engaged in conversation with Burr, and she is also engaged in contemplation herself over this open-ended question of ethics and femininity. While looking at these representations of material luxury that most women have desired at one time or another, the female visitor will wonder if coveting these indulgent items is a sin, or just part of being a woman.

On the opposite side of the gallery, identity questions of another kind are being raised. Cody Evans takes an honest look at faith and religion. His artist’s statement explains that his pieces are an interpretation of the deconstruction and reconstruction of his faith throughout the last four years. His most noteworthy, although visually simple, piece is a carpet that has been hung from the ceiling about three feet away from the wall. The carpet is about five feet across and nine to ten feet in length, and a portion of the carpet rests on the floor. Because of the way the carpet is installed, the viewer is able to see the underside, or what is “swept under the rug.” For Evans, this representation is largely related to exposing bullying within the church, but the experience of revealing the underside of the carpet is universally applicable to a variety of issues. The carpet hangs about three feet from the wall, and this space creates the illusion of a hallway. When walking under the rug, the viewer may feel like it is just the underbelly of a carpet, but an interesting experience actually occurs. During the time spent behind the carpet, the visitor is unable to see the outside world. Once the viewer emerges on the opposite side, she has instantaneously achieved a new point of view. This interactive experience is likely a metaphor for the new perspectives that can be achieved when exposing the concealed secrets forced to hide under a facade of perfection.

Evans has  also displayed three large paintings of saints, as well as a statue of the Virgin Mary’s head that has been broken and rebuilt with glue and twine. These pieces are more closely linked to Burr’s–both artists are struggling with issues of identity and personal beliefs–but the progression from Burr’s to Evans’ artwork is a bit jarring. As an entirety, Vain and Honest may be an interesting juxtaposition of visual artworks, but both Burr and Evans address universal issues from an honest and personal point of view.

Revelation, Beauty, and Transparency within Unpredictability: Croix Lewis, Wally Pettengill, and Fergus Temporada’s Here and There

The white butcher draped across the gallery offers an ethereal invitation. The long veils of paper swaying in the air create an emotional and spiritual arousal within the visitor. One is lost for words at how paper can ignite an atmosphere that is so familiar. The space that one encounters becomes a storyboard where unique tales are birthed. Expressing a message of coping with change, identity and revelation, this elusive show is filled with pieces that share sincere expressions of the unknown and self-discovery.

Croix Lewis, Wally Pettengill, and Fergus Temporada have created three bodies of work that speak of a search for identity.  The three student artists blend their experiences of self-revelation. The pieces appear unrealized and ambiguous, but each tells a story that gradually exposes its authenticity.

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Temporada presents works that explore beauty in change and uncertainty. He considers how life’s unpredictability conflicts with our innate desire to tamper with life situations. He translates this by freezing watercolor, gouache, and Semi-e ink and melting it onto paper, creating stylized landscapes. Temporada draws from childhood memory of scenery in the Philippines. The melting of the paint emulates life change. It expresses a lack of control and the beauty in the uncontrollable. The inevitability of one’s life path is a common theme, but Temporada’s collection offers eloquence and complexity, inviting self-reflection. The audience’s encounter with the piece mirrors Temporada’s life experiences.
ImageThe metaphor of trying to “freeze” situations is a rich one, but the melted paint lacks visual intensity. The scenes, however, capture autobiographical narratives of transformation. The paint expresses the conflict between control and inevitability, and a hanging horizontal display across the gallery, forcing the viewer to bow as she passes through, delivers a powerful message of adjusting and adapting to the space. Maneuvering across the gallery and changing perspective yields rewards reminiscent of the beauty in change.

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Using fresh soil, plants, and anthropomorphizing ceramic vessels, Pettengill creates a story about a self that is laboring for identity. This story confronts the conflict between self-direction and one’s surrounding influences. A painted wall and ceramic characters placed on top of soil greet the visitor with an invitation that arouses the senses. Exposing the viewer to true human nature, the painted wall and the ceramic pieces attempt to articulate this story about clans that are at war with each other.

Pettengill’s piece plays with the idea of space. The 3D forms and the painted wall compete for space. This expression of confrontation between story and reality is well-articulated, but it could be explored further. Very reminiscent of Trenton Doyle Hancock’s work, Pettengil’s installation nevertheless demonstrates a kind of integrity.

Pettengill comes from a unique place of intentionality and authenticity, but the ceramic pieces appear unfinished and distanced from their true purpose. The tribal world of the installation yields no lucid statement about self. It difficult to isolate the theme of self-discovery amidst the many cues in Pettengil’s installation. Overall, therefore, the show seems a bit arbitrary and unfinished. It should be noted: like Fergus Temporada, Wally Pettengil is a student of Art Education. With their focus on simple forms and their interest in personal or mythic narratives, both Pettengil and Temporada show an affinity for issues and methods that would be relatable to younger audiences.

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Lewis reminisces about his childhood watching cartoons and playing video games. Drawing inspiration from these memories, he creates his own stories, characters, and spaces. In half of his works, he uses Photoshop and Sculptris/Zbrush to create unexpected things. Interestingly, as he explores digital art and digital art techniques, he indirectly tells a story of his search for identity.

Lewis explores concept and creation through a fantasy world filled with characters that are altered forms of Lewis himself. Sketches are arrayed on the wall. These extremely raw sketches leave an underlying impression of vulnerability and openness to change. These sketches are adjacent to finished final products, demonstrating Lewis’s long process and experimentation with technique. Showing his process and progression, his installation displays the work of a specific mind.

This video-game world that Lewis has rendered is intense and unreserved; however, something about the works’ presentation hinders their accessibility. Ultimately Lewis’s work seems to exist strictly for the purpose of self-exploration. In a way, this show seems to serve the artist more than the viewer; the viewer does not clearly receive a deep, unified message of self. However, exploring Lewis’s discovery of new techniques leaves positive residue on the viewer. Lewis’ overall display is pleasantly sincere.

The pieces in this exhibition attempt to illustrate self-discovery through story. Each artist’s work grapples with unpredictability, change, and exploration. Each installation does not immediately resonate, but that is somehow appropriate. The overall effect is mysterious, if perplexing, and the viewer steps away with heightened awareness of her own personal story.

Esther Lee