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
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