Sometimes the mark of a juror is readily apparent on an art exhibition.
Curated by Ryan Hardesty, Chase Gallery's All Media Juried Show reflects both Hardesty's contemporary sensibilities and regional roots.
An accomplished artist with a Masters of Fine Arts from Massachusetts College of Art and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Washington, Hardesty was born in Spokane. Formerly an art curator and exhibitions designer for Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, he says enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect with the region.
As he wrote in a statement accompanying the exhibition: "Having resided in the Inland Northwest for the last 15 years — and with Spokane being my original hometown — I was honored to make selections for this year's All Media Juried Exhibition. While reviewing the submissions I had the good fortune to reconnect with familiar talents, while being introduced to those new to me."
Hardesty is now the curator at Washington State University's Museum of Art, giving him more authority on the region's art.
"While making selections I gravitated toward works that felt fresh and offered surprises, choosing works with an experimental temperament as a way of celebrating risk-taking," he says of the show at the gallery in Spokane's city hall.
That translates into a range of media, including digital and photography like Zachary Kolden's chemigram on C-type and Mike Sonnichsen's color photogram. Both have that otherworldly quality — not quite an X-ray, not quite a photo — so typical of nontraditional photography.
One digital piece in particular received Hardesty's top juror's award. Jenny Hyde's The Blue Gate IV, was, says Hardesty, "a striking example of an artist allowing her process to embrace the mismatched flaws of a digital program seeking perfection." In it, commonplace elements of the gate — aged wood, a bright-blue section of metal pipe — have been manipulated into a completely new image that is both odd and familiar.
"Admittedly, I was drawn to such a common subject," says Hardesty. "Yet I feel the subject is something else entirely, maybe a reminder of the complexities of vision we take for granted as our mind seamlessly stitches the visual world back together."
Using common materials in uncommon ways was also prevalent in several other artists' work, including mixed media assemblages by Bernadette Vielbig and Larry Ellingson (both of which are illuminated). Naoko Morisawa's Jellyfish in Treasure Island uses oil-stained wood and paint to form an intricate mosaic that reminds one of fireworks in the night sky, while Erin Dengerink creates quirky yet poignant little tableaus out of natural and man-made materials. A home by the sea, for example, combines distressed paper, a baby formula bottle, a small shell and an oak shelf like a shrine to a distant memory.
The Chase Gallery exhibition manages to span a broad array of both media — painting, printmaking, ceramics, photography, drawing, sculpture — and genres by 30 mostly regional artists.
"My approach was not so much to frame various selections into themes, but to reinforce what I recognized as commonalities, while featuring a wide array of familiar and emerging artists of the region," says Hardesty.
In all, the show is a sign that good things are happening in Spokane, observes Hardesty.
"It's heartening to observe the many new arts organizations which have really developed from a grassroots place. I see the growth as an example of folks creating the kind of community they want and feel Spokane deserves." ♦
All Media Juried Show • Through Sept. 29 • Chase Gallery • 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. • Free • spokanearts.org • 625-6081