January 13, 2003
Sesnon Art Gallery exhibition to feature distinctive
works by new faculty
By Scott Rappaport
The Sesnon Art Gallery at UCSC will kick off the new year with Faculty
Works: 2003, an exhibition featuring the distinctive work of three
new members of the art faculty. This diverse show, running January 15
through February 15, will include contemporary photography, painting,
and installation by Melissa Gwyn, Lewis Watts, and Elliot Anderson.
Works shown include Melissa Gwyn's
Swallow This, above, and Lewis Watts's
Nazarine Missionary Church, Richmond.
Melissa Gwyn employs an unusual approach in her paintings, which combine
the thick paint of abstract expressionism with the delicate and intricate
detail of Dutch 17th-century still lifes. She often begins by pouring
puddles of paint onto wood panels and molding the paint with her fingers,
scalpels, and tweezers. Eventually, in a labor-intensive process that
calls for multiple layers of paint, organic shapes resembling flowers,
fruit, and leaves begin to appear and multiply.
"In some of the paintings, the puddle forms do suggest imagery,
much as Leonardo saw figures in clouds," Gwyn said. "It relates
to decalcomania, a surrealist game from the '40s where the
aim was to find subject matter in chance forms."
Gwyn's oil-encrusted paintings often take years to dry. Artforum
noted that her paintings "look like enlarged slides of microscopic
organisms whose apparent simplicity is belied, under closer scrutiny,
by their teeming busyness." In fact, Gwyn is heavily influenced
by the molecular building blocks of science.
"Old science books used to be my models, but now I'm getting molecular
models from the web," Gwyn noted. "All my science books are
now in storage in New York, so I've gone from using children's science
books to modern images of molecular structures."
Gwyn joined the UCSC Art Department in August after spending two years
teaching painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She received two
grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in 2000 and
has been reviewed in the New York Times and the Village Voice.
This will be her first exhibition at UCSC.
The photographs of Lewis Watts reflect traces of experience that people
leave in the environment they occupy, revealing their culture and history.
His work is in the permanent collections of the Oakland Museum, the
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Neuberger Museum of Art in New
York, and the Studio Museum in Harlem.
"This is the first digital work I've shown," Watts noted.
"It's a landscape show, although I don't consider myself a landscape
photographer. I've been concentrating on African American people and
Watts's photos are urban landscapes shot in Baton Rouge, New Orleans,
Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Richmond, California. He said his eye is
drawn to certain objects in the environment and he then reacts aesthetically
to them. Several of the photos feature tombstones and murals.
"I see tombstones and murals as ways that people mark their territory,"
Watts observed. "In one image, there is a coffee pot left by the
tombstone. I thought that was interesting in that it reflected a cultural
icon. I just responded to this object that comes from everyday life
and I made assumptions about the person buried there."
Watts came to UCSC after teaching photography and visual studies at
UC Berkeley for 25 years. He has also taught at UC Davis and worked
as a photographer, archivist, and curator for such clients as Lucas
Film Learning, the San Francisco Public Library, and KQED.
"I was trained as a social scientist and became an artist,"
Watts noted. "But my interest in history, culture, and identity
really permeate my work."
The Sesnon exhibit will also feature an interactive video installation,
titled Don't Trip Over the Wire, by Elliot Anderson, a lecturer
at UCSC since 1997 who was recently appointed assistant professor in
Wires will be strung across the floor of the gallery, which will contain
three monitors containing looped videos of Anderson. Viewers will approach
the monitors and be unable to avoid tripping the wires, which will trigger
recorded voices of different language translations all warning "don't
trip over the wire." The translations are all culled from online
translators that ultimately distort the sentence as in the children's
game of telephone.
"I wanted to make an interactive, theatrical, absurdist, obsessive
piece," Anderson said. "I'm including the viewer in an absurd
activity. The gallery floor will look like string art from the 60s.
As people move, they will catch on the wires and it becomes a farce."
Anderson said the idea comes from the absurd logic of the computer.
"All my work is based on pathology and disease related to the
computer," Anderson explained. "We rely on it so much, but
it's repetitive, obsessive, and ultimately absurd. It's about how the
computer structures our thinking--we're tangled up in it, but it doesn't
translate into human emotion. It reduces life to data and numbers, and
it paints an absurd picture of who you are."
Concurrently showing at the Porter College Faculty Gallery is Elizabeth
Stephenss new interactive web-based art project, Wish You Were
Here. Posing the question, "if someone were to take a road
trip across the U.S., what would you have them do for you," she
invites virtual travelers to make requests and records her journey on
her web site. An associate
professor of art, Stephens has been teaching at UCSC since 1994.
An opening reception will be held on January 15 from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. Additional
information is available on the gallery's web
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