In today’s fiscally challenged world, an artist’s prospects of finding a benefactor often remain a dream. Fortunately, there are exceptions.
One example is Studios Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides studio space, professional development, networking and exhibitions for mid-career artists in the Kansas City area. Those selected are matched with a patron, whose fully tax-deductible donation underwrites a studio for one year.
A group exhibit now on view in the Studios Inc. exhibition space showcases new works by the group’s current beneficiaries.
As viewers enter the show, a floor installation in the center of the room grabs the attention. “Dust and Distance II” by Jill Downen mesmerizes, in part because of its sheer magnitude. The gypsum and mixed media piece resembles an arctic mass, a Siberia at the viewer’s feet. Strewn across its barren landscape are fossil-like objects, along with a tangled piece of blue string attached to a metal weight.
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Downen notes that her installation “evolves from the characteristics of the gallery space and the concepts it inspires.” Standing in the midst of the massive, grayish-concrete environment, one feels she has succeeded.
Colby Smith’s “Blue Sky V 13” embodies its own somber tone of cool contemplation, mixed with a sad beauty. Though it appears to be a painting, it is more, composed of gypsum, graphite, fiberglass, foam, rubber, butyl and paper. The work’s landscape aesthetic tends toward the abstract, and it draws forth an almost unspeakable emotional truth. Its imagery evokes not just nature’s layers of sky and earth, but the ever-changing layers within the self.
While the show claims no specific theme, the works by Smith and Downen induce meditation on the wintry aspects of life. Elsewhere, viewers will find a hint of summer.
In “Hermit Reflecting on the Ten Thousand Things,” Jarrett Mellenbruch uses plants, a hermit crab, wood, mirror and grow lights to create a world of lush, living green. Standing over this microcosm of fertile flora (encased in a large, unfinished wooden crate) and breathing in the moist, pungent scent of plants, one feels a sense of renewal on several sensory levels.
Another striking piece is Brett Reif’s “Cloudy.” True to its name, the work of mixed media and tile appears as a cluster of clouds. From a closer angle, however, it becomes more amusing as one notices the rubber stoppers, complete with chains, inserted within its sculptural curves.
Virginia Woolf’s manifesto “A Room of One’s Own” emphasizes the creative benefits of a private space for a writer to focus on her work. Judging from this show, which also includes works by Miles Neidinger, Debra Smith, Ricky Allman, Gerry Trilling, Tanya Hartman and Robert Josiah Bingaman, a visual artist who is granted a studio of his or her own enjoys the same benefits.
“Studios Inc: 2015” continues at Studios Inc. Exhibition Space, 1708 Campbell St., through Feb. 15. Hours are 10 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon-4 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, call 816-994-7134.