Sunday, April 06, 2008

Goth Bling, Cityscapes and Meanders

First Friday in Portland, April 4, found me entranced by a piece of Goth bling in the Maine College of Art BFA Senior Exhibitions. Holly L. Gooch’s “Necklace” most resembles a shed snakeskin, but is actually made of linked maggot casings, caught at each end in a clasp of green gold. The inclusion of green gold was a right choice which set off the ghostlike white of the casings. I imagined what it would be like to wear this necklace, though it must be incredibly fragile, and like Cinderella’s ball gown, crumble to dust at the stroke of midnight.

Across the hall at June Fitzpatrick Gallery, Alison Hildreth’s “Forthrights and Meanders” have the visual impact of oriental scrolls. Each ink and wash drawing is a confluence of rusts, greys and ochers, archaeological tracings of architectural floor plans and roadways populated by scatterings of scorpions, wasps, bees, flies, and skeletal creatures of prehistoric age. The drawings on crumpled paper are pinned to the wall like specimens in a natural history museum. I had the feeling that Hildreth has excavated the thick surfaces of her early paintings to discover mementi of a distant past, in which the beginnings of civilization are waiting to be discovered.

A black and white photograph of Sixth Avenue, New York City, in the “Urban Seen” exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art rotates the vertical format of Hildreth’s drawings into a horizontal cityscape which references human scale and activity against manmade architecture and silent existential space. The relative absence of color in each of these forms – necklace, archeological excavations, urban scene – provides the key to the kingdom of what may have been and what is yet to come.

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