Exploring Visual Arts across Madison
Oct 29, 2013
Creepy-Cool Creations at Overture Galleries
When it comes to terror, forget the guts and gore. What’s truly terrifying is more subtle. It’s bare branches tapping at your window at night—or is that someone lurking outside? It’s rooms and objects that look normal—but then you start to notice details that indicate they’ve been involved with something horrific.
The joint project by artists Jason Gray and Briony Morrow-Cribbs features an appealing variety of prints, sculpture and mixed-media installations that meld science, art and a sense of mystery.
Meaning “wonder-chamber” in German, wunderkammer is part of the seventeenth-century tradition of cabinets of curiosities—drawing interesting, exotic and bizarre specimens and relics from natural history, geology, archaeology, biology and other realms of science and displaying them alongside some human-made objects.
"At the time, the cabinets acted as a holding space for a huge range of objects whose categorical boundaries were yet to be defined by the new systems of scientific categorization,” according to the exhibition.
These curiosities and artifacts inspired wonder and, sometimes, horror. And those created by Gray and Morrow-Cribbs do, too.
The two artists collaborated to make a few cabinets, installations of old machines and boxes containing test tubes of colored liquids, skulls and bones, body parts and more. They feel a bit like remnants of a forgotten science experiment—or perhaps one that was abandoned after going awry.
Also on display are several large etchings by Morrow-Cribbs, an artist and illustrator who teaches printmaking at UW–Madison, revealing beautifully detailed but violent nature scenes. In one, a falcon attacks another mid-air, its talons gripping the other bird’s feathers. In another, two octopuses fight, creating a mess of tentacles and sweeping underwater motion.
Her “Buzz II” hand-tinted etching is a portrait of a man with large black eyes and wild hair and beard from which flowers and foliage emerge and a lizard’s tail peeks out.
Gray, a furniture maker and sculptor who’s working on his MFA at UW, offers a three-dimensional portrait: “Ularabus” is a bust of a man with real goat horns protruding form his head. Under his throat, viewers can glimpse a carved piece of bone.
Also by Gray, “Skaeggsdril” features a large piece of driftwood mounted atop a finished block of wood; inside the driftwood, a vial holding tentacles is visible.
Peruse other works lining the walls of this exhibition and you’ll notice human hands, skulls, vertebrae, wood, trees, reptiles, fish and machines—elements referencing nature as well as the inevitable passing of time.
Wunderkammer runs through December 8 at Overture Galleries. For more information, visit overturecenter.com/community/overture-galleries.
Photos, from top to bottom: "Buzz II" by Briony Morrow-Cribbs, a cabinet of curiosities by Briony Morrow-Cribbs and Jason Gray and "Ularabus" by Jason Gray.