A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
Oct 28, 2010
The End as Beginning
Do you ever think about how much we see in a day—the countless visual cues our brains process without us paying much attention? Especially if they’re things we encounter regularly, they tend to blend into the everyday.
But what if you concentrated on seemingly mundane elements? Better yet, what if you focused on them and then let your imagination take over?
The artwork in The End of the Line, a new exhibition at the James Watrous Gallery, seems to do just that. Running through December 5, the show features collaborative work by Midwest artists Shana McCaw and Brent Budsberg. Their work references ordinary objects—farmhouses, a bucket, telephone poles—but the artists use them to create the feeling that anything is possible.
An image of a farmhouse greets visitors to the exhibition. It’s an icon of Midwest life and tradition that evokes nostalgia, and one that appears elsewhere in the show.
Toward the front of the gallery, an expanse of black paint extends across the wall and tapers downward into a point. Just inches below, a tiny metal bucket is attached to the wall. Whether this dark energy is being funneled into the bucket or the black mass has just escaped the tiny confines and is exploding across space is uncertain. Either way the work is incredibly powerful, especially as a simple arrangement of two materials.
After passing a replica farmhouse set on the ground, visitors walk up to a curved, white wall with a frayed rope hanging from the top. The other end is tied to a large boulder sitting on the floor; apparently the weight was too much for the rope to handle. Yet when they approach the other side of the wall, they see that the rope is wrapped around and supporting a replica of a white barn. The effect raises intriguing questions—how heavy are our obligations and memories?
Nearby is an installation made up of miniature telephone poles. They protrude in an orderly fashion from the ceiling but soon something goes terribly—but beautifully—awry. The poles and their wires tangle into a mess suspended in air and wrangled on the floor. Linear and graceful, the forms are clearly not serving their utilitarian function any longer, but viewers can’t help but feel glad for the disaster.
In the back of the gallery, the end of an old wooden ladder is propped against a wall. Where it meets that surface, pencil lines carry the image into space; where it stops in three dimensions, it’s carried off into two.
In an explanation of the exhibition, guest curator John Loscuito states that it could refer to “the end of a lineage, the act of drawing, the culmination of an idea, the last stop or where a hook is tied.” After seeing the exhibition, I agree that the work lends itself to many interpretations. But to me, The End of the Line is where reality ends and something more extraordinary takes over.
The End of the Line runs through December 5 at the James Watrous Gallery. For more information, visit wisconsinacademy.org.
Photos courtesy of the James Watrous Gallery.