Nails, flower petals, burn marks on the ground, twisted iconography, piles of meticulously crumbled clay and two parabolic iron spires. These are the first things that catch one’s eye at Gallery 130 in Meek Hall.
The gallery currently displays works from the collections of eight graduate students in the art school. Each collection is confident and on full display. Each collection speaks for itself, which makes my job seem ridiculous. These collections — which come from the worlds in the artists’ heads where the ideas were developed — are, in my opinion, fully realized.
The smorgasbord available in the center of the room for all to partake in was almost as nourishing for the body as the art was for the mind. Encircling this table were patrons of the arts, at least one member of the faculty in the art department and the artists of the featured pieces, themselves.
In conjunction with my reductive interpretations of the pieces, I will let the artists speak for themselves. They all seemed unassuming and willing to talk about their pieces, except Ian Skinner in his appropriate, as we will come to see, workwear pants and suspenders and Jessica Counterman in her, again, appropriate dress decorated with flowers with eyeballs growing out of the stigmata.
Counterman’s set of twisted, Lynchian iconography, “Holy,” explores “cults and martyrdom,” as explained to me by the artist herself. These paintings caught my eye — sometimes with their sickly colors (“Leper”) and sometimes with more vibrant hues (“Lamb”). Whether sickly or vibrant, Counterman’s color use is always striking.
Other paintings, like “Hivemind,” use grotesquerie. This piece, whose title refers to the drone-like behavior of cult members, features hornets crawling out of festering sores that dot a woman’s hands, face and neck, and is sure to make any trypophobe squirm.
These pieces are in the gallery proper, but the left side of the antechamber is taken up entirely by not-to-scale paper and wire sculptures by Gabriella Dinger. Another one of her wire sculptures is found in the other room.
My immediate interpretation of her exhibit was not entirely incorrect but was wrong enough to embarrass me to write, so I’ve decided that her words shall suffice. Danger told me that she tried to capture the experience of movement. She accomplishes this through sculptures: thick, white wire bent above and below thin sheets of burned flower-petal-shaped paper that look as though they are fleeing upward from soot-black stains on the ground.
As previously mentioned, Skinner was appropriately dressed for his collection. His sculptures feature worn-down architecture and machinery.
During our conversation, I asked what the two curving, metal pylons were. Were they a drawbridge? Close. Skinner said some people see them as drawbridges, and others see them as the ribs of a ship’s hull. But they are, in fact, the support beams of a bridge.
Skinner’s collection also featured a wooden sphere bisected by an industrially styled tire cap. This gyroscopic antiquity did not come up in conversation, but it should not be missed.
So far, all the pieces I’ve mentioned focused on the extraordinary or the antique. However, Kelly Adkins’ “Paintings of Nothing” were the gallery’s most touching and threatening to my wallet.
Adkins’ paintings carry the sentimentality of a Wes Anderson film or that of “A Ghost Story” by David Lowery. She explained to me before the gallery opened that she painted each based on what was literally on her wall, making beauty from banality.
Word count limits and expertise have exhausted my efforts to describe these complicated works of art and left me with 700 words worth of reductive descriptions that don’t do the original works justice. I highly encourage everyone to go to the gallery and let the art speak for itself. It will do the job better than I can.