Susan Goldstein is one of the best experimental fine-art photographers in the region, and POLI VESTURE: Photographic Images From a Catholic Statue Factory, her current solo at Edge Gallery (3658 Navajo Street, 303-477-7173), proves it. The fairly large exhibit is handsomely installed in the front gallery.
Poli Vesture was a factory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that produced religious statuary from the early 1900s to the mid-1990s, when it folded. While visiting her friend Ellen Seeling in 1990, Goldstein discovered the place and began returning repeatedly to photograph it over the next fourteen years. Seeling died in 2003, and Goldstein has dedicated POLI VESTURE to her and to Roger Beltrami, a fellow Edge co-op member who died a couple of months ago.
The Goldstein photos in POLI VESTURE were done in carbon-pigment prints executed by master printer Ron Landucci. They are still-life scenes of statues or pieces of statues made by Poli Vesture. The found imagery of crucifixes, the Madonna and saints (and their heads and hands) have a decidedly ethereal feel, especially since they've been so dramatically lit, as showcased in "Untitled" (above). Interestingly, Goldstein frequently captures the statues and statue fragments in the context of the factory itself, with equipment such as telephones, winches and automatic buffers shown in the background. Though the POLI VESTURE photos are clearly within Goldstein's well-established style, they're pretty different, too. But one thing is the same: Goldstein's work is great.
In the middle gallery at Edge is Black and White, a show of eight large abstract drawings in charcoal and chalk by Jane Davis that bear more than a superficial relationship to the work of Edge bigwig Mark Brasuell. In fact, when I first walked into the space, I thought these were Brasuell drawings. The organic imagery Davis employs is the same, as is the handling of the compositions; she's even used grommet holes at the corners to hold them to the wall.
In Edge's back room is the self-titled solo Mala Setaram-Wolfe, which is made up of neo-expressionist paintings of birds and bird nests. Setaram-Wolfe's surfaces are compellingly painterly, but her imagery is often too crudely conveyed to actually work.
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All three Edge shows close on April 18.