Art Review

Art Beat

The works of two installation artists are displayed together in the unusual Fabrication and Fiction, running through November 29 at the Colorado Gallery of the Arts at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton.

In half of the gallery, ACC faculty member Mari Blacker has created various vignettes contrasting materials such as paper, fabric and metal. At times, shes used these materials in ways contrary to their natures: In one place, theres a pair of steel pants not far from a cloth iron, in another part of the show, paper dress-making patterns are paired with metal ones. On the side wall is a witty piece made from a length of painted blue metal chicken wire hanging from a pair of knitting needles. It looks like real fishermans lace made from rope.

Its unclear whether Blackers pieces are meant to work as a single installation with various parts, (which they dont), or whether the different parts are wholly separate works only somewhat related to one another.

Compellingly, the other artist in this show, New Mexicos Charmaine Brown, does exactly the opposite. She has assembled a number of separate pieces, all on the same theme, that may be taken together as a single statement, yet also stand as individual pieces. The various works are mostly made of satiny cloth in blue, black and white. There are several large wall hangings that transform the gallery into what seems to be a secret ceremonial chamber room, complete with candelabra and ritual vestments like "Coat of Arms" (above).

Brown's subject matter is disability, and all of her pieces here are from her "Disabled Fable" series, which is set in some imaginary fairy-tale past. The international disability symbol of a stick figure in a wheelchair done in white on a blue field is a motif seen throughout her work, including its repeated appearance on "Coat of Arms." Brown also uses crutches, walkers and other such equipment as art materials, as well as ready-made objects such as stuffed birds and rubber rats. The atmosphere she creates is creepy and disturbing, despite the witty and humorous content of many of her elements. She has written that she wants to use her work to break down the barriers of misunderstanding that separate the disabled from the rest of us. She doesnt reveal in her written statement whether or not she has a disability herself, however, and I think thats relevant given the irreverence of her work.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia