Shy Rabbit bares all

Courtesy of Shy Rabbit Contemporary Arts

Nearly 100 works of all ilk fill the Shy Rabbit for “The Art of It All.”

By Leanne Goebel
Special to the Herald

Shy Rabbit Contemporary Arts’ new exhibition of art runs the gamut from folk to fantasy, contemplative to playful, baroque to minimal and traditional to nontraditional.

The Pagosa Springs gallery opened “The Art of It All” on Nov. 3, and the name says it all. Whether collage, digital, mixed media, assemblage, painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, photography, ceramics, fiber, glass, paper, plastic, concrete, metal, wood, twigs or feathers – you can find it in “The Art of it All.”

Juror D. Michael Coffee, curator and creative director of Shy Rabbit, selected 98 works by 48 artists representing 18 states and Canada. The diverse selection reflects a certain aesthetic that you expect to see at Shy Rabbit. The work is rustic in a wabi-sabi way, heavily influenced by strong structural design and balance.

It is evident that the ceramic works, functional or not, were selected by a practicing master artisan who understands his craft. The printmaking also is high caliber. Subject matters explored in the chosen art are elegant and minimal, often expressing elements of nature, or they border on dark, detailed and complex narratives that hint at mystery. “The Art of It All” looks like a Shy Rabbit show.

In a “Shy Rabbit” show, craftsmanship and attention to detail are evident, but little is as it seems upon first glance. Two sculptures by John Viklarek, “Roller Coaster” and “Regulator,” look hefty and weighty like ceramic but are actually cast paper. Next to them, a triptych of works in whitewashed frames appear to be dimensional prints but actually are cast-iron wall sculptures by Jack King: “Birmingham Portal, Working in Opposition and Concordance.”

Regula Onstad creates an optical illusion with her collagraph’s on paper, “Stacked 1” and “Stacked 2,” which actually look like compressed and bulging material or cut paper. Then there is the oversized and dimensional painted sculpture by Jeff Pullen, “Temporary Roads,” a realistic street scene with brownstones and trees in full spring blossom painted on louvre doors, plexiglass and brick.

Other works are surrealistic with dream-like qualities that some might consider disturbing.

Jihane Mossalim is represented with two works, “Clarisse” and “Mike, Eddy and the Tricycle” that feature charcoal-colored acrylic-painted backgrounds with hyper-realistic, doll-like, cherubim faces of children. Meghan O’Connor offers “Scum Licker,” a lithograph and blind embossed monoprint that appears to be of a goat with a long black tongue in a tiled bathtub, and “Disambiguous Communications,” a screen-print, woodcut and chine-collé of an eagle head in a wheelchair-like contraption with bicycle tires.

Ivy King’s “Self Portrait” is a lush composition created from collage, print and acrylic elements on a turquoise background, of a female figure wearing a black-and-red-striped plunging blouse atop skeletal décolletage with roses in her hair. It’s larger than the other work by King, “Karl’s Donkey Tumor,” and the size provides more impact to the primitive elements in her figurative compositions inspired by artist Kelsey Hauck.

For this exhibition, Coffee selected several woodcut prints in black and white. However, the most powerful prints in the exhibition are by Alexander Landerman, a 24-year-old artist from Wisconsin. The works are exquisite, equally humorous and slightly macabre. “Hasenpfeffer,” “Braised Bunny” and “Lapin a la Cocotte” feature recipes for a rabbit dish composed of hand-printed red lettering and a masterfully drafted bunny drawn in charcoal, vine and conté crayon on Rives BFK paper. In the German version of the recipe, the rabbit is clearly frightened, ears pressed back against its shoulders. The French bunny is drawn so well that you want to reach out and pet it on the nose. The works are a reminder of the universal language and necessity of food and our cultural disconnect with from where it comes. You cannot help but laugh at the stern hasenpfeffer and wonder if, indeed, the French are such superior culinary artists that even the living food is happy and calm at becoming lapin a la cocotte, while in the English version the jackrabbit seems indifferent to its fate, looking off into the distance. These three prints are from a larger series of 25 different recipes from diverse cultures, and there is a video on the artist’s website showing how they are created.

. Leanne Goebel is a freelance writer and member of the International Association of Art Critics. .

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