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Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013

Carthage College Exhibition Inspires Awe and Wonder

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When the world celebrates a festive end to the calendar year, awe and wonder often resemble artifice and commercialism. Carthage College’s H.F. Johnson Gallery of Art presents genuine aesthetic inspiration with six artists that reveal their responses to these themes in the exhibition “Curiosities and Things of Wonder.”

Approximately two-dozen artworks from Beth Lipman, Lori Nix, Steven Jones, Stephanie Trenchard, Michael Velliquette and Betsy Youngquist reflect the artists’ expertise in cut paper, glass, painting, photography and sculpture.

The sculptors Lipman and Youngquist underscore lush, visual displays with complex intellectual concepts that need to be considered for complete appreciation of their work. Lipman’s hand-blown crystal glass covers a black wood table in her installation Pitchers with Vines. Since December is often a season dedicated to reveling in excess, viewers will notice that Lipman’s table overflows with transparent precious objects, treasures illustrating decay, broken and desecrated by the vines entangling them.

Perhaps Lipman’s sculpture, with its roots in Dutch still life, comments in three dimensions on how these objects can entangle their possessors in endless cycles of consumption. Using the fragility of glass as a medium suggests that all life is precarious. From the moment an object is created, or a fruit picked, the decay slowly begins.

Youngquist plays with lavish variations in nature by encrusting insect figures in beads and jewels while imbuing each with human expression. Their penetrating eyes pierce a viewer’s imagination—an invitation to ask more questions about creatures one rarely observes at close quarters—or destroys or shoos away when too close. Youngquist asks the viewer to ponder the natural world’s wondrous diversity, these creatures’ grandeur, by attaching regal anthropomorphic qualities to her work. 

Trenchard creates from sand-cast glass and adds painted inclusions—figures or objects reflecting the biographies of artistic and literary figures. In her sculpture Daisy, the character from The Great Gatsby floats in a sea of bubbles, perhaps the champagne consumed in excess in the novel’s lavish parties.

Each artist in the Carthage exhibition implies in these images/objects subtle references to where the human spirit might wish to reside—to rise above mere desire for accumulating objects and enjoying physical pleasures to spiritual planes that enrich human souls. It’s art’s perfect inspiration for the New Year ahead.

Carthage College presents “Curiosities and Things of Wonder” in the H.F. Johnson Gallery of Art (2001 Alford Park Drive, Kenosha) through Dec. 13. The exhibit reopens after winter break, Jan. 7-25.

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