July 31, 2011

Last Night at the Ferrin Gallery

Senses primed from an expedition to Dia:Beacon earlier this week, it was easy for me to make some visual connections at the Ferrin Gallery’s latest show, Beauty in Decay. Gordon Chandler’s scrap metal trophy heads of antlered beasts were reminiscent—in their impasto amalgamation of colorful enameled and rusted metals—of John Chamberlain’s expressionist sculpture installations.

Michael Eastman’s lush, large, saturated portraits of places ravaged by time, the elements and neglect, could have been the love children of the Bechers and William Eggleston. They are ironically and beautifully presented: flecks of paint, peeling plaster ceilings, graffitied blinds, abandoned townscapes are displayed behind the pleasing gloss of Plexiglas, or printed on shiny paper.

Like movie stars with obvious “work” done to their bodies and faces, the pieces in Beauty in Decay allow viewers to feel the tension in their artifice. The rosy glow of the sky in Gregory Crewdson’s The Madison sweetens an otherwise ominous tableau of a small town street.  This piece, from the Production Still series, could be a document of a block seconds prior to tectonic shift, or before a sudden sinkhole.  Smudgy letters in the clouds spell “Is.” Klieg lights threaten, even though they are eerily superfluous at this time of day.  The Madison, an aqua cinder block box, is the lone commercial building on an otherwise sleeping residential street.

Postscript:  And speaking about smiling cakes, what about cakes that provoke smiles?  Leaving the Ferrin Gallery next to the door, there is a small dessert buffet made up of glazed confections of memory and material:  Susan Taylor Glasgow’s exquisitely adorned, cross-stitched translucent slices of cake are made of glass!

July 26, 2011

Smiling Cake

Waiting on line Sunday morning at the popular breakfast pastry counter at Haven, a Lenox, Massachusetts bakery café, I couldn’t believe my eyes—and ran to the car to get my camera. There, on the cake stand, under a glass dome was a coffee cake, striated with cinnamon streusel.  Looking at me on the golden buttery outer wedge, was a man with a smile.  Primitive and minimalist in detail à la Picasso. Yet bold in expression. He looked like the kind of guy who really wanted to be liked.

Like Lawrence Weschler, who collects and categorizes visual convergences, I always see turtles in clouds, silhouettes on the mottled bathroom ceiling, George Washington as a wicker chair, the Shroud of Turin and Alfred Hitchcock’s profile in our twin childrens’ ultrasounds, but now, a smiling man in a wedge of cinnamon coffee cake?

It was enough for me to just behold the special phenomenon (or omen?)—photograph it, but not buy it.  Such a friendly, approachable, almost wistful smile, with a head of tight cinnamon curls.  Who would dare eat him?



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