Engine will host an opening reception for “Past/Present/Future,” an exhibition curated by Maine artist Stephen Burt, who is the Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of Arts and Communications at the University of New England. The exhibition features Rimer Cardillo of New York, and Fritz Drury and Elinore Hollinshead of Rhode Island, on Friday, November 8 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The show will run through November 30.
This exhibition brings together three artists of unique vision: Rimer Cardillo, Fritz Drury and Elinore Hollinshead. Although they are not native to the area, this exhibit marks what curator Burt hopes is the beginning of their dialogue with the vibrant art community of Southern Maine.
Curatorial note from Stephen Burt:
Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.
Jorge Luis Borges, “A New Refutation of Time,” Other Inquisitions
This exhibition brings together three artists of unique vision: Rimer Cardillo, Fritz Drury and Elinore Hollinshead. Although they are not native to the area, this exhibit marks what I hope is the beginning of their dialog with the vibrant art community of Southern Maine.
I have known each of these artists for many years and have a deep respect for their strength of purpose, ambition and vision. They create work of substance that speaks not to the style of the moment but to a larger vision in which the history of images is an important part. Each also shares a commitment to instruction that is a testament to a generosity of spirit, sharing their skills and knowledge with new generations of artists. Drury and Hollinshead both have taught at Rhode Island School of Design for many years, Cardillo at SUNY New Paltz; all have received significant and ongoing recognition in the form of exhibitions, awards and reviews.
In the work of Elinore Hollinshead time can be fluid, past, present and future meld in a mysterious flux, images link in layers creating the sensation that time is a collection of memories that can surface with little order or control. In the words of the artist,“ My painting springs from the desire to capture and hold the sense, both specific and intangible, of the natural external and subjective inner world.” In Strange Fruit her virtuosic balance of such complexity demonstrates a visual intelligence of rare depth. In other more “traditional” works such as Little Threads she exhibits such a tender regard for life and its subtle nuances that the subject, a bird, becomes in a very real sense, a self-portrait of the artist in a particular moment in time.
Fritz Drury’s Rumplestilskin is an emblematic work among his paintings in this exhibition, one that nods to the beauty and mastery of technique reminiscent of the Flemish painter Van Dyke. Drury clearly has deep affinity and respect for the history of painting. His subject matter, the elusive Rumplestilskin of the Grimm’s fairy tale, is a trickster who, to quote Drury, “ has a secret process for turning straw to gold, but it may be an illusion or a delusion.” Like Rumplestilskin our artist is playing with a beautiful reality, creating illusion, false reflections and light, asking us to believe in a bucolic landscape that for all its substance remains ultimately pigment on canvas. In Hunters the actions of Drury’s figures seem of import yet the unchained narrative is without a resolution, it draws us in and asks us to notice how each mark activates its own reality.
Rimer Cardillo’s self-professed “obsession for collection and preservation of artifacts” results in works like his Tattooed Bird Box Series. These works are the result of Cardillo’s merging of perception and invention, of memories of travel in the Amazonian rain forest, as well as the landscape of the Hudson Valley. Each box records in images along with three-dimensional “fossils” the results of an inquiry into memory and loss and seem a cry for preservation. Perhaps on a more melancholic note, the works are markers for those things (and by extension us) that are already gone or will be. It is precisely these variant but compatible readings that ignite a poetry that can profoundly touch the viewer if they choose to come to terms with what Cardillo asks of us: Be present. Be aware. Remember what has been. Remember what may be. What is the cost of our lives?
All artists, it seems to me, are engaged in a quest to record a world, real or imagined and they do so by engaging an inner vision. Creating a vision involves invention, symbols and sleights of hand, and is accomplished with base materials. What is paint but refined mud? Through the transmutation of these materials artists create the sensation of life, elements coalescing to create illusion, substance and feeling. When they do this effectively the resulting images are felt as well as thought through. Therein lies an artist’s style. An artist becomes a dreamer of a dreamed world.
I think it is in each artist, at least in the moment of creation, to come to identify with his or her subject so strongly that it becomes almost real. This dab of paint is light, this one shadow, this skin, and this air. While each of these artists utilize different methods and materials they all find inspiration in nature, a nature seen through the lens of memory, dreams, and portents of an imagined (or feared) future. Do they labor to both forestall time and to capture it in its rapid and insatiable passage? Perhaps. It is worth more than a few moments to read these works carefully.
Good art generates dialogue and raises questions. Good art invites us to become a part of a singular narrative. Cardillo, Drury and Hollinshead are artists whose devotion to their craft and their particular vision is an inspiration for this artist. I hope that you will find the same.
Chair and Associate Professor
Department of Arts and Communications
University of New England