General 6-9-2004

Image Dump: Home to the Unheimlich

Image Dump Exhibitions will hold another opening for this show on June 19th. It will run through July 18th. Please call 612-379-2133 for more information.

Dark Boy

Image Dump Exhibitions is a small gallery in Northeast Minneapolis, on the second floor of curator Michael Markos’ home. Artists Peter Gaustad and Karen McPherson live on the first floor, and Michael lives on the third. This cozy little arrangement has resulted in Image Dump Exhibitions’ fourth show , bringing together McPherson’s anatomically surreal ceramics and drawings and Gaustad’s moody paintings, drawings, and photos.

Perhaps it’s because they’re husband and wife that both artists’ proclivities tend toward the darker, more malleable side of things. McPherson’s ceramics are unassuming, quiet, and reminiscent of Cycladic sculpture run through a postmodern feminist philosophy blender. Gaustad’s drawings and paintings are bare, confrontational, and – to use the words of the artist – sometimes “grotesque and provocative.” Their work is not similar, but the pieces complement each other nicely. Both artists share an interest in texture, exploration, and introspection, viewing the body as an object that can be studied and broken down into smaller pieces, made more a whole by its deconstruction.

“It’s how the inside relates to the outside,” Mc Pherson tells me as she points out a tiny ceramic uterus that hangs on the wall. “I was wondering, ‘Where do women get their power from?’ and I started going deeper, going from torsos to fallopian tubes…go ahead and touch it,” she says. “It’s really soft.” McPherson is adamant that her pieces create a sense of playfulness and curiosity. She is an intensely physical, visceral, and inquisitive person. Originally from Colorado, her art reflects a love of rocks, crags, and mountains. In one piece, four small torsos lie together on a bed of sand, looking like washed-up seashells mimicking the Venus de Milo. Other pieces remind me of living bulbous rocks, or the backs of hermit crabs with epic tales to tell. Her pieces are cloudlike – they could be anything you want them to be, and yet they retain an essential nature. Her work is fresh and unpretentious, exploratory without being overcomplicated.

“The greatest thing about clay is that it does everything you tell it to. And it has an impressive history,” says McPherson, 29, pushing her palms together for emphasis. “Clay remembers everything you do to it. I rip it, break it, tear it, bring it back together. Sometimes the tears are inappropriate.”

“Inappropriate” and “exploratory” could also apply to Gaustad’s work, which is less abstract and more confrontational than McPherson’s. Created by placing Xeroxed images from the U of M biomedical library on top of one another and cutting and pasting, his drawings, photos, and paintings are mostly stark black and white face studies. States Gaustad, 48, “They’re objects, not portraits.”

With traditional portraiture, we see a posed idea of who a person is, and the artist has tried to imitate that in realistic detail. It’s not a true-to-life image but a made one that purports to represent real life. Gaustad’s close-ups are unapologetically fallible and more removed from artifice than typical portraits. Consequently, they are more disturbing, possessing a haunted feeling that reminds me more of dissection day in biology class than a pretty picture.

The mundane takes on a different quality under Gaustad’s vision (faces of angry adolescent boys, the smile of a thin, wrinkled woman who could be a lunatic or a schoolteacher). Imagine if you woke up in the morning and everything in the world was just a bit off – the curb was too high or too low; electrical sockets were missing a hole; people moved ten seconds slower than normal. It would be unsettling, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on why. Of course, there is something inherently unsettling about being in a room full of two-dimensional people you feel you know intimately. Their faces take on personalities and develop individual stories; the work pulls you in and demands your attention. By creating imitations of imitations that both engage and repel, his objects are more human than any photograph or drawing. This is Gaustad’s first show in about three years, and his work holds up well.

Image Dump Exhibitions will hold another opening for this show on June 19th. It will run through July 18th. Please call 612-379-2133 for more information.