The war in Iraq is out of control, the City of New Orleans gets swept away by a hurricane and our government bungles aid operations to the victims, the polar ice caps are melting and our food is being tampered with at the genetic level. What's a person to do? Don't get mad - get creative! Presented by the Ink People and artist Carl Muecke, Mad/Creative 3 is a venue for Humboldt County artists to express their anger, frustration and horror over whatever issue concerns them at the moment.
As indicated in the title, this is the third annual show of its kind. The first one was assembled in January 2005, when Muecke's (pronounced mickey) own frustration level was reaching a critical point. "I had no illusions about changing the world or the direction of Washington," he says in the 2006 statement, "but I did feel a great deal of satisfaction when these pieces reflected the anger I was feeling, but in a playful, visually stimulating way." Playful indeed. My 3-year-old's favorite was Carl's mixed media relief sculpture of a wide-open mouth inhaling a giant burger. Others are equally wacky, but pointed. The show ranges from Carl's own brand of brightly colored, humorous pokes in the eye, to the deeply disturbing images of Chuck Bowden.
Chuck Bowden ... sound familiar? He was the artist who, in 2003, stirred up controversy with his piece The Tactics of Tyrants Are Always Transparent. Bowden entered the piece in the Redwood Art Associations' Members Show and won second prize for it, which upset the sponsor who put up the prize money. His piece was pulled from the show, which looked an awful lot like censorship influenced by the upset sponsor. It actually had more to do with insurance issues and the artist's own stubbornness (Linda Mitchell explained the situation eloquently in two "Art Beat" columns Dec. 25, 2003 and Jan. 29, 2004), but at any rate, the piece was certainly provocative.
Bowden has several equally pointed and breathtaking pieces in the current show. Did I mention that his work is not only political but also strikingly beautiful? Technically, he is a master draftsman, using pen and ink to create hyper-realistic images. The content is upsetting, as in Guilt Free Genocide since 1492, which presents the image of a Vietnamese woman holding her probably dead, certainly injured infant daughter. The artist's execution is so compelling that we are drawn in, uncomfortable as it may be. The only criticism I would make of his work is to cut down on the words he incorporates in them. His images are strong enough to drive the message home. The words are superfluous and the images would be even stronger without them.
Artist Ellen Clague entered two art books in the show. The first, Sandstorm, was created on Jan. 17, 1991 - "the day George the First invaded Iraq," she told me. The second one, a logical mate, she made when the current Iraq war started. I love the title: This Can't End Well. "I wanted to show the connection, the history of how we got to where we are today," she explained. Like many of the artists in the show, she said she appreciates the venue that Muecke has created.
"It allows me to be downright political," said Michael Guerriero. Guerriero is known for his screen print landscapes of the North Coast. His piece in this show is not only political, but takes an activist's stance. The image is in triptych format. Reading across from the left, the first image is the letter M, one arm of which is a pair of pruning shears. The middle image, connected to the first with a dash, is a luscious looking peach. Finally, a bush, trimmed to the shape of a W. Do I need to connect the dots for you? Below the actual piece is a copy that you can sign. This "petition" will be sent off to the appropriate people when the show comes down.
While Guerriero enjoys the opportunity to pull out all the stops and vent his spleen, he also sees it as a service to the community. As an artist, he feels a responsibility to express the voice of his community as he hears it. "When you're involved in communication," he said, "what you do is a reflection of your community." While no one artwork can express the view of the entire community, Guerriero feels that his work expresses the sentiment of a good chunk of it, and the signatures on his petition would seem to verify that.
Other pieces includeCharade Rest by Jon Robertson, a bronze statue of nude soldiers who stand on a "third leg" (a machine gun extending from their penises), a 24-foot mural created by a young artists collective called Art as Resistance and a collage titled Save the Wildlife by 7-year-old Jordan Beinert. Jordan was on hand at the Arts Alive! opening earlier this month, directing traffic to her masterpiece. I was quite pleased to see someone so young already grasping the power of art to inform and influence.
This year's show is only up until this Saturday, Jan. 27. If you've been sitting on this issue of the Journal and it's already Sunday, then you'll get another chance next year, and if you're an artist, you might want to start planning your entry for the next show. The Ink People is located at 411 12th St., Eureka - The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday.