An ambitious exhibit that explores words and images
● By J. Chambless
'And So It Happened To Be (The Book of Her, Part 1)' by Katee Boyle.
By John Chambless
You're going to need some time to experience “Imaginari” at the Oxford Arts Alliance, but carefully contemplating the poems and texts paired with each artwork will richly reward your effort. This is not a show you can breeze through to find some pretty pictures. Thanks to the artists and curator Rachel Romano, there's a whole lot more than that going on here.
Kennett Square artist Katee Boyle gets maximum emotional resonance out of the antique linens and hand-forged metal garments that hang on a chain in “And So it Happened To Be (The Book of Her, Part 1),” a grouping, or a progression, of clothing that's been worn out by living and arranged like discarded armor. Nearby, Boyle's “Chapter Books” are ragged, crumpled volumes made of metal, titled “When She Was Small,” “The Book of Nothing Really” with broken manacles nearby, and “The Year Her Heart Broke,” which is painted bloody red on the inside.
Boyle's framed infant's dress, with “When she was very very small” roughly stitched into the hem, is tragic and haunting.
Laura Demme's “Mother Bank” ceramic piece gets to the emotional center of motherhood, and Demme's detailed colleges of tiny objects inside antique containers – “Looking In/Looking Out,” “Locked Away” and “Forever” – are intricate little worlds. Demme's ceramic “Hidden” is a perfect match for the nearby text – a central bust surrounded by spindly twigs, both hiding and protecting the person inside the thicket.
Diane Cirafesi's “Primordial,” a multimedia wall piece, perfectly expresses her nearby text, and suggests the related nature of all living things – no small feat for one artwork. Cirafesi's painting, “Precipitous,” is both arresting and somber, with a woman curled up into herself under a smeared, blotchy sky. And her wonderful blue-green painting, “Crepuscular,” is a sensuous composition that's realistic, abstract and symbolic, all at the same time.
Rachel Romano's two large, glowing nude paintings are dazzlingly well done, both tender and symbolically resonant.
You will also be captivated by Carol Cole's intricate wall pieces – “All Wound Up” with its orderly threads, “Letting Go” with its ancient-looking surfaces, and “Breastplate,” which aligns wooden clothespins into something evoking an African ceremonial object.
Throughout the show, the texts -- by George Dickerson and Vincent Tavani and the artists themselves -- offer a depth of insight that adds immeasurably to the impact.
This is not a typical small-town art show, and it will challenge those who come in with an open mind and a desire to delve into the emotional depths explored by each of these artists. Ambitious, uncompromising, resonant and revealing, “Imaginari” is a standout exhibition on many levels.
“Imaginari” continues at the Oxford Arts Alliance (38 S. Third St., Oxford) through April 14. There will be a curator/artist talk on March 18 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the gallery. Visit www.oxfordart.org.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email email@example.com.