Mid Toast Review by Emilie Stark-Menneg

Full disclosure: I am represented by Elizabeth Moss Galleries, my partner curated the show and I am friends with all the artists.

“Of such moments, she thought, the thing is made that endures.” Virginia Woolf, “To the Lighthouse”

“Mid Toast” at Elizabeth Moss Galleries, Falmouth ME, guest curated by John Bisbee, has the feel of a dinner party, a kind of fizzy, dreamy affair, where glasses dance, salutations shimmer, and pheromones fly. Cosmic spaceships, soldiers, galloping steads, the show manages to accommodate a dizzying variety of subjects and sensibilities. Seemingly incompatible, these works groove together, deepening and enlivening the aurora and dialogue surrounding an individual piece. With the celebratory title in mind, it seemed fitting to read the show as a series of couplings or triads, pieces arranged to honor each other. Many works employing similar palates are hung together. This formal union is potentially more compelling then if the show had been arranged by subject, the former allowing strange cocktails between genres, abstract, figurative and landscape to mingle together.

Seeing Meghan Brady’s and Tessa O’Brien’s paintings side-by-side, I am inclined to read Brady’s work more narratively and O’Brien’s work more abstractly. The architecture of Brady’s “Keep the Big One’s Burning”, suggests a raised glass or torch. The stability of the glass contrasts beautifully with the cup’s contents: upside-down lavender rainbows jostle and teeter. Brady grapples with eternity and flourishes in spontaneity. In O’Brien’s “Lilac Lake” boulders ooze into their reflections and contour lines shatter and bounce like waves of light. Solidity becomes questionable and mutability becomes constant.

Both Katherine Bradford’s, “Spaceship over Bikini’s” and Nick Benfey’s “Carousal” feature machines that proliferate magic and metaphor. In Bradford’s painting a fleshy spacecraft seems to beam up an apparition. Unlike the tiny impasto swimmers below, the ghost bather is deeply embedded in the painting, perhaps the remains of previous painting, all but erased. Bradford’s painting unfolds like a series of salutations, a palimpsest of wishes. Benfey’s “Carousal” painting, epitomizes this longing for the sublime; two shadowy figures, perhaps a father with a child in a wheelchair, gaze at a glinting and whirring amusement park ride, in which candy colored horses race by.

Ian Trask also re-imagines the machine; Re-purposing vintage 35mm slide viewers, he layers two slides together, turning them into prisms of surreal narratives. “Land Grab” features the photograph, “Raising the Flag of Iwo Jima” superimposed on a monumental stone temple. Gestures, symbols and rituals, the planting of a flag can become monuments indicative of colonization.

Gideon Bok’s paintings resonate with Trask’s time machines. In “Cave 1”, dense accretions, buttery and scumbled oil marks depict musicians jamming in a barn. It feels anti-monumental, a kind of homage to time itself, in all it’s layered, fragile distortion. Andrea Sulzer’s “Sail” drawing contrasts beautifully with Bok’s paintings, although she is also devoted to the accumulation of marks, “Sail”, like its title suggest, seems to billow off the the mulberry paper, filled with light and air. Sulzer creates the illusion of a folded semi-translucent veil, peeking our interest in the this gauzy secret.

Will Sears’ “Waist Deep” also employs an optical illusion, a quilt like grid made up of seemingly recessed squares. The piece is mostly assembled from strips of vintage wood. The neon orange lines may grab us, but the peeling paint takes us deep into an unknown past. Richard Keen’s “Island Geometry Acadia: Wonderland No. 5” also plays with this kind of duality: hard edge geometry meets a fluttery lyrical surface. I find his colors startling, as they seem to blend seasons, combining the heat and intensity of summer with the fiery colors of fall. Ann Ireland’s “Blue through and through” employs a similar sorcery. The blue tree trunks, seem to hold on to a sadness from another season or a distant time, while the rest of the painting is colored-in, as if time’s resilience has moved through.

Quincy Brimstein’s lithograph and screen print “Soft Lulls” uses a palate that seems both otherworldly, renaissance like, and strangely digital. I am reminded of the computer game Myst. I want to wander around this extraterrestrial landscape. Similarly, Elijah Ober’s sculpture, “Hold Your Own” reminds me of mars rover’s excavating and exploring a barren landscape. The black and pink tropical flowers are funny and poignant as they lug blocks of concrete across an even larger slab of gray madder. And last, but not least, Sam Gilbert’s “Fire Cactus”, comprised of welded brass sprinkler heads, seems like a writhing chandelier. I can image it hanging from the ceiling of this dinner party, bouncing golden light off of its many spokes. It feels volatile, as if some rogue candle smoke, might set off the pipes, gushing water in all directions and leading to more laughter, more toasts, and a very long night. Over and out.

Go see the the show!

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