Circus archetypes and philosophical tubes at Rosewood Gallery
By Jud Yalkut
Never be surprised that the Rosewood Gallery will stretch the aesthetic envelope with unconventional indi-vidual visions in its scheduled exhibitions. Running through Friday, October 8 are two concurrent shows by Laine Bachman of Columbus, with her detailed and quirky circus watercolors, and Jean Ann Bolliger of Middletown, with her vermiform ceramic sculptures.
Laine Bachman studied at Miami University, the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and received her B.F.A. from the Columbus College of Art and Design in 1997. She began working with watercolors at her local art center in Middletown when she was 13 years old and has continued to show and win awards while living in Columbus with her husband and young daughter.
Her first experiences of the circus as a kid inspired her to take up stilt walking and the circus sideshow milieu was always fascinating to her. “I often wondered what their lives could have been like behind the tent walls,” she says, “Creating my circus has reminded me of different places and roles I’ve experienced in my own life… I picture my own circus as a community in that they all have an archetypal role to play in the grand scheme.”
With its Jungian overtones, dream textures and a touch of Tarot mystery, the characters that Bachman immortalizes are not your usual circus stereotypes. “The first painting in the series ‘The Clown’ is a statement about masks, or a face you put on for the world,” reflects Bachman, “having to paint on a smile to hide her true feelings while her breast is exposed.” Butterflies, beetles, a bird nesting in her wig, and an alter-ego clown fish swimming in a hand-held bowl are extensions of the clown’s inner personality.
The “Tightrope” walker is delicately bal-anced between the curves of her extended scarf/skirt as she is accompanied by arboreal creatures from an owl to a squirrel above the treeline and below a draped red proscenium curtain. Each portrayal exists in an encap-sulated world, like the double-headed serpent wrapped around the “Snake Charmer” with her large bunny reclining on a cushion in her blue-curtained bunk on a mythical ocean liner, and the sleeping “Lion Tamer” in her violet voile dress reclining on her magisterial charge in a field of wispy dandelions.
Most of Bachman’s characters are feminine, or of sometimes questionable gender, but her male portrayals resound with softer resiliency. Her “Strong Man,” with his outrageously bowed handlebar moustache, has a spider suspended on webbing from one end as he tenderly balances a butterfly on one finger while leaf-carrying ants march up to his right shoulder. “Having the subjects interacting with the creatures,” comments Bachman, “is also a way to communicate a harmony between them and their environment.”
Jean Ann Bolliger received two degree in nursing from the two campuses of Miami University in Middletown and Oxford before receiving her B.F.A. Cum Laude in 2001 from the ceramic studio at Miami University. She has been a pottery instructor at the Rosewood Art Center, and since 2006, has been the key person for gas kiln operation and reduction glaze mixing.
She has been fascinated for years by the symbolism and shape of the worm, par-ticularly the tomato worm “with its turgid girth and bottomless appetite and those stink horns when threatened.” Other vermiform aspects which grab her appreciation are “its lovely skin pattern, the plants it loves to eat and of the wasp parasite that lays her eggs on this worm.”
“When I began the worm series,” Bolliger writes, “I was also looking at fire hydrants and water towers.” Hydrants “were such neat beasts above ground with unseen, taken for granted, subterranean roots,” and she found analogies to Alan Watts’ statement that “living organisms, including people, are merely tubes which put things in at one end and let them out the other.”
She has imbued several of her ceramic sculptures with bare-breasted female human characteristics which rise out of bulging ser-pentine forms and stand on multiple sucker-like feet, like the bronzed “That Hideous Strength,” and the pale off-
white “Minerva’s Child,” both in multi-fired stoneware. Other pieces are totally wormlike with the staring risen phallic head of “Blackie” in glazed terra-cotta, and the arched back of the blue and white speckled “Braconid Host” in multi fired stone-ware layered with slip and glaze.
Bolliger’s mastery of the ceramic medium and her knowledge of cone oxidation techniques and glazes are a consistent quality in all of her pieces. Several of them are fattened worms with large gaping mouths like “Big Mouth Too” with its gray body and bright red mouth rendered with lithium and cadmium glaze, or the tubular white “Big Mouth” with its brown lips and crimson trachea. Satiric elements enter the work in such pieces as in the twisted sewer pipe assemblage of “Green Worm,” and the red and rust-colored standpipe appearance of “Toxic Wriggler.”
The Rosewood Gallery is located in the Rosewood Arts Centre at 2655 Olson Dr., Kettering. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. For more information call (937) 296-0294 or visit online at wwww.KetteringOH.org
Reach DCP visual arts critic Jud Yalkut at email@example.com