Mimetic Gesture

Central Art Collective's Nod To The Printmaker's Craft Is A Pale Companion To Past Efforts.

By Margaret Regan

THE TROUBLE WITH Mimesis 4: University of Arizona Printmakers, the current show at Central Arts Collective, is that, number one, it's not devoted to printmaking and number two, it has only a random relationship with the UA.

Granted, some of the artists are UA students past and present; and there are some samples of printmaking, ranging from photography transfer to lithography to monotypes. But much of the show devotes itself to media that are unhappily mixed, along the lines of spoiled wine on a tablecloth and scratched words on bedroom doors. Some of this interloping art is so weak that one is not inclined to forgive its intrusion into an annual show that's always done a good job surveying the wide range of contemporary printmaking techniques.

Review To get the irritating stuff out of the way first: John Altomare provides the three old doors in "Pray for Surf." Converted into phallic surfboards with the addition of strategically placed wooden fins, the doors are peeling, graffti-ed and tiresome. The putrid wine, whose sickly odor permeates the whole gallery, is part of a juvenile installation by Jody Servon. Her "Holiday Cheer" takes on family dysfunction by means of a real-life dinner table; red wine circulating via a pump at table's center is gradually staining the white tablecloth. The cloth has been printed up with the artist's observations on family life, including this adolescent lamentation: "It's kind of a crummy thing to have to realize that you are more mature than your parents."

The same kind of embarrassing confessional mars the otherwise interesting work of Clare Hagyard. Her "Self Portrait" is made up of a series of photocopy transfer prints of her body, each focusing in a closely cropped image of her tattooed buttocks or her waist or her shoulder. The sepia-colored images are sewn with black string and hung in an intricate network from poles extending on the wall. Her examination of her own altered body, coupled with the traditional stitchery, make for a fine entry in the perennial fine-arts genre that treats female body image. So why did Hagyard feel compelled to pencil her thoughts on the wall? "I feel good about this," she writes, and "I'm taking the chance my parents will like this," and so on. She'd have done better to go for the stiff upper lip and let the work speak for itself.

Ellen Skotheim experiments with the theme of family in a series of four monotypes, but she delves into the way photographs and religious symbols serve as repositories of memory. "Graduation," for instance, pairs an old, black-and-white family snapshot of her mother's graduation day from grad school with colored prints of Jewish sacred texts. Splintered and scattered across the paper surface, the images dissect the tension between modern aspirations and ancient religious dicta. The works also prove once again how well printmaking, with its infinite possibilities for layering, lends itself to the exploration of memory.

Cheryl Graham proves the opposite in her bold black-and-white monotypes. Fluid and evocative, her four somber portraits emphasize the affinity of printmaking to painting. She's lavished her black paint onto paper, so that her heads emerge out of darkness. Only in the white spaces left blank do their features coalesce.

This uneven show also displays some etchings. Melinda Morey's five colored samples are like pages from a book of the occult or medieval science, while Zane Wilson gives etching a mechanistic turn in "Athropomorphous Man." Some woodcuts by Lisa Smith are far from ready for public display, while Jacinda Russell's "Aunt Eleanor Series," four ICC prints of a dead woman's possessions, blaze with light and emotion, while telling us very little about the late Aunt Eleanor.

Mimesis 4: University of Arizona Printmakers continues through Saturday, June 27, at Central Arts Collective, 188 E. Broadway. Gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 5 to 7 p.m. Thursdays for Art Walk, and 7 to 10 p.m. on Downtown Saturday Nights, including June 20. For more information, call 624-2548. TW

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