The term Beyond the Pale was originally used to describe a barrier meant to enclose or define territory during military maneuvers beyond which it was not permissible to go. In more general contemporary terms, it has now come to mean an action or thing that is regarded as outside the limits of what is acceptable. The five artists in this exhibition, Amber Robles-Gordon, Huguette Roe, Suzanna Fields, Gina Denton and Joesph Barbaccia, all work fearlessly and with determination outside the barriers usually associated with traditional art making. They create works that are distinct, idiosyncratic expressions of their own individuality, breaking old rules only to write new ones regarding materials used, processes employed, and formal traditions no longer strictly adhered to.
Although the artists were chosen for their individuality, there are also commonalities that emerge when their works are seen together. All are interested in both the idea and process of accumulation, many parts merging to become a whole. All are also collectors in their own way, bringing together imagery, materials, and ideas. And all five bring these components together carefully and primarily by hand, through processes that embrace repetition and the creative, meditative state it can induce.
Amber Robles-Gordon works in a studio full of the accumulations necessary to create her work. Bits of fabric, tile, beads, string, ribbons, and wire are collected and organized, ready to become mixed media wall oriented pieces. Some of her works are structured and geometric, while others are masses of vibrant complexity organized around basic shapes such as an eye, the DNA helix or a rising wingspan. These are works that entice the viewer to look in as well as at, to experience fully a carefully controlled chaos and all the beautiful paradoxes encompassed therein.
Huguette Roe’s photographs depict collections of images of accumulated recycled materials. Photographed from a close-in vantage point, the images become studies of color, pattern and repetition. They are profoundly beautiful in a formal sense, and also silently profound conceptually, as they highlight and represent the beauty in what we refuse and reuse. Roe’s choice of subject matter lies outside the boundary, but she skillfully employs the full strength of her artistic skills to create works that entice visually as they simultaneously raise some of our society’s largest quandaries.
Suzanna Fields uses the traditional material of acrylic paint in distinctly new and non- traditional ways. Working with the paint in both two and three dimensions, she employs just about everything except a brush to build abstract works that celebrate both wonder and unease. Like the other artists in this exhibition, she is comfortable with the fullness of paradox, as she explores and embraces cycles, rejuvenation, oscillation, order and patterns undone. Fields is at her core an experimenter, bringing this to bear fully through both method and materials.
Baltimore artist Gina Denton is also a collector and compiler. Working primarily with textile materials of one sort or another, she builds oddly beautiful and slightly sinister sculptures that refer, by virtue of their shape and colors, to body parts or living beings. At one point stating her artistic goal as “ protecting and personifying the pseudo-animate” Denton has indeed created works that seem to have crossed the border to reside in a world all their own. Using recycled sweaters, felted colored wool, bits of fabric scraps and hair of both the human and animal variety, she has formulated fantastic objects that are at once familiar, friendly and also a bit frightening.
Joseph Barbaccia’s sculptures are both simple and complex. Using as a base clear and meaningful forms- a knot, a gathering of flames, an animated but unidentifiable creature- Barbaccia then covers the shape with a complex skin of shining sequins, a distinctly unorthodox but very effective material choice. The pieces become jewel-like and are digested wholly, through a gestalt-like process, experienced as much as seen. He describes his intention as “paring down visual insight to a more essential level of expression” and the viewer finds that he has done just that. One meets each individual piece in the same way one meets another person-simply as itself.
The works in this exhibition, shown together, do develop a dialogue. They speak in unison fleetingly, but enough to create an undercurrent of harmony that resonates throughout the space. They speak together of unabashed and unconventional beauty, and of interpretive acceptance; an invitation to read the work on your own terms. They speak of the calmness of repetition and the excitement of a different approach: a new material; a new way of working with the familiar; an innovative choice. They speak of accumulating and assimilating. And mostly they speak together of barriers pushed, borders crossed, and new territory explored.
Nancy Sausser Curator