Bechtel focuses primarily on the human form, and more specifically the human limbs. Often she crops the faces out of her large paintings while arms, legs, hands and feet take on expressive qualities. The works of Auerbach, Page and Ruschman all emphasize how humanity relates and interacts with the animal world. All three artists use clever and humorous titles to interpret nature with a childlike wonderment.
Page’s work is illustrative, narrative and surreal. He depicts scenes from rural farm life: Men at work in the field, bricklayers, handymen, birds and cows — lots and lots of cows. In fact, cows are so prevalent in this work that they become stand-ins for humans. They go sightseeing at Mount Rushmore, they confront their emotions and they search for a lost member of the herd. Most of all they ponder the great mysteries of life. For Page, these mysteries actually become unexplained phenomena, such as a giant trap door leading to nowhere in the middle of a pasture. Two cows stand at a distance, wondering if they should investigate.
In “Presidents Out to Pasture,” cows are at the foot of Mount Rushmore. As the title suggests, the presidents are really the ones put out to pasture because they are long dead. Like surrealist painters Salvador Dali and Renee Magritte, Page uses clever titles and double entendre. Also like Magritte, Page depicts impossibly blue skies with perfect clouds, men in hats that obscure their faces, birds and trompe l’oeil.
The images leap off of the artwork because these wooden canvases are not square or even symmetrical.
They are cut out in the shape of the subjects and the landscape. This allows for unusual shadows to cast on the wall, giving the subjects a three-dimensional appearance. In trompe l’oeil, unexpected sights fool the eye. In Page’s work, hooks hold the sky up, men drive stakes along a fault line to split the earth in half and they lay bricks in the sky.
Photographer Auerbach also explores rural settings and the connection between humans and animals. In “Chartres Dog,” a dog sits on a windowsill lazily dangling its legs. In “Mother Duck and Ducklings,” a boy swims in a pool with his head out of water. On the side of the pool, a concrete duck leads a row of three concrete ducklings. The boy lines up perfectly with the ducklings, as if he too is following behind the mother.
“Intimate Moment” and “Look Back” are two companion pieces. In both, a black dog and a white dog sit facing a lake. If the dogs were human, we may think of them as friends, siblings or lovers. The nature of their relationship is inconsequential but there is a relationship between them — that’s what matters. Like two humans staring off at the water, there is some connection that brought them together.
“Portrait of My Mother Six Months Before She Died of Cancer” can be seen as a self-portrait. In a dining room with mirrored walls and ceiling, Auerbach has snapped a single, brief moment of his time with his mother. She is smiling, with her hands folded in her lap, looking at her son as if she is ready to say something. This scene of mother and son sitting together is reflected an infinite number of times in the mirrors on the wall and ceiling. In the mirror is a glimpse across the table. Slouched in a chair, with his chin in his hand and a camera propped on a book, is the artist, taking a picture of his mother.
In the main gallery, the Clay Alliance exhibition Feast or Famine pays homage to the spirit of giving and to a deceased member of the group, Joyce Clancy. A retrospective of Clancy’s pottery is on display in the center of the gallery. As a member of the Alliance, she chaired Empty Bowls, a yearly service project raising money for the Freestore Foodbank Kids Café. A small collection of the hundreds of bowls artists fired for the Empty Bowls project is also on display at The Carnegie.
The Empty Bowls campaign is held annually at the Baker Hunt Foundation in Covington (see clayalliance.org for more info). Donations to the Kids Café can still be made by contacting the Freestore Foodbank.
These shows are on display at THE CARNEGIE in Covington through Nov. 25. Get details about them and The Carnegie here.