Seattle artist Paul Marioni and Whidbey Islander KéKé Cribbs mix up their media in two appealing shows at Seattle's Traver Gallery.
Seattle artist Paul Marioni, in his new exhibit “All Over the Place,” has created some truly rocking cast-glass masks — and I mean that literally, because five of the pieces in the show are designed to be set into motion by the viewer.
“Blade” and “Blade II,” both stylized masks, are powerful in repose. But put them into action, and they’re charged with a different kind of energy. “Blade,” which rocks from top to bottom, has a stately gait and is a little spooky in the way it just keeps going and going. “Blade II,” by contrast, moves from side to side, not rocking so much as rapidly quivering. “Prisoner of Love” is an entirely different animal: a decorous black-and-white glass vessel that, in motion, becomes teasingly phallic.
These “kinetic” works may be the highlight of the show, but other pleasing pieces keep them company.
Several of Marioni’s pastels on paper are knockouts. “Red Mountain” depicts a swelling peak in a ruddy plain. Facial features dimly appear in the mountain’s flanks, a manifestation of its spirit — or is it just a trick of shadows?
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“Saturno” echoes Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son.” In Marioni’s pastel version, both father and son seem made of flowing hair that streams, without any break in the line, into a radiating pink/gray/beige/red background. The father is looking at his son either lovingly or hungrily — or some horrifying combination of the two. Whichever it is, it’s a potent image.
Not all of Marioni’s pastels push the medium so inventively. Some — “The Mine,” “The Saint,” “Oooooooooohahaha” — are elegant, polished cartoons, closer to illustration than art … a divide that recurs in his work in other media.
The bulk of the show consists of (nonrockable) glass heads that strike a variety of moods while exploring an eclectic range of color schemes. “Green Laying Head” shows a powder-blue male face with a blank expression, poised above a tidily buttoned green shirt whose color suffuses the body of the glass.
“Green Handled Head,” by contrast, is a lively circus, colorwise. It’s a female with maroon-pink hair and a yellow polka-dot blouse. Though the vessel itself is mostly forest-green, the woman’s face is blue and, on closer examination, contains a mountain landscape. (All the heads are blown glass with enamels.)
“All Over the Place” is kept company by KéKé Cribbs “Where She Sleeps: The Artifacts of Dreams,” the Whidbey Island artist’s first solo show at Traver. Cribbs is fond of jokey grotesqueries and conjures up quite a variety of them in glass and, occasionally, stoneware.
“Fairy Godmother” (stoneware) has a gilded teapot for a head, handless arms and only the crudest of ceramic wings. She’s adorned, a little pathetically, with shreds of fabric, making her seem like a guardian angel who can’t quite muster her powers. Two other glazed stoneware pieces, “Mochichi King” and “Mochichi Bride,” are more elegant: pointy-headed royal presences with intricate relief-work on their surfaces.
Cribbs is fond of teapot variations in blown-and-sculpted glass that playfully depict vaguely humanoid creatures. In another vein, her reverse-painted vitreous enamels on glass have, at their best (“Squeezing Destiny,” “Raising the Moon,” “Drifter”), the heightened luminosity of episodes from some magical children’s tale.
Cribbs is an active collaborator, and some of the finest pieces here — “Big Bad Bunny” (what it sounds), “Baby” (a rather sweet rhinoceros) — were created with glassblower Ross Richmond as “Rosskiki Collaborations.”
The centerpiece of the show, “Grotto Installation,” incorporates candy- colored video imagery playing over white stoneware set against a white crinoline backdrop, as well as faint tintinnabulations of sound. “Where She Sleeps” announces Cribbs as an antic presence on the local scene.
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org