Merging Polarities, Emerging Meanings

Ingrid Ma on Friends with Shadows: Works by Shana Palmer at the Terrault Contemporary.

Peeping in through the mail slot, I caught my first glance of Terrault Contemporary. Gallery owner, MICA senior and painter, Brooks Kossover, was on his way over to open the door.

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Terrault Contemporary is a newly opened gallery, next-door to the long time popular artist studio space, the CopyCat Building. It’s been in existence for a little over half a year now. Brooks and the gallery pup Matisse, a hyperactive, poofy-haired Pomeranian, were happy to show me around. We toured the main gallery area and a spacious side-room, which doubles as Kossover’s studio as well as a screening room.

By design, Terrault Contemporary is a welcoming space. Brooks repeatedly expressed his vision to forge a space that is free of exclusivity and celebrates underappreciated art. It’s an ideal that manifests itself in Brooks’ own work—larger-than-life oil-painted portraits of his favorite sub-culture icons, the likes of Dan Deacon, Ed Shrader and Molly Soda. His optimism made me wary; I couldn’t help but wonder if his idealistic approach would impact his ability to curate with consistency. So far though, Terrault Contemporary has shown an impressive array of local artists; a total of 9, including the exhibition I viewed, Friends with Shadows by Shana Palmer.

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In her work, Palmer toys with basic geometrical shapes, employing a mix of materials: wax, wood, oil, metal, glass and video. She orients the shapes in different ways—alone or in tandem with one another, centered or balanced symmetrically on a strong horizontal or diagonal axis. Viewed from various angles, convex glass components offer either a blunt view of the opaque white wall directly behind or novel and warped perspectives of the gallery space.

Palmer’s work pivots on a fundamental concept; the idea that the natural world hinges on a balance between polarities. These opposites engage, merge, and synthesize, in regions she calls “meeting places.” Of interest to the artist, are the discrete and liminal spaces in that arise from the interactions between opposites, be it light and dark, the earth and the moon.

Towards the back, enveloped in a space named the “Black Room,” is a short stop-motion film. In it, Palmer deconstructs an obstructive pile of rugged rocks, to slowly reveal her body in a quaint, agrarian environment. Her performance is muted and the music features dissonant notes played on the glockenspiel. It’s an intriguing divergence from the rest of her work, lacking the sense of precise structure and smooth, polished quality.

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Significantly, her work features a recurring image of overlapping circles—a strong semblance to Venn Diagrams. These are the first type of diagrams that children are taught to conceptualize in grade school, which speaks to a sense of elemental importance. The acknowledgement of opposites in our daily lives is engrained in us from an early age. The ability to find balance amongst these opposites is thought of to be the key to spiritual peace. Palmer’s work is a soothing meditation on this very ideal.

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Palmer’s pieces are beautiful individually. However there is a problem when she attempts to unite these disjointed works. The artist makes lofty generalizations that detract from our ability to ground ourselves in her work, to relate her universal concepts with our own lives. Although in her statement, she writes that understanding polarities is necessary “for humans to reach the highest attainment of self,” her work lacks any kind of humanist aspect. Her stated point is lost in the black space between the cold celestial bodies she represents in her work.

Friends with Shadows: Works by Shana Palmer
Terrault Contemporary
1515 Guilford Ave.
http://www.terraultcontemporary.com
February 20, 2015 – March 4, 2015

Ingrid Ma is a biology geek, film junkie, undisciplined coin-collector and admirer of tiny absurdities.

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