Like a crop of freshly commenced baccalaureates, the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft’s 2012 residents paraded their year-in-the-making works through the Midtown gallery Friday evening.
Unlike a university’s commencement festivities, “In Residence: Work by 2012 Resident Artists.” is no corps of hundreds crossing the stage; instead, it is an intimate celebration of the creative efforts of six well-deserving and highly talented artists. Each year, the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft selects a small number of artists to participate in its residency program. These residents work in the gallery for three to 12 months, with the art medium of their choice, creating a collection to be shown the following year. Clay, metal, jewelry-making and fiber were the favorites of this year’s inductees, three of whom hail from Houston.
Tarina Frank is a Houston artist and high school teacher who morphs metals and plastics into jewelry. Citing inspiration from the instant gratification culture created by the proliferation of social media, her pieces display the best in social media communication quips, i.e., “In a Relationship” or “It’s Complicated.” Her Paper Fan Rings series brings together elements of silver, nickel, brass, copper and paper (wood) rings. Each ring starts out as a piece of paper, folded into the shape of a miniature Chinese lantern. Curved nickel, brass or copper is then affixed to each side of the little “lanterns.” One flick of the finger, and these lanterns spin, becoming baubles “full of kinetic potential.”
Like Frank, Rachelle Vasquez and Susan Fletcher King are Houstonians. Additionally, the two are graduates of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts who both work with fiber. The similarities don’t stop there: both artists create works from this fiber that revolve around animal life. Go over each with a fine tooth comb, however, and the differences appear: Vasquez stitches together colorful tapestries, while King creates quilts. Vasquez’s “When Winkie Comes Marching Home,” despite its quirky name, is a traditional quilt with bright colors and the character of “Winkie” in the middle. In contrast, “Schooling from the Jellies,” made with commercial and hand painted cotton fabric, silk and cotton threads, transparent acrylic paints, foil and yarn is a dark tapestry of jellyfish, with a school of regular fish swimming through their ranks. Its sweet in its play on words, but scary in that the fish don’t know of their fatal fate.
Jaydan Moore is similar to Frank in that he creates jewelry with metal; however, instead of shiny tributes to digitalia, he romanticizes found objects. “Sediment/Sentiment” is a rustic cylindrical piece made from “found materials.” Intricate swirls are engraved into the piece. Because of this detail, “Sediment/Sentiment is miraculous in its ability to look like two things: from one angle, it is a lovely bracelet; from the other, it resembles a crown.
Chanda Glendinning’s “This One: Here” transmits an eco-friendly message through ceramic sculpture: White cones, plastic bottle holders and black carpets jut out from two adjacent walls. The walls intersect at a 90 degree angle, causing the cones, bottle holders and carpets to intersect this way, as well. “Caution,” this installation suggests. “Cleanup in progress.”
Through clay installations, Jessica Kreutter explores “the idea of loss, memory and its transformation.” The artist does this with found objects, manipulating them to resemble a body — or body part. “Interior Growth looks like an enlarged heart, with grotesque limbs climbing out of each side. There is an interior in the interior: ribbed walls that very closely resemble a flower’s pistil and stamen. It’s pretty and ugly at the same time.
Susannah Mira is the only mixed media artist in the exhibition. Her untitled stack of plywood is chopped up with lasers and set up like a stack of fallen dominoes, ironically negating Mira’s penchant for creating geometric structures that represent progress. The closest these plywood pieces come to affirming Mira’s intentions is in their layout: they are all facing the same way.
Robert Thomas Mullen is another jewelry maker. His accessories use wood, resulting in nature-inspired pieces that reflect his surroundings. As the Illinois native is currently in Houston, “How I See/Saw Houston” is a replication of the downtown skyline, made with — what else? — Texas ebony, brass and cubic zirconia. The last is puzzling, though; why not a diamond? Better yet, as the city is a booming oil industry, an image of a well? Oil well, that is. Black gold. Texas tea.
HCCC residents receive a studio, a stipend and a monthly allowance for materials. “In Residence: Work by 2012 Resident Artists” is on view until September 29. Visit www.crafthouston.org for more information.