The journey of life is a process of putting together a million puzzle pieces, ultimately (and hopefully) forming a grand and complete design. Along the road, it is difficult to tell where each given fragment will fit, as they come in various shapes, sizes and colors. Some pieces are pretty while others are quite ugly, but all will somehow accumulate into a destiny. To accumulate is to gather or pile up little by little. A destiny is a predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power or agency.
“Accumulated Destiny: Selections from the flatfile,” a new exhibit of 10 artists at New Haven’s Artspace gallery, portrays the image of gradually amassing pieces of a larger puzzle. What is most notable about the show is that the final picture it paints is just as richly unnerving as the individual elements themselves.
“The drawings in this exhibition are — evocative of things in the real world, but still abstract. The artists travel from moment to moment reacting to each event or revelation before continuing on their journey. [It is like] looking at an experience rather than a picture of one,” curator Karen Dow explains in a label accompanying the exhibit.
The first work, “Gray Landscape,” consists of two ink and watercolor paintings by Gerald Saladyga. One piece has the appearance of countless tiny black beads rolling down a gray mountain into a pit of some sort, easily evoking the theme of accumulation. The beads are slowly falling into place. Saladyaga’s second piece, “Yellow Landscape,” lacks the depth of the first one. It is looks more two-dimensional, with the same beads seeming to be stuck in place.
Eva Lundsager’s paintings contain perhaps the most striking imagery of all the works in this exhibit. She uses color to tell a disturbing story with her series of three works. The first painting in her series, “Untitled, 1999” shows an explosive clash between blue and pink, and a small yellow sun peeking out from one corner. In (a second) “Untitled, 1999,” the pink has separated itself into red and white, and the sun is a bit bigger. This time the confrontation is between the blue and red. The white section, for the most part, remains untainted, except for orange flames shooting out from the edge of the paper toward the collision. It could illustrate the masking of corruption by innocence or how violence is sometimes instigated by those least expected. At first glance, the third picture in Lundsager’s series, also “Untitled, 1999” appears to represent the 9/11 attacks on New York City because of the two poles in the midst of smoke. But the painting was executed in 1999; given that, the explosion looks more like an attack on the planet earth itself. The color blue outlasted the pink, red and white, as the sun that was once minuscule has now burst into a great sea of yellow.
Artist Kirsten Hassenfield plays upon a different meaning of accumulated destiny — accumulated wealth. The second drawing in her series of three, cleverly titled, “Spent mine,” the most representational work in the show, depicts a pile of precious stones and breath-taking jewels. It is an interesting link between her first and third pictures — the first, of a conglomerate with crystals and the third, a condensed version of the same jewels as the second, this time in yellow.
Zach Keating’s abstract drawings can assume a number of meanings. His “Nineth drawing” is of large black dots dispersed randomly about a background of shapes outlined in black ink. “Tenth drawing” shows a bright red dot standing alone, while the rest of the black dots have accumulated in one corner of the page. The area surrounding the red dot is red also, indicating its influence. If that influence is negative, it would mean that the black dots are hiding in fear of becoming polluted. If the influence is positive, it means that the black dots are cowardly, afraid to wear the clothing of reform and make a difference in their society. In any case, the red dot represents a type of invasion that disrupts the norm, and the reaction of the black dots is demonstrative of human nature.
Two artists focus in on diversity in a positive light. Thomas Stavovy’s work shows a transition from black, white and gray to three different shades of purple, while Eric Hongisto illustrates several blank faces of varying tones of brown, ranging from peach to caramel to deep mahogany, seated around a table.
Rounding out the ten artists in the exhibition are Janet Passehl, Thad Simerly, Ruth Lauer, and Kristin K.B. Breiseth. Unfortunately, these artists’ works lacked the sensory appeal of the others’. In particular, Passehl’s and Lauer’s works were so difficult to interpret that they made little impression.
“Accumulated Destiny” posts a number of bold works as well as some lacking clarity, but the powerful few make the exhibit worth seeing.