Clint Jukkala ART ’98 paints with the brightness and boldness of a child, but his strokes and simple shapes are nothing if not precise. The colors pop and push against each other like tectonic plates, and the figures are stuck somewhere between my 6-year-old imagination and the distant future of science fiction. In “Duel Projector,” we look out at a strange dark planet caught in a robin’s egg blue void, the foreground populated by antennae that try to communicate with whatever lies beyond our ship. In “Ending and Beginning,” small, harmless, bubblegum robot eyes look out across an ocean caught beneath a yellow sky. In “Invisible Rays,” a creature somewhere between robot, alien, angel and child-god sends a wave of gamma radiation rushing upon the layers of heat-shield; perhaps it is trapped between our universe and its own, trying to escape. In “Apparition,” a black moon sits on the surface of a gold-banded universe out the porthole of a sailing vessel, or maybe the eye of a golden-eyed beast from the beyond.
One half of “The Mind is a Projector,” an exhibit at the Fred Giampietro Gallery, Jukkala’s paintings are as delightful, whimsical and unbounded as our earliest imaginations; the colors are shocking and the atmospheres draw you in, catching your gaze between the faces of whatever beings are caught by his paintbrush. I feel them stare back at me, not with judgment or malice but with the curious all-encompassing gaze of an infant. There are fragments in many of the paintings, things I kept seeing that told a story among Jukkala’s various pieces. There is the same alienness and robotic quality to many of his figures; there is X-ray vision, and eyes are constantly in the back of my mind when I’m here; there is a river that runs through many of these paintings and surely situates us in the same universe.
The exhibit also features the work of Hawkins Bolden, a sculptor that went blind at the age of 8. His pieces, largely untitled, have the lonely, innocent quality of broken toys. They are mostly made of discarded materials, rusting metal, diced hoses, driftwood, torn carpet; many are a part of his scarecrow series, and the little holes in their pot-and-pan heads look like small, mournful eyes. One particular piece stood out to me, a tall thin bent stalk of wood with a pan on top and an old propeller where a heart should be; whether this being would scare any crows or be scared itself is an open question. Another piece, a bicycle wheel with various bits of green carpet tied around the circle, catches motion in its stillness, and I wanted more than anything to reach out and touch the worn fringes, different textures among different tears. The need to rely on tactile sensation and shape when sculpting blind is evident in the unique amalgamations that Bolden has created. Whereas Jukkala’s paintings bring me back to the world of my childhood and make me feel young again, Bolden’s sculptures remind me of what I have lost — perhaps a 6-year-old now could play with these discarded items, could bring them to life, but I have lost that sacred skill. Bolden’s sculptures are haunting in a style that is much rarer than horror. They show me what I never realized I lost and what I now hope I can find again.
Jukkala and Bolden are both exceptionally talented artists, working in dramatically different mediums. Superficially, their work appears quite disparate, one bright, colorful, two-dimensional and otherworldly; the other dingy, broken and hopelessly mundane, at least in the eyes of grown-ups. But they both speak to the same places that we adults don’t go to very often. The places about which we do not speak. In this way they are on the same wavelength, and the decision to exhibit them side by side a brilliant, creative curatorial choice. Neither of them is realist, detailed or “high art” in the way that we traditionally use these words, and we rarely attribute these terms to childlike aesthetics. But these works spoke to me in a special way, and I think that they are exceptionally beautiful.
Zak Rosen | email@example.com