The Prichard Art Gallery in downtown Moscow has dedicated 2016 to artists from the Gem State.Its latest exhibit, “Three Idaho Artists,” runs through April 9 and features the photographs of Sue Latta, the paintings of Garth Claassen and the ceramics of Kerry Moosman.
Despite the great diversity of subject and medium, there are threads binding these works together, said Roger Rowley, University of Idaho Prichard Art Gallery director.
Whether it’s how the sheer, vertical undulations of the coil vessels play against the shadowy, rounded human figures that populate the paintings, or how the geometry and depth those paintings explore reflect the crumbling architecture in the photographs, Rowley said these works fit together like an Idahoan mosaic.
“Life After Death”
Sue Latta’s aesthetic gravitates toward the rusty, decaying and rundown.
During a five-week artist residency in 2015 in Rochester, New York, the Boise artist photographed the urban and residential deterioration she witnessed on her trip east.
Like other cities along the Great Lakes and in America’s Rust Belt, Latta said, Rochester fell victim to the same de-industrialization and its inevitable economic circumstance of poverty.
Latta brings two separate photograph collections to this exhibit.
The first, the eponymous “Instagram Collection,” uses a filter that would make the social media site she originally posted them on jealous. Latta said she transferred the 13 photos onto a clear urethane resin and mounted them on a recessed frame. The gap between the print and the wall accounts for the prints’ 3-D appearance.
The second floor hosts 10 larger prints, all captured using professional techniques, Latta said.
Here, the decay is most evident – like the paper mache of molded, ashy books in “Storytelling.”
“It was in an abandoned building and when I took that photo, I had this conscious thought that, ‘Oh, this image is the reason that I’m here,’ ” Latta said.
Again, and characteristic of an “all-out” mentality of which Rowley is cognizant, Latta built custom “fiddleback” maple frames for the prints.
Stunning and overwhelming
“It’s kind of stunning. It’s a little overwhelming, even,” Latta remarked on the immensity of the paintings that besiege the eye when turned toward the gallery’s largest wall.
On a grand scale and using oil paint on frosted mylar sheets, Claassen said he explored the uncertainty of relations between forms and figures, surface and depth in this 11-painting series.
Spending his first 27 years around an Apartheid South Africa, Claassen said he has experienced borders –physical and psychological – and their direct effect on the human experience.
Most recently Claassen, professor of art at the College of Idaho in Caldwell, composed paintings based off the diary of Anne Frank, of which these paintings borrow shapes and forms, he said.
Unlike his previous series, and of much excitement to his creative process, there is no clear subject in these paintings.
Instead, Claassen explored these themes while keeping the forms and the space completely ambiguous.
In the far end of the gallery, you could speculate about the blue nothing-man, the one hunched on his stomach, peering off through binoculars against a rose red fence like soldier on lookout until your image dissolves and takes shape again, and that’s exactly the point.
“The way we relate to the world isn’t always clear cut,” Claassen said.
Moosman is as elusive as his terracotta vessels are stunning, arduous and time consuming.
Without a telephone and reachable only during a small window at the Fort Boise Art Center, Rowley said getting the ceramist’s worldclass work to Moscow was a bit of a chore.
On a whim, Rowley hauled down state with the hopes of syncing up with Moosman, who spends half his year in Boise and the other portion 100 miles away in Atlanta, Idaho, restoring the mining town he grew up in.
Once he established contact, Rowley loaded dozens of vessels into his van: a menagerie of shapes and forms ranging from around a few inches to 3feet tall and of various girths.
Start to finish, his large vessels can take more than two months, Rowley said.
First, Moosman coils them, which unlike wheel ceramics, involves layering long strands of clay by hand, building the height and shape with each individual piece.
Structure established, he dries them for a week before again wetting the clay and polishing with a stone.
This “burnishing” can take a month and half, Rowley said.
As a former ceramist who has known of Moosman since the early 2000s, Claassen did not hold back in admiration for the works.
“His degree of control is sort of scary,” he said.
If You Go:
What: “Three Idaho Artists”
Where: University of Idaho Prichard Art Gallery, 414 S. Main St., Moscow
When: 10 a.m8 p.m. TuesdaySaturday and 10 a.m.6 p.m. Sunday through April 9