The Oregonian's John Motley reviewed The Art Gym's exhibition, Paraprosdokians and Rubber Chickens, which runs through December 5, 2014.
September 9 - October 23, 2005
Mike Rathbun and Diane Jacobs have been working all summer to build site-specific, labor-intensive installations in The Art Gym's main space and Gallery 2, respectively. The Regional Arts and Culture Council has supported both artists' presentations through its Artist Project Grants. RACC's annual program of direct grants to artists has proven to be instrumental in fostering new work in our region, and The Art Gym is once again the fortunate site for these endeavors.
– Terri Hopkins, Director and Curator The Art Gym
Since 1995, Mike Rathbun has titled 11 constructions and installations by their geographic coordinates.
The Marylhurst installation makes it an even dozen.
Often his installations employ skeletal constructions of boats suspended above or lying alongside wave-like wood structures. These ambitious projects have been sponsored by sculpture parks, contemporary art institutes and university galleries, including Franconia Sculpture Park and the Minneapolis Institute of Art in Minnesota; Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, New York; and Claremont Graduate University and California State University in San Bernardino.
In a recent conversation, Rathbun mentioned his interest in The Log from the Sea of Cortez, author John Steinbeck and biologist Ed Ricketts' account of their 1940 trip to the narrow sea between Baja California and the Mexican mainland. Rathbun was particularly interested in a passage in the book where the authors assert that truth is the ocean and a compass bearing. For the past 10 years, Rathbun has sought to make work that creates, like a compass bearing taken at sea, an experience that is both anchored in and transcends a specific place and time.
The desire to reference this type of experience grew out of a 70-mile solo voyage Rathbun took across Lake Superior in a handmade sailboat in 1995. As the son and brother of Baptist ministers, it also rises out of his religious tradition.
In The Art Gym (N45°23.871' W122°38.864') the public can explore and think about a set of three interrelated structures: a "wave floor," a suspended 20-foot-long boat and a ceiling-high matrix of 2,800 linear feet of two-by-twos that the artist hand-cut and split from logs over a period of two and one-half months.
Rathbun's installation engages The Art Gym's particular spatial qualities. The work calls attention to the grand volume of space overhead and changes the experience of the gallery floor by overlaying it with a rippling sea of wood, thereby offering visitors the opportunity metaphorically to "walk on water."
In addition to the RACC Artist Project Grant that supports this installation, Mike Rathbun's work has been recognized with many prestigious grants and fellowships, including a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, Minnesota Artist Fellowship, Bush Artist Fellowship and The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Artist grant.
In 1993, Diane Jacobs shaved her head. She describes the experience as liberating and writes that it freed her from the identity associated with her hair type: brown, tightly coiling and curly. As her hair grew back, she began saving it, rolling it into hairballs and using it as a material for sculpture. Her current installation, Cross Hairs, employs much of her own hair in this way and also incorporates ponytails from friends, relatives and acquaintances.
Jacobs is also interested in words and past installations have often highlighted the great variety of words we have for any given thing. In much of her work, Jacobs uses her skill as a letterpress printer and her knowledge and love of typeface to present these words in a myriad of fonts and sizes within carefully crafted sculptural contexts. In Jacobs's 2004 installation Language as My Witness at the Oregon College of Art and Craft, hundreds of words used to disparage women were the subject of Jacobs' delicate sculptures – providing not only a listing, but also an opportunity for reckoning.
Cross Hairs presents as its subject the many words in the language that describe hair – words that are often negative – unruly, kinky, oily, dull and wispy. It also features words that name hairstyles: mullet, mohawk and momoware, cornrows and peyos, bob and flattop. The installation also uses materials and furnishings frequently found in bathrooms and beauty parlors, those places of narcissistic encounters with mirrors, and sites of discarded locks and tangles.
An elegant wall of toilet paper tubes is embedded with plastic spheres that magnify the names of hairstyles and several large mirrors on the walls and floor reflect the visitor's image midst a small cone of hairballs.
Jacobs uses this installation to place the great variety of hair types and the visceral and cultural reactions we have to hair in the cross hairs of our vision.
Diane Jacobs has exhibited widely and has presented solo exhibitions at the Oregon College of Art and Craft, California State University at Stanislaus, Frumkin/Duval Gallery in Santa Monica, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Artists Gallery and Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco. She has participated in numerous group shows, most recently including 2005 shows at the California Legion of Honor, the Center for Book & Paper Arts, Columbia College in Chicago and the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.