'Aging' exhibit has wrinkles, but theme is poignant


September 26, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Just as aging gets to us all, "Aging" will get to you sooner or later, even though it's far from a flawless show.

"Aging: The Process, the Perception" was organized by Jamestown Community College in New York and is beginning a national tour at Towson State University. As its introductory text indicates, it embraces no single philosophy or aesthetic but includes many media and styles. In fact, it's all over the map, and while it's definitely worth seeing it has some serious problems from a practical viewing standpoint.

First, not all of the original show is on tour, so it's impossible to say what its full effect was. Second, there are 15 videos with a combined viewing time of just under five hours. Nothing against videos, but I think they should be seen in a viewing context (darkened room, seats, big screen) instead of a gallery, where few if any are willing to stand in front of a TV for 15 minutes, much less five hours.

Third, some of these works are books, but they're in cases so you can't leaf through them. What they have to say cannot be imparted from looking at one or two pages. And fourth, certain works are gimmicky and ineffective.

Nevertheless, "Aging" has its moments, and they tend to come from the most straightforward, uncomplicated art. One, of the perhaps unintentional, points this show makes is that its theme doesn't need to be tricked out in the garb of the latest fad.

Elizabeth Layton's drawing, "Self-Portrait: Stroke," shows a woman with black nothingness where the right side of her face ought to be, and no right arm or hand. Simple, but it gets the point across. Neil McGreevy's "Vly Road, Ashley Residence, Latham New York" consists of two photographs, one of a house and one of the space where it once was (it has been demolished). It's as if the house never existed, which is what we all fear the most.

Maxine Olson's painting, "Rodin Revisited," gives us the embracing figures of Rodin's "The Kiss" amid blooming flowers, while in the distance an old woman walks into the night. No explanation needed.

And the most powerful work here is one of the most traditional, Sharon L. Ellis' "Untitled," a life-size charcoal and pencil drawing of an old woman in a chair, bent over, hands clenched in lap, head bowed in shame. Too often, we make our old people ashamed of being old, even ashamed of going on living, instead of proud of their longevity, their accomplishments and their wisdom. The show is worth seeing for this work alone.


Though its run is almost over, the exhibit of photographs by Craig Varjabedian at Knight Gomez is worth a look. Varjabedian lives in Santa Fe, N.M., and photographs the Southwestern landscape. He does fine things with light and clouds, but I like best those works that include a building as a focal point.

"Aging" is at the Holtzman Gallery, Fine Arts Building, Osler Drive at Towson State University through Oct. 6. Call 830-2808. Varjabedian's photos will be at Knight Gomez Gallery, 836 Leadenhall St., through Saturday. Call 752-2080.

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