'Links' makes connection with message, but misses mark as art

October 23, 1992|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

"Links and Intersections" at Loyola is an ambitious, thoughtful, well-presented installation by husband-and-wife collaborators Howard and Mary McCoy. Together with the accompanying text, it makes its point clearly, successfully. But it's not a success as art.

The McCoys write, "We live in a dualist culture which tends to look at the world in terms of intersections dividing things up into easily classifiable compartments. Yet traditional peoples, who live more closely with the earth, have always been more concerned with the links between things, with connections and with unity. In the face of our environmental crises, their viewpoint is worth considering."

BTC The installation is composed of symbols (made with "natural found objects and humble materials of everyday life") that have been meaningful to various peoples. Among these symbols are three intersecting circles (of leaves, stones and mirrored glass) which the McCoys' text tells us have stood for heaven, earth and the underworld, or light, movement and darkness, among other things. The intersection of two circles forms a fish-like shape that has had symbolic significance from ancient Egypt to Christianity.

Another circle, made of hay, represents a snake biting its tail, a symbol of life's continuity. Strips of cloth tied to trees can be "spirit catchers" or healing agents. And so on. In contrast to these and other symbols of linkage between man and nature, the McCoys have hung from one wall several rows of plastic bags of trash, to show how modern urbanized people treat the earth. (But what's in the bags -- beer cans, boxes, etc. -- can pretty much be recycled now, which weakens the point a little.)

All of this is laid out well and explained in detail in the several-page text. But "Links and Intersections" works as a didactic experience; as a work of art it doesn't resonate. It remains a series of discrete symbols that never become a unified artistic entity. And depending as it does on a lengthy text, it reminds one of a lecture with illustrations.

That's not to say that a work of visual art cannot exist in time -- cannot be apprehended bit by bit and still add up to what one considers art. Art can do that, but it must have an existence as a whole -- it must be more than the separate elements of which it is made, and this one isn't.

The problem may also lie partly in the present location. The gallery at Loyola can't change completely for every show, but one of the things this piece needs is a sense of ritual and mystery; white walls, a blue rug and light coming through the window don't help much with the mystery part.

The McCoys have a good idea, though, one worth further

development.

'Links and Intersections'

Where: Loyola College Art Gallery, on campus at North Charles Street and Cold Spring Lane.

When: 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sundays, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, through Nov. 6.

Call: (410) 617-2799.

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