A sense of humor spills over crafts show at TSU

March 26, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

"I am attracted to art that presents me with original emotions and ideas . . . that force me to think in new and unexpected directions." So writes Michael Monroe in the catalog of Towson State University's Mid-Atlantic Craft Exhibit, and he ought to know. He is the curator-in-charge at the Renwick Gallery, the crafts and decorative arts arm of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art.

So Towson was wise to ask, and lucky to get, Monroe as juror for this regional show, as will be evident to those who see it. Not only is the work technically exceptional, but much of it reaches beyond the realm of the utilitarian and/or decorative object to engage with emotions and ideas as works of art.

It's especially obvious that Monroe has an active sense of humor, for a number of these works are downright funny.

Andrea Uravitch's two similar works, both called "Entanglement" and exhibited together, feature catfish made of various fibers (one looks like it's wearing a shawl) and suspended from poles. Catfish are funny looking anyway, but it's the baleful expression the artist manages to convey that really puts them across. "We know we're ugly," they seem to be saying, "but love us anyway." And how can you not?

Barbara Schulman's wall hanging called "Contemporary Ego-Systems" incorporates a number of art- and craft-related items, including frames of photographic slides that artists submit to juried shows (instead of sending the full-scale works). Schulman mocks the rules of juried shows with the legends she writes on the slide frames. "On back of slide, write the artist's philosophy of the work, meaning of life, and design of the universe," reads one. And another, "A visible red dot must be on the back of each slide in the lower upper middle of the center right back."

Jean Hoblitzell's "Sharing Thoughts," with its images of disks and tapes, deals with communication in the computer age by using a medium that's definitely old-fashioned -- a quilt. It seems to be saying computers can do a lot of things, but it takes a human's mind, eye and hand to make what they do aesthetically pleasing.

Jacob Cress' "Oops" is almost slapstick. It's a Chippendale chair with ball and claw feet -- but one of the claws has lost its ball, which is rolling across the floor as a pair of eyes embedded in the back of the chair looks on in alarm.

There's much, much more in this large -- 124 works -- and thoroughly attractive show.

Mid-Atlantic Crafts Show

Where: Fine Arts Center, Towson State University

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through April 9

$ Call: (410) 830-2808

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