Institute workers get chance to shine

January 05, 1995|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Sometimes a work of art stands out so much in a group show that it commands instant and lasting attention. That's the case with D. S. Bakker's chilling, brilliant "Skeleton" in the Maryland Institute staff show.

It's a small box. Looking into it from its one glass side, we see a room with one door, open so we see the doorway is completely walled up with brick. There's a hole in the floor with a shovel in it.

One can take this literally, and imagine finding oneself in this XTC room (in a nightmare, say), going to the door to get out, being met by that impenetrable wall, and then starting to dig, with no idea how far to tunnel or in what direction. Think about it, and you can feel your feet start to sweat.

Or, it can be taken figuratively, as a symbol of all the things we'd like to escape in life but can't, or don't know how to. It can also stand for illness -- AIDS specifically -- and bring to mind researchers with inadequate resources struggling to find answers while those afflicted struggle to maintain hope. This is in the best sense a participatory work. Bakker is right to say it's made of "wood, fear, dirt, glass, paranoia, bricks," and the viewer supplies the fear and paranoia.

"Skeleton" may be the standout, but it isn't the only worthwhile work in "Look Who's Runnin' This Joint: A Maryland Institute, College of Art Staff Exhibition." The operative word here is staff. This is not a faculty show -- that usually happens at the end of summer. It's a show of works by people in departments such as maintenance, security, student activities and exhibitions.

Many dedicated professional artists work in non-faculty positions at the institute, so this is no amateur show. But it's something of a potpourri, with works by artists ranging from John Ferguson, a widely respected sculptor, to those who, one senses, were admitted out of a certain generosity of spirit on the part of the two people selecting the show.

Accentuating the positive, Joseph Roberson's "Conception" is a fine, even beautiful, pencil drawing. Judy Lidie's intaglio print "The Garden Went On Forever" pleases with its textures and shadings. Kevin Wise's "Rooms for Rent," a small wall-mounted construction, suggests the city's cycle of decay and renewal, with the decay keeping ahead of the renewal.

David S. Cohen's painting "Allegory of Summer" could have used more discipline, but a strong sense of the artist's hand comes through. Susan Miltonberger's monoprint "Horizon Is Water" has wonderfully liquid blacks and blinding whites, and its presence comes across even more forcefully at a distance than up close. Martha Gatewood, Anita Klein, Marty Lancaster and Matthew Rice also contribute rewarding works.

STAFF SHOW

What: Maryland Institute, College of Art staff show

Where: Fox Building, Mount Royal and Lafayette avenues

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays; through Jan. 13

Call: (410) 225-2300

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