Wild Things & Wonder
On view through Jan. 29
City Gallery at Waterfront Park34 Prioleau St.
On view through Jan. 2
FreeCity Gallery at the Dock Street Theatre
133 Church St.
Honor Marks may use titles like “Carolina Lily” and “Smooth Coneflower,”‘ but her intricate nature studies aren’t the kind of florals found on Granny’s wallpaper or Aunt Jemima’s summer frocks. Marks seeks something special among the seedlings, finding beauty in the lowliest rock, shrub, or roach.
Venus flytraps emit a lively yellow glow, inviting fireflies in for dinner. Delicate, pale brown loggerhead turtle eggs huddle together in a sandy hollow. A relict trillium with carefully defined shadows on its petals is painted with a care that borders on the clinical, but it still looks fancy. Even a giant palmetto bug looks harmless, eschewing its more revolting qualities. It could almost be another seed or plant — only its fire-flecked colors reflect its creepy crawly capacities.
Marks gives us extreme close-ups of her subjects, finding God in the greenery. An intersected “Crucifix Tomato” shows a perfect medieval cross. A phalaenopsis orchid reveals an ornate figure with wings and tendrils; while UFO abductees would recognize it as an alien, those of a spiritual persuasion will see an angel.
As the recipient of the Coastal Community Foundation’s 2005 Donna and Mike Griffith Lowcountry Artist Award earlier this year, Marks joins runner-up Daryl MacInnes in an invitational exhibit, Wild Things & Wonder, at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park. With her work in the show, Marks has focused on endangered species such as the beach morning glory, accompanying it with literary quotes and info bites.
It’s definitely worth taking the elevator, not the stairs, to the gallery’s second floor. When the door opens, a surprising image greets visitors, one that’s very different from the parade of petals below. Daryl MacInnes’ “Place to Start” shows a lantern-bearing skeleton wandering a forest, bones scattered at its feet. The woodland world exists in the orb of a larger skull, and the fleshless trekker introduces a motif that crops up in other examples of the artist’s work.
“Place to Start” was MacInnes’ first painting, completed back in 2001. This show provides a chance to follow his progress as he develops his chosen themes, with anthropomorphized trees a common sight. In “No Rush,” a tree has skeletal aspects including a ribbed trunk. It stands in a crucified pose and a human skeleton lies in front of it, flanked by two gravestones engraved with yogic words: “Abhyasa” (practice) and “Vairagya” (dispassion).
All this may sound a bit over the top, but MacInnes’ work is deft and it’s fun to see him looking for new ways to tackle hoary old plein air subjects. “Field” is more than a traditional landscape, because it’s painted from an interesting perspective, with the yellow-brown field taking up the lower half of the canvas. The artist also has a good grasp of classical techniques; in “Dawn at McLeod,” he uses light, striking colors for Spanish moss, slave cabins, and patches of sun to lead the eye around the picture.
Juxtaposed with the oaks and cadavers are more examples of Marks’ art. Her work evokes a sense that this is a lab, not a jungle, with artifice and technical experimentation taking precedence over natural chaos. Everything’s too neat to be truly wild.
Michael Gibson’s sculpture, “Entangled,” is the most accomplished artwork in his Visceral show at the Dock Street Theatre. The gravity-defying piece has plenty of mysterious interstices, dents and curves to catch the light. It resembles several real-life forms, including a baby in a cradle, a shattered sea shell, an inner ear (mirroring a shape in one of his colored charcoal “Nightscape”) or the jawbone model one sees at the dentist’s.
The different works in Visceral could almost be by different artists, such is the variety of ideas on display. There’s no harm in using a small exhibition like this as a chance to show examples of an artist’s versatility, and Gibson’s resourceful flair is summed up in the vibrant “Lost Tribes.” It features a ghoulish face with cottonmouth stitches on its lips, a drowsy, sad expression, and drooping eye sockets. Daryl MacInnes would approve.
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