The Bold, Beautiful and Bizarre (Review)

Carnegie's season-opening exhibition lives up to its name

Critic's Pick

"Don’t be shy" seems to have been The Carnegie’s message to the five artists whose individual exhibitions make up The Bold, Beautiful and Bizarre, the season opener at the Covington arts center. The artists’ responses are each their own — two ceramicists could never be mistaken for one another, two painters are in different realms and the sculptor is engrossed in his own fantastical world.

Robin G. Stinetorf’s knock-your-eyes-out work requires space and gets it in the Carnegie’s capacious first-floor gallery. These wall constructions — I don’t know what else to call them, as some move beyond what could be called a painting — are as bold, beautiful and bizarre as anyone could wish. In his artist’s statement, Stinetorf says he first works out his geometric, hard-edged compositions with paper and string. By the time they are on the wall, the sharply angled shapes might have taken on three dimensions and harbor open space within their confines. Colors are usually spot on, with little meandering between, say, blue and green, and shapes are polygons of considerable variety, in some cases relaxing into curves with a whiff of Art Deco.

Meanwhile, in one of the four upstairs galleries, Kelly Jo Asbury’s paintings haven’t a hard edge in them. Her colors are muted but strong, her shapes meld into one another. She says these works recognize our “primordial link to water … the dichotomy of dry to wet.” They have an indistinct and out-of-focus quality, a sense of murky but basic building blocks. The unusual medium, oil on paper, works well for her concept, and the decision to leave the works unframed enhances their fragility.

Ceramicist Greg Penner asks us to rethink cute. His perky rabbits might hold something unexpected in their paws and contain surprises in their middles, waiting to be born. He has an Oz series, moving past the Wicked Witch to even more unnerving concepts, and shows us the Scarecrow’s insides in a manner that tears the heart. Who would have thought that could still happen, this many years since Dorothy clicked those ruby slippers?

In her ceramics, Brenda Tarbell can go back to an idea again and again, always finding something new. One of her ideas is a surface pockmarked with small, rounded protrusions that she sometimes calls barnacles (“Barnacle Pod I” and “Barnacle Pod II”) and uses on pieces that have small or no openings. The same surface appears on delicate, white, thin-walled objects she calls “Pinched Porcelain,” each with a generously open mouth so that we can see inside and out. Dispensing entirely with barnacles, Tarbell produces graceful shapes that curve to reveal a ball (seed? new planet?) within in “Earth Star V” and “Earth Star VI.”

Sculptor Mark Frommeyer draws in the air with slim metal wire, most often producing airplanes that in their faintly ungainly shapes suggest the unlikeliness of flight. He also has a motorcycle with sidecar that is a nice compromise between fun and elegance. But my favorite is “The Broom Stick of Sweet Pea The Witch,” equipped for use on land as well as in the air. If I were 5 inches high and could fit into its seat, I would want to become Sweet Pea.

The common thread among these diverse artists is technical skill put to imaginative ends. They are good at what they do, and they do it with élan.

THE BOLD, BEAUTIFUL AND BIZARRE is on view at The Carnegie in Covington through Oct. 10. Get gallery details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.

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