Island Art: It’s a Small World, After All

Island Art: It’s a Small World, After All

Michael Singman-Aste

Photos by Michael Singman-Aste.

Rosie Morales had been up all night finishing installation of “Small Worlds,” the show she has curated in K Gallery at Rhythmix Cultural Works. But rather than resting on her laurels, grabbing a beer and schmoozing, she plucked one of her own pieces off the wall.

“I think I’ll add more text to this one,” she said, and plopped down against a wall.

From Small - Rhythmix

No rest for the wicked. Curator/artist Rosie Morales puts on finishing touches.

She recently returned from a 10-day stay in Israel on a photojournalism program. “I had a lot of interesting conversations and interactions with soldiers ... I came back pretty changed by the whole situation,” she said.

Morales is processing the experience through her art. She painted soldiers she met, including two volunteers from other countries. On the gallery wall they are ringed by paintings of gemstones that represent the 12 tribes of Israel.

“I loved it, and felt super connected to it,” Morales said of her trip. “Not politically or religiously, but ethnically and ... ritually.”

Owen Everett, on the other hand, was enjoying the reception. His work is complete and installed on a wall painted to extend his drawings’ designs. Judging by the meticulous detail, he could use a break.

From Small - Rhythmix

Owen Everett

His images of robots and cityscapes are almost indistinguishable from each another, perhaps a comment on the depersonalization of humanity in our cities (and through Facebook?), and the simultaneous anthropomorphism of machines, from Transformers to virtual personal assistants on our smartphones. He describes himself as an “artist/wage slave” and, when he gets home, his cats lord it over him. Yet another reason to express oneself as a city-crushing giant.

Everett invited his studio-mate, Edward Swanson, to join him in the show, and Swanson doesn’t say “no” to opportunities. This is only his second exhibition, but not for a lack of creative output: He said he engages in a “trifecta” of art where his illustration work is owned by others, his tattoo art “walks out the door,” and what’s left is his fine art. It’s hard for a busy professional artist to find time for that.

From Small - Rhythmix

Edward Swanson

He described his work in Small Worlds as “very personal, but with an illustrative aspect and formula."

"All my work has some kind of narrative, allegorical and conceptual, but not abstract. I’m purposefully trying to make it relatable,” he said.

Can everyone relate to drawings of horned figures straddling a pentagram — part of a tarot deck he’s been working on since last year — and flesh-eating ghouls? “I see it like a visceral knee jerk reaction,” Swanson explained. “It’s very intrinsic in human development. It’s a primal thing that shaped us to what we are now.”

It’s not about shock value. His cannibalistic wendigo is rooted in a morality tale. “It has this unending hunger. As it eats it gets bigger and bigger until it towers over the forest, eating whole villages,” he said. “The idea was don’t be the wendigo. Don’t take more than you need because you’ll never be full. You’ll never be satisfied.”

On the lighter side, the creative and personal team of Cara Adams and Michael Tunk completely filled the largest wall of the gallery with more than 50 collages, some created collaboratively, others individual efforts, and all amusing and charming. Most of the images come from magazines and newspapers from the 1800s to the 1980s, Adams said.

From Small - Rhythmix

Cara Adams, "A Mother's Touch," collage

“Sometimes I find one image and I want to do something with that image," she said. "Other times I have an idea in my head that I want to put together, so I go out and look for those images.” One idea she developed was a particularly tactile piece. “A Mother’s Touch” was dedicated to her own mother, who is blind.

Michael Tunk is a prolific artist who once challenged himself to create a collage a day for a year. According to his bio, he moved from the “knee-killing cold of the MidWest” to “the island of Alameda, CA, where everything is beautiful and safe.” With his statement equally ironic, speaking of how he “takes refused detritus and spins a yarn of gold” and “takes the weight from a hoarder’s home and fixes it into aesthetic candy,” why should his art be any less tongue in cheek?

From Small - Rhythmix

Michael Tunk, "My Daughter's Imagination," collage

His work on display includes two larger pieces previously exhibited in “The Altered Painting Show” at REDUX. For one of them he added a bit of magic to a found print of a dreary landscape: Now a unicorn and alicorn munch the grass in "My Daughter's Imagination."

There will be a second reception for the show from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, August 9, in conjunction with Estuary Art Attack. The exhibit continues through August 31. K Gallery is located at Rhythmix Cultural Works, 2513 Blanding Avenue, Alameda. (510) 865-5060 http://www.rhythmix.org/k-gallery.html

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