Two new Artscapes exhibits will engage viewers not with a shout but a whisper. Sneak Peek, an art installation by Elise Koncsek at the Woolworth Windows, invites passersby to glimpse through peepholes to discover intricate tableaux of the artist’s imagination. My Dreams Are Blue/MicroZoo Menagerie, an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Jennifer Chin at the Tacoma Post Office Building, plumbs the artist’s obsession with piercing, oceanic shades of blue.
For hurried pedestrians, Sneak Peek‘s intention is easy to miss. Koncsek has covered two of the Woolworth Windows with fabric, adding simply shaped cutouts with peepholes at both child- and adult-eye levels. From a distance, the windows resemble playschool artwork. One must move closer to discover the small peek holes. Koncsek says the artwork is meant to engage visitors of all ages, and is “based on the idea that the notions of child and adult are extremely limiting labels. Children can be fully able to ponder complex issues and adults can be fully able to imagine creatively. Sneak Peek gives the viewer an opportunity to consider different points of view and explore fantastical worlds. Looking through small portals into strange, partially visible worlds raises the question, ‘What else could there be?'”
Those who pause to take a peek will be rewarded with a surprising eyeful: Koncsek’s deftly composed surrealistic vignettes staged inside tiny rooms. One of the best features a sculpture of a woman’s torso studded with barnacles – a lost sea treasure patrolled by a blue dolphin plush toy. Shimmering aqua fabric perfectly describes the undersea environment. Another portal opens onto a winter-white scene in which tiny figures made of twigs move amongst gauzey clouds, gesturing with purpose and emotion. The effect is strange, dream-like and beautiful.
The flatness of the window covering emphasizes the 3-dimensionality of the interiors, and Koncsek, a photographer by profession, uses creased mylar and pulsating light to great effect in these windows on her world.
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Jennifer Chin’s exhibition at the Tacoma Post Office Building, My Dreams Are Blue/MicroZoo Menagerie, is actually two shows in one – and both are submerged in the color blue. A bright, transparent, Caribbean blue that flutters between shades of surf and sky. The prevalence of blue brings to mind the French post-war painter, Yves Klein, who favored pure ultramarine so much he trademarked his own shade, International Klein Blue, eventually rolling nude models in it to create the famous performance piece, Anthropometries. What is the story behind Chin’s blue obsession?
Her artist statement for part 1 of the show, abstract dream paintings, explains: “Dreams are ethereal; the harder I try to remember them the quicker they slip from my grasp….In the end it is like reaching through water into a field of distortion for small bits of meaning and folly.” The paintings capture the feeling of swaying, subconscious depths, and Chin adds a high-gloss, lacquer-like surface that heightens the semblance to water.
In an email conversation she revealed more: “Most of my work has a hint of escape to it, and blue (especially turquoise and teal) is that symbol for me. Years ago, I suffered from chronic back pain, and literally the only escape I had was the hour a day I spent at the public pool. It was almost a surreal experience of crushing pain to almost complete relief by simply slipping into the water – which removed the weight of the world from my spine….My Dreams Are Blue references a means of escape to a beautiful alternate reality while contemplating an issue that might not be fun to think about.”
It is well known that colors hold emotional weight, and plainly, blue symbolizes much more for this artist than a mere infatuation with pigment. She wields the blue to create psychological depths in the dream paintings. But in MicroZoo Menagerie, blue (combined with pastel colors) takes on the character of whimsy and fantasy.
The subject of part 2 of the show is microorganisms. “The concept for MicroZoo was seeded into my conscience during brunch,” says Chin. “While chatting with a friend about how her daughter was fascinated with microbiology, I contemplated how the world is full of wonder….[including] small beauties so infinitesimal that even if they were right under our nose we would not be able to see them without aid.”
The subjects in MicroZoo look like alien life forms, “like they couldn’t possibly be from Earth, yet they are,” says Chin. “I also really enjoy flipping the scale – drawing something really, really small ridiculously large.” She likened her search for wee aliens on the Internet to that of a scientist collecting specimens, “and enjoyed the feeling of being on safari in the 1900s and taking pictures of my quarry.” You can check out her tiny trophies – writ large – at the downtown post office through April 16. ~Lisa Kinoshita
Sneak Peek by Elise Koncsek at the Woolworth Windows, S. 11th & Broadway, through April 16, 2015. MicroZoo Menagerie by Jennifer Chin at the Tacoma Post Office Building, 1102 A St., through April 16, 2015.