Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gunning and Gaudet at Arthur Roger

"I paint and draw light," said Simon Gunning, and if that sounds almost Biblical, his new Avery Island landscapes hark to a place so primeval as to evoke the birth of the world. There Gunning became fascinated by the Saline Swamp, a place he calls “lyrical and dangerous” for its “lurid arrangement” between the alligators and the thousands of egrets that nest in trees above the reptile infested waters. He saw that egrets dote on their chicks and was struck by the sense of tragedy that ensues when they sometimes fell from their nests to be instantly devoured by the gators lurking below. But the egrets know what they’re doing: the alligators protect them from the rats and snakes that pose the gravest threats to their young, in a classic case of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” Ecology works its wonders in mysterious ways.
Gunning sometimes harks to the 19th century landscape painters in his near-sacramental sense of light and dedication to the protean veracity of oil pigments. Such transcendentalist aspirations appear, if subtly, in works like LEAP #2, above right, where opalescent whites arise from the viridian depths in a visual epiphany of grace. If this seems a stretch, it’s not--no longer merely recreational, swamps are now essential for our survival. If Louisiana ever issues its own currency, each note could honestly be inscribed: “In Wetlands We Trust.”

Mitch Gaudet’s haunting TRINKET expo of rusted steel and cast glass sculptures looks very different yet also explores the ways in which context shapes value. Antiques and religious relics, like trinkets, may have few practical uses yet still seem charged with meaning. In his large sculptural assemblage, BUDDHA, top, a Burmese bodhisattva appears surrounded by cast glass bowling pins, pistols, clown heads, ducks and floral filigree in a study on the contrast between the worldly and the eternal. ANGEL, left, features an armless, wingless angel rescued from a trash pile in front of a church after Katrina. Dangling below it, a cascade of cast glass wings evokes the poignancy of loss in its myriad manifestations, in a meditation on how life is change and nothing stays the same. ~Eric Bookhardt
Click Images for Expanded View

AVERY ISLAND: New Paintings by Simon Gunning
TRINKET: Recent Sculpture by Mitch Gaudet
Through Sept. 19th
Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St., 522-1999;