Sunday, May 11, 2014

Michel Varisco at Octavia, Daniel Minter at Sorensen

After spending many years documenting the splendors and struggles of our wetlands and the Gulf of Mexico, Michel Varisco has shifted her focus to a new perspective on the world's waterways. Her Fluid States expo at Octavia reveals unusual views of those bodies of water and the life forms they contain ranging from our own aqueous environs to China's turbulent rivers and New Zealand's exotic seascapes. What ties them all together is the beauty of their timeless vistas and the mysteries that dwell beneath their silvery surfaces. In the most macro view, The Color of Water, above, those shimmering surfaces comprise a large and diverse grid of seascapes. When artists create grids, we expect something that scientifically reduces their subjects' implicit drama to a cool taxonomy for cerebral contemplation, but this piece is unabashedly sensual with sublime colors that elucidate each body of water as a separate yet related universe. A more micro approach is seen in Marsh Seedbox, below, named for one of the plants that appear in a view directly into a swamp, where pale, rose-like flowers on serpentine stems rise from the murky depths of a rather Max Ernstian miniature jungle just below the surface. Other works explore everything in between and the magic that is hidden in plain sight in the watery world all around us.

 A related yet different view appears in Daniel Minter's Water Road paintings. We've all heard about the horrors of the slave ships that plied the oceans as their human cargo died in vast numbers from the hideous conditions below deck, but Minter rather shamanistically merges ethereal visions of archetypal African people with the sea's mystical azure aura in images that suggest that all aspects of nature and humanity are ultimately sublime, and that the intermittent horrors of the human condition are the result of our small minded failure to comprehend that universal, yet elusive, reality. ~Bookhardt

Fluid States: Recent Photographs by Michel Varisco, Through May 31, Octavia Art Gallery, 454 Julia Street St., 309-4249; Water Road: New and Retrospective Work by Daniel Minter, Through May 31, Soren Christensen Gallery, 400 Julia St., 569.9501. Left: A River Red by Daniel Minter.