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artstream gallery october 10 - november 21, 2004
FOSTER'S DAILY DEMOCRAT, Thursday, October 21, 2004

An audacious show at artstream in Rochester



By SHAWN MACOMBER --- Showcase Correspondent

The sewn metal sculptures of Farmington artist Kim Wintje, such as "The Day We Saw the Edge of the Earth," to the left, are part of the new show at artstream at 56 North Main St. in Rochester. (Courtesy photo)



During the final lap of the most energized and divisive election in more than a generation, a local gallery has brought together three radically different artists for one of the most politically-charged and controversial exhibits the Seacoast has likely ever seen.

The show, "Little Games, Naughty Tricks and Small Diversions," brings painter Cappy Whelan together with sculptresses Kim Wintje and Jane Kaufmann for some good old fashioned dissent at the ever-adventurous Artstream Gallery in Rochester. It runs through Nov. 21.

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The show has already sparked a lot of conversation, which was our main goal," Artstream owner Susan Larochelle said. "That the show coincides with an election is an added bonus, especially considering how many important issues have been subdued or ignored completely this year. We wanted to give a forum to the artists in our community who are responding to the world around them and documenting the state of the union with challenging, thought-provoking work. In times like these, you can only hang so many paintings of landscapes."

Oftentimes in the art world, political statements can be an arbitrary thing for viewers.

One might admire a piece of artwork for an hour, as I often have, completely oblivious to political motivations or ramifications of it until happening upon the title card and suddenly realizing the piece before you is pro-war or anti-war, a paean to feminism or a condemnation of fascism.

Since artists use visual language rather than the spoken or written word, the level of interpretation allowed a viewer with a painting is much wider than with a pundit's essay.

Well, no one will have trouble figuring out what's on the mind of Kim Wintje while perusing her collection of brilliantly-fashioned recycled metal dolls, the likes of which I have never seen before.

Wintje's section of the exhibit makes it look as if all the old Depression-era metal toys in your grandparents' attic somehow got online and organized a MeetUp at Artstream to talk progressive politics.

Oh, she's got the hardcore, in-your-face titles still: Pieces in this exhibit include, "Corporate Greed Exhales," "Weapons of Mass Destruction Clown," "An Axis of Evil is Planted," and "Bush Dog Ringleader." This is not exactly beating around the bush (um, no pun intended) type stuff.

Still, it's even more visual than that in several pieces. If you were curious about who the subject of "Cheney Heart Attack Gown" was, for example, there's the vice-president's head floating around with a couple of hearts in a chest resembling that of the tin woodsman.

Likewise, her homage to Michael Moore, "The Passion of the Moore," has a little essay scribbled on it about the usefulness of "Fahrenheit 9/11" in getting people to "think and talk about where our country has been and where it is going."

This might be the first line of effective (and often humorous) metal doll satire in the history of humankind.

Jane Kaufmann, whose beautifully unique clay pieces have become all but omnipresent throughout Seacoast galleries, scores her points in this exhibit by putting her more fanciful work (i.e.

dragons cozily lying in bed, a love board game) alongside somber, deadly serious work such as kids running in fear in "Explosion," the poignant sentiment expressed in, "Trying to Forget Iraq," and the tongue-in-cheek but not-really-so-funny-actually, "Corporate Fat Cat."

The dissonance between the two is jarring, and seems to ask the question, "So which world would you rather have?'

"I believe artists can help save the world," Kaufmann writes in her artist's statement, "and I want to be a part of that."

If I had enough space here I would also print Kaufmann's absolutely hilarious historical condensations of Napolean's reign and the Garden of Eden, which accompany two of the sculptures. Suffice to say, they are alone worth a visit to the exhibit.

In this show, the abstract end of things is pretty much left solely in the capable hands of Cappy Whelan who delivers a mostly untitled, but completely inspired multi-media series. Acrylic and oil paints, graphite, pastels, charcoal, leaves, wires.

Whatever is necessary to move the piece forward finds is included. Whelan's work is strong, beautiful, and vaguely foreboding.

Despite the lack of a coalesced political message in her work, Whelan fits perfectly thematically with the show, the core message of which seems to be, "Something has gone terribly wrong."

Whatever our respective political stripes may be, this is not only an age of anxiety, but also an age of muddled sound bytes and vague warnings for all of us.

And, frankly, the women of "Little Games, Naughty Tricks and Small Diversions" have done a better job of transforming those concerns into physical forms in the real world than any politician over the last three years.

This is important because we can not solve problems until we acknowledge them, and we cannot conquer fears until we face them, a necessary process that Artstream Gallery in Rochester thankfully recognizes.

"Little Games, Naughty Tricks, and Small Diversions"
runs through November 21 at Artstream Gallery, 56 N. Main St. in Rochester. For more information call 330-0333 or visit www.artstreamstudios.com.

© 2004 Geo. J. Foster Company