Horny little devil: Rocky Wagers' antique assemblages borrow from broken antiques and a darkly comic imagination.
Three local artists bring their latest creations to Felix Kulpa Gallery
By Steve Hahn
Robbie Schoen says it reminds him of gold mining: You may have to sift through a lot of dirt, but eventually you find a few of those beautiful hidden nuggets. Schoen, director of the Felix Kulpa Gallery, is convinced his prospecting for local talent has paid off this summer with a trio of artists who will be featuring their latest works at the gallery through August. This summer, Felix Kulpa's floor space will be shared by Kelley Richardson, Pete Saporito and Rocky Wagers, three artists working in widely varying media but linked by zip code and a knack for mixing media.
Richardson uses her life-size paintings of richly colored skeleton figures to explore how human diversity develops from a common biological structure. For her, the answers come from her own life history as she adorns each skeleton--the one all Homo sapiens have--with designs, patterns and strokes of color that represent the unique experiences setting her apart from all the other skeleton owners. The paintings end up being pretty mysterious unless you know Richardson intimately, but the end result is visually stunning and conceptually intriguing.
"Each of my paintings are an expression of some experience or time in my life or something I am struggling with and exploring," she says. "It's about that core of me, with whatever the emotional stuff is on top of it."
The skeletons, created from charcoal, chalk and acrylics, will be supplemented by selections from a photo series on dolls and another on tombstones. In these photo and painting series, Richardson strips the complex and intricately woven personalities of individual humans down to their simplest forms. Each of these objects is a minimal, almost bumper-sticker, representation of a rich life that cannot be summed up in a single image. Richardson must tease out the deeper meanings behind these representations by adding layers of experience and impression.
The layering is echoed in the work of Pete Saporito, who uses a selection of different media, including glass, fine art paper, wood and inkjet, to give his stunning photography a feeling of depth. His photos of thrashing rock concerts, roller coasters and even urinals seem alive and active, imbued with a dimensionality that is only intensified when set into the various media. To achieve this feeling, Saporito relies only on his sharp eye and keen sense of contrast and proportion.
"It's like a puzzle," he says, explaining his artistic process. "I take a picture I like, fit the pieces together, and some look better printed very small, some bigger, some in the silk screen. There isn't really any set decision, it just kind of happens."
Perhaps the most unique work in this set will be coming from Rocky Wagers, owner of Mr. Goodies antique store in Santa Cruz. Wagers collects parts of broken antiques from the Victorian era to the 1920s and reassembles them into anything he can think up, from a demonic skull to a goblet of women's legs to a seashell-adorned picture frame. Wagers began his artistic career as a weaver but started working in antique assemblage after realizing there was potential in the worn-out items most people labeled as junk.
The work in this summer's installation will feature a wealth of beads and seashells harking back to the 19th-century practice among sailors of creating pictures and notes in frames of seashells to bring home to loved ones.
"I search most of this down and keep it around for years knowing I'll use it," he says. "I go by what I find or what I have. Sometimes it's kind of a dream sequence; I don't know quite where they come from. The pieces I do all are named and have paragraphs about the antique parts that go into them."
With three artists, a nearly two-month run and no admission, there's no reason to miss this golden show.
Can't Stop the Juggernaut shows at Felix Kulpa Gallery, 107 Elm St., Santa Cruz, behind Streetlight Records. The opening reception will be Friday, July 6, 6-9pm, and the show runs through Aug. 31. A second reception will be held Aug. 3, 6-9pm. The gallery is also open Thursday-Sunday, 2-6pm; 831.469.3923. For previews of the art, visit www.petesaporito-photography.com and www.strange-angel.com.
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