By CHRISTINA LAUREL
Written for Artkestry
A well-intentioned gallery is tucked into the University of Rochester, showcasing the art of familiar as well as unknown local artists. In fact, the Bridge Art Gallery was designed with a twofold mission: display local art while creating a therapeutic environment for Strong Behavioral Health patrons. Cognizant of the continued stigma associated with mental health issues, the Office of Mental Health Promotion within the Department of Psychiatry has invested in a simple act of beauty: rotating artwork on hallway walls. Three times a year. The current exhibit, “Balance,” was juried by Department volunteers and two members of the Community Art Committee – Rachael Baldanza of the Memorial Art Gallery and Luvon Sheppard of Joy Gallery.
While digital color photography dominates, the interpretation of the theme “Balance” runs a conservative but interesting course in other media. The pen and ink drawing, “Balance as Patience and Humility,” garnered Mark McMonagle best in show. Of all the pieces in the exhibit, it offers the most on which to ruminate: an Atlas in khakis, shouldering an alchemy of influences, somehow balancing in an eggshell canoe with surrealistically-melting oars. Read into it what you will; the concept and appropros usage of hatching, cross-hatching and stippling saves the illustration from its less than-well-rendered human anatomy.
Among the Jurors’ Top Pick awards are Peter Blackwood’s archival digital print, “earth, moon, sun, song”; John Kosboth’s pigment print, “At Water’s Edge”; Steven Justice’s hand-watercolored Xeroprint (Xeroprint?); and Lois Zebelman’s watercolor “Roots.” Justice’s Xeroprint – about which I could not locate any clarifying information – features a pretzel-twisted Martha Graham surrounded by a halo of grandmotherly busts whom I assume are “Nana.” These four letters are interwoven in the design, albeit not as successfully as the late caricaturist Al Hirschfeld’s hidden tributes to his daughter “Nina.”
In Zebelman’s watercolor “Roots” new life sprouts from dying onion bulbs gone to seed. Dying while nourishing; a seeming contradiction but perhaps a perfect analogy for emerging mental health. The luxuriant Renaissance-era hues of amethyst and ruby onion skin contrast perfectly with a nubile contemporary spring green.
Photographers on exhibit include: Robert Graham, Tim Peters, Bob Reeves, John W. Retallack, Sheridan Vincent, and Robert Weisman. Digital print artists: Kristine Bouyoucos, and Richard Harvey. There is a mixed-media piece by Cecily Culver, a pastel and paper applique (collage) by Rachael Goldenberg, a watercolor by Alexander Moss, an acrylic by Kim Rowlands, and several giclées of oils by René Simone-Lee. A few entries belie the age of their creators; some are simply more professional or amateurish than others, but the overall tone of the exhibit is excellence. The unifying element of the handsome black wood frames and mats lends an air of professionalism to the presentation.
“Balance” began its run on February 27 and will continue through June 25, 2012. My mere presence in the Bridge Art Gallery – actually looking at the artwork, taking notes and photographing the pieces – caused employees, patrons, and passersby to reconsider the walls as more than just physical parameters. It is the unfortunate luck of art placed in familiar and practical settings, with inadequate lighting, to be glazed over once the celebratory balloons from the opening have burst. It is the fortunate luck, however, of travelers from point A to point B to experience beauty along the way. Imagine the walls empty, forlorn; no reason to pause, to gaze, or to consider.
Parking is available (same fee as Strong Medical Center’s covered lot, but more convenient to Strong Behavioral Health) in the lot across the street on Crittenden. Strong Behavioral Health is located at 300 Crittenden Blvd., Rochester, NY 14642. 585-275-3571. The receptionist at the atrium desk on the right can direct you to the Bridge Art Gallery, or you can proceed through the atrium doors on the left, walk past the check-in desk, then turn left. Follow the hall to the “blue” elevators (not actually blue but with an indicative sign overhead) and travel to the first floor. Exit the elevator to your right, turn left, and you will enter the portion of the hallway now known as The Bridge Art Gallery. www.urmc.rochester.edu/psychiatry/outreach/omhp/BridgeArtGallery.cfm