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Feb 12th
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The Naked Pilgrim

ae2LETTING GO: Companions have reached land’s limit in Down the River. Robynn Smith at MichaelAngelo’s
On wood and on paper, the recent works of Robynn Smith at MichaelAngelo Gallery express with eloquence and passion the sturm und drang shared this moment throughout the world. While the earth cracks and waters heave and the oppressed rise up and monsters aim guns at children and freaks clamber over each other for an antidote to radioactive clouds an ocean away, Smith finds eddies in the grain of wood and draws a tree root pushing into the air, stretching out as if to find a clean spot for life.  This body of work is neither sudden nor impulsive, but, just like the inequities and abominations it alludes to, it has been years in development, and getting darker.

On the banks of a river a woman and a dog become indistinguishable from each other, the hunch of a back becomes a fall of dark hair; an arm blends with a sleek paw in a knot of intention, leaning over a tangle of pipes spewing into rippling waters. In the foreground of Down the River, under the water’s surface a bed of shellfish and rocks glimmers. Beyond the figures, four large rusty-looking balls seem suspended among ripples of current. The composition fixes the eyes on the central figures from which every curved line and pipe and ripple emanate.

Painting on a large plywood panel, Smith deploys the naked concentric whorls of the wood to indicate ripples, and, within painted areas, incises the surface of the wood to use its honey-color as highlights and lines, and the very act of cutting to carry powerful psychological intensity.  A screened photograph acts as the first layer of the shadowed underwater life, over-painted and scarred to create ripples and reflections. The dog, the woman, the confluence of industry and nature, the artifacts of some forgotten disaster, the insistence of life under the waters are all themes to which Smith has returned for many years.  The expressionistic brush and breathless gesture of her lines scream purpose from within the layers of obscurity. What is happening here?

The seven works on wood in this exhibition each carry such intensity and utilize similar tools of over-painted photographic images, incised lines, and a sense of the natural world continuing in the dark place that humans have made.  Smith has long been a pilgrim to sites of disasters: battlefields, bunkers, memorials—as if to feel with her own fingers the evidence. Yet in all these works on wood and also the series of fine art prints exhibited here, she finds within nature that which, within all the darkness, prevails.

“Robynn Smith: Works on Wood and Paper” continues at MichaelAngelo Gallery through March 27.  Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. or by appointment at 426-5500.


Maureen Davidson writes about the arts as “The Exhibitionist.” This column and her radio spot and blog at KUSP.org/exhibitionist are funded in part by a grant from the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County.

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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