By Newlin Tillotson
Providence, RI – With three galleries, and a participation of 300 artists, “Locally Made” is the Rhode Island School of Design Museum’s largest survey of work from the greater Providence area in more than 20 years. Continuing through November 3, “Locally Made” features demonstrations, collaborations and an exhibition of newly acquired work by 40 Rhode Island artists.
In the Upper Farago Gallery, the newer acquisitions from local artists are displayed in a large white setting. It is an eclectic group of work ranging in size, style and mediums. Much of the art on display is descriptive of the state, with some pieces reflecting the close-knit and esoteric nature of Rhode Island culture.
Allison Bianco’s piece, “The Sinking of Matunuck,” a soft-ground etching and color screen-print triptych on paper, is an eye-catching piece that includes some Rhode Island folklore. For any Rhode Islander who has ever visited the beaches of Matunuck in the summer, the danger of the rising ocean waters and its proximity to the beach cottages is common knowledge and a constant worry.
Bianco’s piece pictures a pink tide flooding the cottages on the shoreline. The scene is surprisingly bright despite the tragedy of the flood washing away an entire neighborhood. It is a scene that is both fascinating and worrying.
In addition to Bianco’s work, other artists represent Rhode Island with paintings and etchings such as Brian Chippendale’s “Providence 2046” — a rather grim impression of the future of the state — and William Schaff’s “Providence” — a group of three-eyed humans, personified animals and other assorted characters on scratchboard.
The RISD Museum’s Lower Farago Gallery has been converted into an experimental space called “One Room,” where artists from around the area conduct demonstrations, performances and other events. Ceramicist Patti Barnatt gave a demonstration on July 26 on how she builds her pots using coil, pinch and slab hand-building techniques. Barnatt has a studio at the Steel Yard in Providence where she also teaches ceramics courses. Her pots are created from cone 6 clay made from reclaimed clay at the Steel Yard.
Her pots had organic shapes to them and were more about aesthetic expression than about function. Barnatt described to a group of observers the differences in techniques, how she gets the shapes in her pots and her process of firing the pottery in the kiln. She said when she creates a pot, she has a general idea of what the end result will be, but often the clay takes on a mind of its own.
“To me it doesn’t really matter how the pot turns out,” Barnatt said. “I’m just helping the clay get there.”
In addition to demonstrations and a gallery of work, “Locally Made” includes video art shown in the Spalter New Media Gallery some other pieces that can be found around the museum marked with an anchor symbol.
While the work and artists in “Locally Made” are diverse, the exhibition is cohesive. In a creative and dynamic way, the exhibition is able to represent the range of talent and interests found in the art community across Rhode Island.
(“Locally Made” is being exhibited at the RISD Museum, 224 Benefit Street, Providence, Rhode Island through November 3. For more information, call (401) 454-6534.)