EXPLORING HUE AT VAN VESSEM
by Don Wilkinson
Tiverton, Rhode Island – Along with red and yellow, blue is part of a holy trinity of primary colors from which all other hues are born. Its manifestations include navy, azure, baby blue, indigo, periwinkle, the absurdly named “true blue” and many others. It is ripe with symbolism: tranquility, peace and relaxation; conversely, it can be the avatar of melancholy, sadness and depression.
In some parts of the world, it is the color of conservatism, while in the United States, blue connotes liber- alism. In religion, it was the favored hue to celebrate Jupiter, top dog in the ancient Roman pagan pantheon. In Catholicism, it is associated with the Virgin Mary; in Hinduism, it is the skin tone of Shiva, Vishnu and other gods.
It is the color of the police, of the Navy, of one of the items a bride should wear for luck, of Brooke Shields’ lagoon, of the bird of happi- ness, of the Smurfs and the blood of Boston Brahmins, of the tiny blue pill for aging Lotharios, and of the Christmas that Elvis will have without you. And it is the subject of the current exhibition at Tiverton’s Van Vessem Gallery.
Gallerist and curator Marika Van Vessem has gathered nearly three- dozen artists in a wide range of disciplines to offer their takes on almost everyone’s favorite color in “Blauww,” the Dutch word for blue.
Mixed-media artist Lasse Antonsen, in perhaps a playful nod to Van Vessem’s Dutch origins, presents “Spinning Blue.” It’s a large plastic children’s toy top to which blue- and-white fanciful fabric has been adhered. It resembles an ornate candy dish or serving vessel in the style of Delftware, a centuries-old pottery style developed in the city of Delft in the Netherlands, itself an imitation of older Chinese ceramic work.
Kristin Street’s “Blue Point” is a small mixed-media work in which a rectangular frame of vivid yet deep blue surrounds a morass of short strands of wire or pins. Even though those strands are as stiff and sharp as porcupine quills, there is something oddly voyeuristic about the assem- blage, as if we are looking through a window to something we have no right to be looking at.
“Blossom: Girl in Aquarium Blue” by Tom Culora is a large-scale, fuzzy video still image, likely taken from the Internet, of a young Chinese woman in military garb (oddly pastel blue) holding an automatic weapon close to her chest. It is a fair guess that the Chinese characters below the image translate to “blossom” and could reference the color of her garb, her development as a woman or her advancement as a member of the army. As he often does, Culora delightfully mangles our expectations about gender, national identity and the language of propaganda.
Sculptor Fish Wells’ “Son Brings the Blue Fire” is the goofily cheerful head and upper torso of a tyran- nosaurus rex, mounted to the wall as a hunter’s trophy. The surface of the skin is studded with shell–like objects, and beneath the