Looking for Direction at Thompson Gallery
by Ali Russo
It’s the first piece I see and, from a distance, it almost looks like a photograph: a man and his son stand on the sidewalk of a crowded, urban, black and white street, the man’s attention held entirely by the phone in his palm. Clinging to his leg is his son, peering past the foreground with his back to the viewer as he stares down the road, almost looking to the people who are frozen in moments of candidness. Amid the hues of whites and grays that inundate their world, the two are the only things that stand in full color
Examining the detail of the work even further, it’s not a photograph, but an acrylic painting by Jennifer Amenta entitled “Searching….” Up close, the viewer is able to see that although the father and son stand in full color, they are not as detailed as the people behind them; to me, it seems to suggest that the more accessible information is, the less attuned we are to our own world. In her artist statement, Amenta writes that her work provides the viewer an opportunity to contemplate what they gain, and what they lose, by allowing technology to heavily influence their lives. However, with “Searching…,” the lingering question is left unanswered: is technology a form of utopia — or does it lead to physical isolation?
Todd Bartel, a visual arts teacher for 14 years at the school who is also gallery director and curator of this exhibit, said that it wasn’t a coincidence that Amenta’s piece drew my eye first. He put it simply: it spoke to today and is “iconic of asking the hard questions of our culture: where are we headed?”
Kristin Powers Nowlin’s pieces, “Good to the Last Drop: Coffee with Cream” and “The Land of Romance: Behind Closed Gates,” forced me to consider the past before attempting to answer questions of the future. The woodblock works are printed onto paper and display an incredible sense of creativity; Nowlin plays with the grooves of the wood, and utilizes them as details in things such as curtains in the dining room, or the sky overlooking a gated community. Besides a strong attention to craftsmanship, what makes these works stand out is the subtle commentary on our country’s history.