Magnetic Gallery’s December is Abyss: A Group Art Odyssey. The exhibit features artists from across the front range who worked in concert to evoke images of ocean depths. The theme is an interesting departure from the scenes we usually experience here in Colorado, and is simultaneously exotic and refreshing. One can practically hear the sea.
Despite the diversity of inputs, the show is well curated into like groupings. Many of the artists contrasting colors, with blues forming a background for sea life rendered in bright oranges and reds that leap off the wall. The effect is magnified by the various techniques many artists use to create a wet look to represent water.
“Black Blood” by Shawn McDonald is an acrylic work that captures a lively scene of fishers hanging an enormous squid. The brilliant red of the creature’s skin pops against a yellow evening sky, as tiny figures work lines to stabilize the bulk of the beast. Details fill every corner of the harbor scene, including a painter capturing the scene. The scene is reminiscent of a baroque landscape, featuring crowds gathering in motion around a colossus, with symbols to represent a complete community participating in the catch of a lifetime.
Depth played a big role in many of the works displayed. It seems challenging to locate the setting of a piece of visual art at the bottom of the ocean, or at least considerably below it, without suggesting that location through the title of the work. Two paintings evoked the abyss: “The Lovely Dark & Deep” by Kayla Moore, and “Medusae” by Katie Gray. The two pieces feature similar composition, but the artists employed different techniques to portray the chilly deeps. In “The Lovely Dark & Deep” a festively decorated boat sails under a bright sky. The boat is depicted in bold colors with simple geometry, suggesting a straightforward and blithe, perhaps even naive, interaction with the natural world. In an interesting depiction, the boat is of an old style with something close to a small house on the hull. A squid swims at the bottom of the painting, in the ocean’s deepest depths. In “Medusae” a cutter slips across the sea from the right corner of the painting under a bright, full moon. Bioluminescent jellyfish, or medusae, swim in the sea beneath, capturing fully half the canvas. An arm reaches towards the ship from the depths, and we are left to ponder whether it belongs to an anthropomorphized demigod of the abyss, or a poor soul in need of rescue. Both works invite the viewer to ponder their place in the world, and their interactions with nature.
Integration with the larger natural world was a theme of the gallery’s opening night. Donations were accepted for the benefit of Mission Blue, an organization dedicated to the exploration and preservation of the earth’s oceans. This consciousness was best captured by “In the Midst of a Flood, Consider the Color of Water” by Faith Johnson. Faith also curated the exhibit. A head of streaming hair emerges from the deeps in the center of the painting, surrounded by a corona that suggests a halo and perhaps an eclipsed sun. This is The Ocean personified. Her bust is composed of corals and other deep sea fauna, though she has a human heart beating blue and red. The Ocean is an eery green and set against a background of reds and purples. It is an unsettling composition, and should be: we must be protectors and stewards of the world we inhabit.
The Abyss has a wide variety of works to satisfy most tastes. One can see a variety of tattoo studies, as well as Nick Holland’s playful “Squid City (Now with Lions)”. Magnetic Gallery’s openings have become a great place to appreciate art and mingle with the Fort Collins creative community. However, their gallery is open whenever the shop is open. The Abyss will run through the end of the month.