Alibi V.14 No.15 • April 14-20, 2005 

Gallery Review

Touch Me

The 11th Annual Juried Graduate Student Exhibition at the Jonson Galley

“The Ornithology of War” by Jess Dunn
“The Ornithology of War” by Jess Dunn

One problem with this year's UNM graduate student art show is that viewers are going to want to play with a lot of the art. In most cases, though, this show isn't any different from a traditional exhibit. Touch the art, and you will be punished.

Take Lea Anderson's "Shimmer-ring," a small-scale piece set in a wood frame painted in silver so it looks like steel. Anderson has mounted hundreds of metal bells of different sizes on a screen inside the frame. They're arranged in rows so they look like layers of metallic sediment, or maybe scales from some mythological fire-breathing lizard. It's hard to restrain yourself from lifting this shiny toy off the wall and giving it a shake.

Deeper into the show, you'll find Danielle Ferreira's "Arthropod Zither," which is exactly what its title suggests. Ferreira has strung strands of wire across a corner of the gallery, securing them to the wall with tiny copper nails. The wires aren't taut. This allows Ferreira to position delicate cicada exoskeletons on the strands, making a weird insect instrument that just begs to be strummed.

Untitled by Larry Bob Phillips
Untitled by Larry Bob Phillips

There are a couple pieces in the show that viewers are allowed to handle. Julie Anand's "Imprint—After the Age of Discovery" consists of an abstracted, antique-looking map that seems to have been constructed from prints of palms and fingers. Set on top of an elegant wood box, viewers can pick up and browse through this engaging atlas from an imaginary world.

The most ambitious piece in the show is Jess Dunn's "The Ornithology of War." An installation set in a room painted bright red, Dunn's work presents a gut-wrenching, poetic statement on the casualties accrued in the Iraq War. A flock of stuffed cloth birds flies up from a corner of the room, winging across a wall and over a wide doorway. Two walls are covered with over 2,000 tags on which are written the names of the dead, reminding us that Americans are not the only victims of this war. Rows of nails stretch across one blank wall, waiting for new tags.

Just as violent, but much funnier, is Larry Bob Phillips' untitled pencil drawing on paper. Phillips' piece depicts a long-haired artist—a hippie guy or a frumpy woman—seated in a chair scarfing down take-out from a styrofoam container. This person's relaxed posture sharply contrasts with the giant painted canvas that leans against the wall in front of the artist, capturing a group of machete-wielding maniacs hacking a victim to death.

This yearly showcase of some of the best UNM graduate art students is always interesting. If this year's exhibit is any indication, the pool of talent in the art department at our university is deeper than ever.

The 11th Annual Juried Graduate Student Exhibition runs through May 6 at UNM's Jonson Gallery (1909 Las Lomas NE). 277-4967.