David Traylor, Karen-Klee Atlin, Barbara Shaiman and James Gill, through February 1, 2020

Park Series #2 Yellowstone, Ceramic, 3 x 15 x 3

Peggy Murphy

Gallery members David Traylor, Karen-Klee Atlin, and Barbara Shaiman stage a three-ring circus with their new show Theatrics. Traylor and Klee-Atlin’s work suggests a colorful spin on the Italian Commedia dell’arte which brings to mind images of neck ruffs, masks, tricksters, frothy love pursuits, puns, and contradictions. Klee-Atlin’s spare drypoints and linocuts pose characters in scenarios of silliness, high jinx, and impending mishaps. Bedecked in Commedia dell’arte accessories her characters sprawl for a group portrait and try a little snowmobiling. A jaunty boater rows across multiple prints inanely going nowhere on a seemingly endless lake. Traylor casts his suspended sculpture as the classic Commedia dell’arte characters Dottore and Columbina. These geometric shaped ceramic sculptures, covered with tiny patterning and finished with a fabric ruffled collar, have the perfect sense of incongruity for this exhibition. Artist James Gill’s provocative mixed media piece provides a special treat and rounds out the theatrical line-up.

Barbara Shaiman’s stoneware sculpture is a conceptual leap from Klee-Atlin’s and Traylor’s take on theatrics. The idea of theatrics in these pieces lie more in the notion of the awe-inspiring or ceremonial. Shaiman references land forms from the pacific coast and southwest as well the environmental and political challenges facing these lands. In this stoneware series there is a sense of nature, ritual, and deceptive solidity. The majority of the pieces are arch-like forms with two solidly grounded sides surrounding a void. Shaiman carves and shapes this void in myriad ways, low and flowing, or tenuously high and steeple-like. The curvaceous shapes with contrasting edges suggest erosion by wind or water; a malleable form, deceptive in its sturdy two footed stance. Color and coils in striated patterns repeat throughout the work, mimicking and magnifying the intricacies of nature in a display of rich ornamentation. 

There is commonality to the work in Theatrics – ornament, contradictions, frivolity and beauty masking more serious situations. How easy it is to see ourselves as the capricious and hapless characters of the Commedia dell’arte enthralled by beauty and pleasure and blinded to the grave problems facing our world.