A review: Emery gallery spiral exhibit soars

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FARMINGTON — “Ever since our grand opening, when the building was full of wonderful works by many local artists, I’ve been wanting to do something like that again,” said Jayne Decker, director of the Emery Community Arts Center. “When Mary came to me to propose the show, I knew this was what we had been looking for.”

What Mary McFarland, Farmington textile and fiber artist, and four of her friends proposed was a multimedia exhibit with variations on a unifying theme. That show opens this week at Emery — a dazzling and colorful presentation that moves from the intimate to the grand, all on the theme of the Spiral.

The Spiral exhibit runs every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Feb. 10.

The spiral is one of the oldest images in the history of human art, carved on megalithic structures from Britain and Malta to the American Southwest and the Plains of Nazca. Archaeologists and art historians are still debating the symbolism of the early spiral motifs, whether they are ceremonial, mystical or decorative.

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McFarland said her first view of Emery, with its soaring interior spaces, prompted her to think of a magnificent and inspiring show that would involve more artists, and a creative challenge.

“I approached four other artist friends — Jan Royale, Dona Seegers, Mardy Bogar and Mary Beth Morrison — and explained my ideas. They responded favorably and we met in late September and early October to choose a title and theme for our intended show. We decided on a time frame of at least a year in which to plan and build art installations.”

It was Jan Royall who suggested the spiral symbol as a theme. There was immediate consensus. Dona Seegers suggested that the group keep a daily spiral journal as a vehicle for staying focused and connected throughout the year. As the work of installation in the Emery spaces drew near to completion, the fruition of this focus was evident.

From Barry Norling’s giant metal snail outside the hall in the snow, the viewer is drawn inside to an immediate choice: to explore the FlexSpace with its multiple treasures or to move on to the atrium, festooned with twisted segments of Mardy Bogar’s gigantic bittersweet vines, peeled to their essential shapes and hanging like ladders to the sky. The choice is no conundrum, actually, for each area eventually leads to the other.

As one enters the FlexSpace, the immediate temptation will be to get lost in the delirious colors of the labyrinth Dona Seegers has created as an inverted spiral of scalloped and dagged banners hanging from the tall ceiling like heraldry for a dazzling Camelot.

On the far wall, Penny Hood mounted a huge and colorful rendition of the Fibonacci spiral, which mathematically closely replicates the golden spiral found in nature, as may be seen in Mary Beth Morrison’s cascade of shells, held suspended in fanciful and complex metal chains created by Karen Campbell.

Visible throughout the space are more of Karen Campbell’s intricate metalwork, mandalas by Saskia Reinholt, weaving by Carol Hedden, and a glass panel of spiral-inspired hieroglyphs by Jan Royall that hint at puzzling and numinous meanings.

In all, 19 artists have contributed to the exhibit, utilizing media and artistic vision of dizzying variety. To add to the breadth and depth of the presentation, five local poets have contributed carefully crafted words on the Spiral theme, which will hang on the gallery walls amid the other art works.

Going beyond our world, UMF science professor Chris Magri will explicate spiral galaxies.

Local sign artist Mike Monahan contributed the calligraphy for the poster and also for the exhibit’s calendar. Reproducing some of the colorful works of seven of the show’s artists, the 2013 calendar is for sale at the opening reception, and also at Sugarwood Gallery; Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers; and Up Front and Peasant Gourmet, all in Farmington. The calendar’s price is $18, and proceeds will defray costs of the exhibition.

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