Four Eyes: Art From Potash Hill

November 4, 2011 - February 5, 2012

The work of painter Cathy Osman, sculptor Tim Segar, ceramicist Martina Lantin, and photographer John Willis is not linked formally, stylistically, or thematically. Rather, the artists’ shared experience is that of colleagues teaching visual arts at Marlboro College in Marlboro, Vermont. Their shared sensibility is a commitment to focused studio practice coupled with passionate engagement with the wider world. They all invest a considerable amount of intellect, emotion, sense, and spirituality in ­service to their talent and inner voice. For the record, they all wear glasses. And Cathy and Tim have been married for decades.

Cathy Osman meticulously builds up layer after layer of ­surface, encoding each painting with a host of potential associations, allegories, and meanings. The substructure of her newest work is fashioned out of sewing patterns. These delicate, almost weightless pieces of paper support a surface encrusted with paint, tape, and in some cases sculptural elements. The work is dominated by opposing forces. Interlocking planes spin with centrifugal or centripetal force. A space layered with delicate tints might collide with a passage of saturated color. A densely opaque pattern might float across a shimmering wash of paint. Her placement of color can be viewed as harmonious or discordant, her use of pattern as melodic or syncopated. She weaves ­complex rhythm structures into a sustained whole.

Tim Segar is a voracious consumer of artistic materials. It seems that no material or medium is beyond his interest, or his talent to employ it effectively. His body of work ranges from ­muscular abstractions in Cor-Ten steel, to sinuous waves of wood veneer anchored in space by taut stainless steel cables, to small pieces fashioned from wire and lightweight cloth encrusted with wax and delicate tints of pigment. His newest work fuses his sculptural investigations with his lifelong passion for drawing.

Martina Lantin has long been interested in late 18th- and early 19th-century decorative arts found in homes as well as civic buildings, and how they conferred status on their owners. Ceramics, glass, silverware, wallpaper, textiles, plasterwork, and woodwork, along with objects such as clocks and furniture comprise this category. Much of Lantin’s work is devoted to reflecting and refracting historical as well as contemporary experiences as filtered through these decorative arts. Her remarkable dexterity with clay and mastery of glazes add to the dialogue of the ways objects and built environments confer familial, societal, or ­aesthetic value on our lives.

John Willis has produced a remarkable body of work centering on the land and the people of the Oglala Lakota Sioux community at Pine Ridge, South Dakota. His images, documenting life on the reservation, record the full range of human experience — the beauty and the desolation of the landscape, shocking poverty, quiet moments of introspection, family groupings, communal rituals, and rites of passage. Willis’s camera captures the human context and calls attention to appalling conditions, the seeds of which were sown in the earliest days of our country. His photo­graphs are accompanied by a collection of art and poetry by members of the Pine Ridge community, expanding our understanding of the deeply rooted culture and history of a First Nation people.

A group show affords us the pleasure of making connections between works of art that have been produced independently. Unplanned “conversations” take place between artists, art, and viewer, deepening the aesthetic experience. Osman, Segar, Lantin, and Willis are clearly engaged with questions of creative process and are dedicated to excellence in the execution of their chosen medium. Close examination of their work also reveals thoughtful minds and a willingness to explore the complex issues that help define our humanity.

Their profound engagement with the world makes them, indi­vidually and collectively, the ideal mentors for a new generation of thinkers and artists up on Potash Hill. Marlboro College’s ­mission — to teach students to think clearly and to learn independently — is best served when students experience a wide variety of ideas, opinions, and cultural backgrounds. Such students are better prepared to acquire the skills and understanding they will need to succeed as citizens in the wider world.

— Mara Williams, Chief Curator

Click here to view selected images from this exhibit.

Wallace Shawn’s The Fever, starring Marlboro College faculty member Jerry Levy (11/12/11)
Wednesdays with Jay Craven: Art & Imagination (11/16/11)
Four Eyes Artists’ Discussion & Exhibit Tour (11/17/11)
Wednesdays with Jay Craven: Place-Based Comedy (11/30/11)
Wednesdays with Jay Craven: Disappearances film-screening (1/18/12)
Islamic Urban Design, lecture by Marlboro College faculty member Felicity Ratte (1/26/11)
Wednesdays with Jay Craven: Northern Borders script-reading (2/15/12)

Cathy Osman website
Tim Segar website
Martina Lantin website
John Willis website