Artists Mine Childhood Memories Print
Art - Reviews
Tuesday, 09 December 2003 18:00
The current exhibit at MidCoast Gallery West is unique in that both artists work in different media but are using them toward the same end. Joann Winkler has six installations that illustrate her childhood memories, while Barbara Bianchi has 22 mixed-media pieces plus a video that do the same thing.

It’s striking how similar these memories are, and the artists’ statement sheds some light: “Having both been raised Catholic in traditional Midwest upbringings, our overlapping memories are brought to the forefront through experiences of art and family and the loss of parents. Through an overlay of words and images, we share with the viewer our faded childhood memories, fragments of dreams, scattered images, snippets of passing time, and experiences that have shaped our lives in ways that incorporate journal-writing with the artifacts of our lives – both concrete and remembered.”

The exhibit is dominated by a video during which Bianchi’s father reads a story by Dr. Seuss. The crackling and incoherent images flickering across the screen capture the incompleteness and fuzziness of childhood memories. Many of the graphics on the walls are images from the video, such as Sludge 5.

One of the most frightening comments in this exhibit comes from Bianchi: “Daddy, the first man in my life.” As the father of a young woman, it is sobering to think that her initial view of what a man is was my behavior as a younger man.

It is interesting that most of Bianchi’s art- works are heavily influenced by a grid, with little depth or motion. Her works do show the confusion of a little girl, but they also suggest a child imprisoned within her thoughts – shut up behind the grids within each of the compositions. It would be fun to see the little girl liberated from her prison and see what works of art Bianchi produces then – perhaps with a wider color palette, some modeling of the figures, and some movement, depth, or curving swirls.

Winkler seems to be a drama coach, and through association with Bianchi created the installations on display in this show. Her artist statement fills in some of the details: “I have always loved drama and first met Barbara Bianchi as a parent of an actor. We became instant friends and, until the summer of 2002, I did not see my love of sets, costumes, and stage dressing as the visual art form it is. Through her vision and inspiration, I have found joy creating art that crosses the lines of drama and visual art. This inspiration has opened a door to express the ideas I first explored dramatically.”

For those of us who remember the ’60s, Winkler’s installation of the Barbie and Midge dolls brings back those memories quite clearly. There weren’t any womanly graceful curves in those first Mattel dolls. The installation highlights this anatomical anomaly in all of its 1960s blatancy. No wonder Austin Powers fell for the fembots.

It is a bit of childhood nostalgia from two women who shared the experience of a Catholic upbringing in the Midwest. If you’re near the District of Rock Island, this exhibit is worth checking out. It runs through December.
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