Exhibit: Mud & Magic: The Mixed-up Art of Tina Weger

Keep that Circus Quiet In There!
The Bradshaw Gallery, the art gallery on the Central Library’s 4th floor, hosts shows by artists who are, for the most part, local and otherwise without gallery representation. The month of July features two- and three-dimensional art by Tina Weger.

Wild ocarinas, electric frogs, publicity-shy armadillos, musical chairs…I’m not sure the Bradshaw Gallery has ever hosted a wilder assortment of things.  And–in what I think is unprecedented, at least for this gallery–there’s even an audience participation component. But more about that later.

The mud of the show’s title probably refers to the basic material for the three-dimensional pieces, which are mostly fired clay.  I’m reluctant to confine the title’s magic to the things on the walls, but for the purposes at hand, we’ll treat it that way.

Weger makes lots of incense burners, and, like any well-behaved incense burner, each comes on a plate. But in this case, what sits on the plate–the figure that burns the incense and governs the smoke–can’t be called well-behaved. There’s a raku-fired Puffed-up Little Wizard; he spits smoke straight out his mouth. One of them cries the smoke. And there’s a dude with rabbit ears, and the smoke comes out his ears in two different directions and in two different styles.

“He said the smoke comes out in different styles.  I wish we could see that.”
“Sorry, dear, there’s no smoking in the library.”
“Is there a technical word for the way smoke travels?”
“I’m not sure.  We should be able to find out–go ask the folks at the Reference desk.”

And those ocarinas! What’s an ocarina, you ask? Well, if I tell you it’s a kind of flute, you’ll have the wrong kind of picture.  In fact, no matter what I tell you, you’ll have the wrong picture.  These are often goofy-looking, sometimes totemic, and occasionally somewhat frightening…little stone flutes.  See?  The wrong picture. Tina has talked about doing a series of ocarinas in the shape of the heads of deceased dictators, too.  Wouldn’t it be fun to play “Danny Boy” by blowing in the back of Napolean’s head?

“We should post a complaint on that blog. It’s a shame we can’t take those out and play them.”
“It’s good we can’t–you know you have no musical talent, dear.”

Then there are pieces that are…listen to me. I almost said “more conventional.” Yes, they’re closer to what we generally think of as sculpture–they don’t actually do anything–but they’re dynamic, just the same.  There’s the very distinguished-looking man with a flounder hat (that’s a flounder worn as a hat, not a hat for a flounder), who looks as if he’s about to propose a toast; and there’s a barn owl with a mouse, and they’re clearly in a long-term relationship (unusual for owls and mice).

As I said, the word “magic” applies to both the 3D and the 2D works in this show.

I want to call the flat things on the wall “pictures,” but saying that is going to give you the wrong…well, picture. Most of them appear to start out as something conventional, like a photo of one of the artist’s relatives–say, one of her daughters, or a grandparent–or perhaps a snapshot that someone else discarded, and who knows whom it’s a picture of.  What happens to it after that, which usually turns it into a composite photo in Weger’s hands, is pretty darned close to magic.

“He said there was a publicity-shy amontillado, dear.  I haven’t seen that yet, and I’m thirsty.”
“Don’t worry, we’re not even done with this side of the room. And he said armadillo, anyway.  So stick around”. 
“Where are those musical chairs, anyway?  I don’t hear a thing”.

Those people are going to be really disappointed when they find out that the chairs are chairs made of musicians.  Maybe the fact that the two chairs are slightly different will help: Weger says that one of the musicians–his name is Helmut–moved to a different position for the second picture.  Maybe when they get to it, that nice couple can identify him, sort of like a game (it’s a good thing he’s named Helmut and not Waldo, or the artist would be in trouble).

The word “mystery” isn’t in the title for the show, but the composite entitled “When Bill and Jack Were Here” sure makes you think it should be.  It started out as a couple of pictures from an envelope that Weger found in the garbage–a bunch of pictures “in an envelope that was sealed with a lipstick kiss,” she says.  I assume the two irritated guys sitting in the chairs are Bill and Jack, but it’s difficult to say.

“Those newspaper articles and postcards look real. When did they take down the Statue of Liberty for cleaning?”
“They couldn’t print them if they weren’t true, dear.”

Then there are the bogus articles, advertisements and memorabilia that are definitely not real, at least as far as I know–although I do seem to remember a commercial for feet. And I mentioned audience participation, didn’t I? There’s a place for visitors to write words beginning with M inspired by the show. Toward the end of the month Ms. Weger will collect them and assemble a special piece for the last week of the show.

But it’s not all fun and games.  There’s some work that’s quite solemn, even moving; I’m thinking of the photo series devoted to New Mexico cemeteries, which includes some ingenious sculptural elements; and perhaps the crown of the whole show, Tree Spirit 2 (Spirit of the Monterey Pine), a tall porcelain work which burns with an eternal flame–so far, at least.

Tina Weger’s show continues in the Bradshaw Gallery through July 30.

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4 Responses to Exhibit: Mud & Magic: The Mixed-up Art of Tina Weger

  1. Mike Weger says:

    Ask Tina where she got the “Viking helmet horns” !

  2. Tina Weger says:

    Ha! It’s an old family heirloom, came all the way from Michigan stuffed in my carry-on luggage…not sure they’d let me on the plane with that thing now-a-days!

  3. KeLaine Kvale says:

    Sounds fantastic~ Can’t wait!

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