LIKE but not LIKE: Fiber Works by Ted Maringer and Carole Pollard is a beautifully designed and hung exhibit that clearly demonstrates, like few exhibits ever do, how important these two elements really are.
The two artists, Maringer and Pollard, are longtime friends and often talk to each other about their work, but the mediums in which they work are slightly different. Pollard uses mostly traditional quilting means and materials, whereas Maringer works in industrial materials like Fiberglas screening and Tyvek, which is used as a moisture barrier.
Pollard’s work is colorful and often flamboyant, whereas Maringer’s is minimalist and controlled. But when exhibited together, the two bodies of work seem to communicate with each other so clearly that we can almost hear them speaking.
And one of the things they seem to speak to each other about is the age-old concern artists have with being apart from the rest of society, of being so different from their contemporaries that they often feel alienated.
Pollard clearly bases her recent work on that.
“Years ago I took a class from Jane Dunnewold, author of Complex Cloth, and one of the things that came out of that class was this ‘odd man out’ idea, the realization that I never quite fit,” she revealed.
Pollard and Maringer felt a kinship because of their shared feelings of alienation.
“Our styles are radically different, but they complement one another,” Maringer noted, looking from his fiber piece, Helen’s Journey, to her Things Fall Apart, which takes its title from the William Butler Yeats poem The Second Coming:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Apart from sounding like an anthem for the current state of politics, the poem’s meaning is reflected in Pollard’s composition of a pale and weakened flame-like central composition that seems to have exploded in all directions and is slowly fading, even as it continues to rain down destruction.
Looking from that work to Maringer’s Helen’s Journey, we see a central motif surrounded by wavelike radiations of red material that seems both to echo Pollard’s work and to take it to another level — a black hole that not only cannot hold, but destroys. He agreed that Helen’s Journey resembles a black hole, adding “A black hole is a singularity.”
Then he pointed to another of his works: “Carole’s Grace is about being alone,” Maringer explained. “When Carole and I had this conversation about the show, it kind of hit me like a ton of bricks of how aware she was that she didn’t fit in at different points in her life.
“I didn’t fit in either because of my family, because of my sexuality, about my being gay,” he said. “When I graduated in 1977, you didn’t talk about that then. So I didn’t understand what was going on, I had no one to talk to, I just kind of floundered around.”
When folded on itself, the screening that Maringer uses to make his hangings creates a moiré pattern that alternately conceals and reveals things, in this case the fact that he’s sandwiched in between the folds other pieces of screening that mimic the central shape and act as alter egos or personas. In this subtle manipulation, Maringer’s work reveals that there’s much more to see or understand than is on the surface.
“It took me hours to get that one right,” Maringer confessed.
“In that respect, we work very similarly — at least on these pieces,” Pollard said. “In most of my work I use graph paper and make cartoons, then I execute it, but that’s not really true, because, like with any live thing, sometimes when you think something will work, it doesn’t.
“I spend a lot of time trying out fabric and colors, and I don’t normally use a ruler, which is ironic,” she said, looking at panel upon panel of squares.
“I use Fiberglas screening because I like the texture of it, I don’t see a lot of artists using it, and I like the patterns that it makes,” Maringer said.
“Where Carole spends her time on the colors and fabrics, I spend a lot of my time on the patterns that the screening makes,” he added. “I don’t do colors, because there’s enough of that in the world.”
“Ted and I are not alike but we work alike,” Pollard explained. “For us, it’s not done until it’s right …”
“… Until we get it right,” Maringer put in.
“Ted and I have seen stunning things, and that’s why we decided to have this show — because we had our own ideas of how we wanted to see our work hung.”
Except for one kimono piece that’s shown on a display base, all of Maringer’s works in this exhibit are hung by fishing line just far enough from the wall that the lighting creates overlapping shadows of the work, tripling, sometimes quadrupling their presence.
And except for Things Fall Apart, all of Pollard’s works in this exhibit are from a series she calls Odd Man Out, and feature in each one a section that’s sometimes radically, sometimes subtly different from the others.
Points are well made in this show, and the space is nicely used. The BOX Gallery may be small, but with shows like this, its impact is impressive.
Dorothy Shinn writes about art and architecture for the Akron Beacon Journal. Send information to her at the Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640 or firstname.lastname@example.org.