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Review: Wander over to Good Citizen

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 12, 2011 - I think there are people who go through the world confidently, knowing who they are and what they are doing and feeling stable in their relationship to the world and others. And then there are the rest of us, who are not so sure.

Jose Ferreira's "Wandering Thomas" is dedicated to the rest of us. Ferreira, a sculpture professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has put together a collection of works at Good Citizen Gallery that is all about the sort of basic existential doubt that many of us feel every day.

The title refers to Saint Thomas, who famously doubted Christ's existence and insisted on material proof -- he's depicted in numerous artworks poking his finger in one of Christ's wounds to verify materially what he has observed visually. Would that certainty could be so easily obtained.

For us mere mortals, we are left with a guessing game: Do people mean what they say? Are things as they appear? What is real, what is fiction, and how can we know the difference?

Ferreira's remarkably subtle works include foggy photographs of buildings that defy solid visual comprehension, and "Remnants," photos of objects used to smuggle drugs into Mexico (including a Bart Simpson doll and a toy train) -- cheerful props in an elaborate, ultimately doomed sleight-of-hand. A series of works titled "Locating" shows nothing more than disheveled bedsheets and pillows, but they double as bodies in twisted or comfortable repose.

Nothing in "Wandering Thomas" will behave, and nothing is as it seems. I hate to admit how neatly the show captures my own ambivalence vis-a-vis reality; take a look and see whether you, too, recognize yourself in these images.

Ivy Cooper, a professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, is the Beacon art critic. 

Ivy Cooper
Ivy Cooper is the Beacon visual arts reviewer and a professor of art at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.