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Review: Joan Hall's work transforms the Bruno David Gallery

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 24, 2012 -  Joan Hall’s “Marginal Waters” transforms the open space at the Bruno David Gallery with swooping forms and organic textures, creating sculptural water. Inspired by Hall’s passion for the ocean, the exhibit balances the artist’s task of capturing the ocean’s beauty while commenting on its contemporary man-made struggles, highlighting both its elegance and its deterioration.

In the front room, Hello Sailor plays with questions of hard and soft, heavy and light. Visitors are invited to step onto a dark etched platform, observing Hall’s pieces from above. The individual pieces lay as carcasses, their stillness heightened by the darkness on which they are placed. Created with paper, etched steel and detritus, the materiality speaks to the piece’s permanence and fragility, symbolizing the environmental hazards inherent in oceans’ waters.

Hall’s use of Mylar and handmade paper is accentuated in the main gallery. Five pieces take over the walls, creating a movement of choreographed flight as if nets were being cast into water. The pieces’ titles highlight the decay: Dying Ocean, Ghost Fishing, Your Existence Is Not Unlike My Own, Drift Net, and Acid Ocean. Incorporated with found ocean debris, the pieces are exquisite testaments to the ocean’s ephemeral state. Your Existence Is Not Unlike My Own is a stand-out, taking over an entire wall, it seems to float in textural, blue-hued harmony.

Marginal Waters concludes with 40 framed pieces of collected debris and pollutants from Johnson’s Bayou and Grande Isle, both in oil-spill impacted Louisiana. Recognizable objects such as rubber gloves, rope and plastic bottles emerge from the paper surfaces, creating an abstract collection of environmental pollution.

An exceptional creation, Marginal Waters is an accessible and intelligent reminder of human relation to the waters that surround us.

Currently on view in the Media Room at the Bruno David Gallery is Cherie Sampson’s "At the Pole of Heaven.”

Rachel Heidenry holds a B.A. in art history and human rights from Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. A former Beacon intern, she recently completed a Fulbright research grant studying mural painting in El Salvador and is currently a fellow at the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia.

We asked her to return to St. Louis and give us her take on some of the art exhibits that have opened recently. Heidenry is also the daughter of feature editor Donna Korando.