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Review: Dramatic science meets experimental art at RAC

Genius Loci by Michele Ryker-Owens
Provided by RAC | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Environmental science and studio art teachers should all take their classes to see Shifting Ground at the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission. Artists Ron Fondaw and Michele Ryker-Owens have filled the gallery space with wondrous things while referencing environmental events and offering “for further information…” suggestions.

Ryker-Owen’s Misi-Ziibi is a large-scale wall hanging constructed from moss and other creeping plants. A Klimt-colored metallic river divides a bright, light and dark green topography. The silver river runs like tendrils, the mosses literally fall off the board base. It is lush and lovely.

Ryker-Owen continues her love affair with wild-spreading marsh plants in Genius Loci. Creeping green mosses spill out from the open drawers of an antique dresser. The dark stenciled dresser suggests a bygone childhood, with the dresser, or its contents, giving off an internal light.

Ryker-Owen’s playfully, esoteric, artistic musings reference the impact of urban sprawl upon the Mississippi watershed. Her installation, Samsara, uses a half moon shaped pool of water, a few river boulders and bone white driftwood to further construct a reverential space for the outdoors within the urban gallery.

In A Ripple of Resources, Ron Fondaw addresses the increasing rate and resulting devastation of wild fires in Oregon, Colorado and New Mexico. His floor installation uses tree slivers – some burnt to blackness – to form concentric circles, themselves like rings of a tree.

Fondaw’s Human Count reports on the rate of catastrophic earthquakes and rising populations within earthquake-prone regions. Ceramic layers form an earthen crust over a glass box as a visual metaphor. His 40 Miles Per Year installation uses 20 old-school globes, arranged in a 5x4 grid on the floor below. Above each globe a metal, pointed weight (called a plumb bob) hangs from a red thread, directing our attention to the shifting magnetic north pole.

The experience Fondaw offers with his giant black box, Bias of Perception, should rouse anyone now reading. This Ka’ba like structure contains indescribable marvels. To glimpse what is in the box, the viewer must step on, and by necessity break, ceramic shards. Only through stooping and looking through small peepholes can one see the alternate dimension captured within.

Interested? Come hear the artists and curator Joan Hall discuss the exhibit tonight, Thursday, April 4. A reception begins at 5:30, the gallery talk starts at 6 p.m.