Daydreaming in color and clay: Review of Elusie Galley exhibit

  • “Boy Void,” a 2019 illustration by Samson E. King. Photo by Chris Goudreau

  • “X-Files,” a 2019 illustration of mixed materials by Samson E. King.  Photo by Chris Goudreau

  • A collection of ceramic plates by artist Kayla McFarland.  Photo by Chris Goudreau

  • In “Psalms,” a 2019 illustration, artist Samson E. King offers a metaphor for the way society trashes the natural world.  Photo by Chris Goudreau

  • “Graves,” a 2015 illustration by Samson E. King.  Photo by Chris Goudreau

  • “Maine Moon,” a 2019 illustration by Samson E. King.  Photo by Chris Goudreau

  • “Gemini,” a 2017 illustration by Samson E. King. Photo by Chris Goudreau

Staff Writer 
Published: 6/12/2019 8:24:01 PM

What’s one way pottery and illustration can come together? Perhaps in dreams.

At Easthampton’s Elusie Gallery, the work of two artists is on display through June 30 in “Daydreaming,” an exhibit featuring surrealistic illustrated pieces by Samson E. King, with images of nature and everyday objects colliding in a kaleidoscopic explosion, and the pottery of Kayla McFarland, whose whimsical patterns on her cups and plates evoke the feeling of drifting into a pleasant slumber. 

In exhibit notes, King, who mixes a variety of mediums — ink, marker, pencil, oil paint — in his work, says his new material “finds domestic forms, stature, and overgrown naturescapes living in monochromatic or colorful abstract realms. In this show, pieces use horror vacui to evoke repetition, ritual and routine, finding form in disorder.” 

Two pieces, titled “Graves” and “Psalms,” respectively, stand out with similar imagery weaved throughout each piece. “Graves” includes broken telephone lines making way for leafless columns of trees, while flowers litter the ground below in a swath of colorful cartoony imagery. The scene in this piece would be apocalyptic if not for flowers seemingly growing out of the rubble of civilization.

“Psalms,” meantime, is an abstract whirlwind of busted traffic cones and cigarette butts swirling in an abstract sea of flowers and plants. 

With these two pieces, the images of trash and flora seem diametrically opposed, but perhaps the illustrations are a subtle commentary about the state of the planet — with mankind’s waste overtaking the natural world around us. And with “Graves,” perhaps the artist is saying our trash is bound to outlive us as a species. 

Other works by King feature surrealistic and abstract depictions of humans, homes, fauna, and other objects in a chaotic multi-color assemblage. “Boy Void,” for instance, features a house overtaken with bright pink and yellow colors resembling both fire and halos above the house and sky. It’s one of the more abstract pieces by King, visually stunning in its madcap kaleidoscopic vision.

Another, “X-Files,” features more subdued, darker tones, with deep lilac purple hues meshed with light yellows, hot pink flowers, and emerald greens. It’s like a forest as seen through the lens of an acid trip. 

King’s use of color throughout the exhibit is steeped in vibrancy. These pieces look hand-drawn, mixing colored pencils, pens, crayons, and markers to make scenes burst as though steeped in a Technicolor “Wizard of Oz” dreamscape. 

By contrast, several other pieces in the exhibit are stark monochromatic abstracts on paper in black and white. One of the most striking is “Gemini,” a series of vertical pencil lines that seem to form an image of a buffalo. This piece is open to interpretation, though, and fits the title of the exhibit perfectly. Looking at “Gemini” is like finding patterns in clouds, and thus others may walk away with a different image in their mind. 

Another, “Maine Moon,” features the same art style, but with a house swarmed in abstract lines and shapes. It’s a piece that evokes a tinge of dread, as though haunted by otherworldly figures, shapes, and lines that are all beyond comprehension; it will likely dig into your subconscious.

Pottery dreams

Now we come to the work of McFarland, a member of Easthampton Clay, located in Cottage Street Studios. According to a press release from the gallery, McFarland started ceramics at Holyoke Community College three years ago where she learned the basics of the process.

Her art has since evolved to focus on “creating functional wheel-thrown vessels with the use of white stoneware,” and the artist is inspired by creative and fun patterns with intricate designs and colors that catch the eye. Her work is meant to bring joy, while also being functional. 

McFarland’s works are untitled, but there are many unique pieces on display that pair well with the exhibit’s daydreaming theme. One of the most striking consists of two pairs of ceramic plates that when viewed together create a cloud-like image dotted with blue dots interspersed among the plates. These pieces are lighthearted, evoking a sense of serenity with pleasant blue skies, rolling clouds, and bright sunshine. 

Overall, “Daydreaming” is an exhibit that showcases the many aspects of dreams, whether that’s abstract pieces by King in which emotional logic might prove a better lens to view the work, or the seemingly simple work of McFarland, which on closer examination includes a plethora of complexities, not only in the creation of her pottery, but with the imagery she designs as well. 

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@valleyadvocate.com.

For more information about “Daydreaming” and the Elusie Gallery, 43 Main St., Easthampton, at Big Red Frame picture frame shop,  visit bigredframe.com/the-elusie-gallery. Gallery hours are Monday from 1 to 6 p.m, Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. The gallery is closed on Sunday. 

 




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