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Colin Dabkowski on The Artists Among Us

Friday, May 25, 2012

The ArtistsAmong Us II
by Colin Dabkowski

Through Aug. 26 in Burchfield Penney Art Center

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There’s something intoxicating about walking into the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s east gallery and seeing the work of 665 visual artists in a kaleidoscopic array along the curve of its towering white wall. This overwhelming visual sensation is the foremost achievement of The Artists Among Us II, the Burchfield Penney’s second members’ exhibition. A grandiose display of Western New York’s creative output, it is also a declaration — the latest in a series—of the museum’s oversized dedication to Western New York artists.

It’s best to treat this show as a low-pressure chance to survey a certain segment of artistic creation in Western New York, to marvel at its breadth and diversity, to latch on to new obsessions and soften your grip on old ones. Members’ shows, large and small, are deeply personal affairs for which you need not dutifully examine every last painting and photograph. Just let your eye alight on an object that moves something in you, let it linger there for a few moments or more, and move on.

Here were a few of the many places mine landed:

Swarm Complexity, an intricate sculpture by an artist identified as Formiers that evokes both a beehive and a wormhole. Sara M. Zak’s painting Upon the Exodus, which seems a potent meditation on blight and contains a dark and bubbling beauty. Perfect little trompe l’oeils by the master painter John Yerger and his gifted student Coni Minneci. Sean Huntington’s ethereal watercolor of a sycamore tree. Bethany Krull’s humorous and self-descriptive sculpture Cricket Death Match. Ani Hoover’s ominous square bed of flowers expertly sculpted from bicycle-tire rubber. These pieces, and so many more, add up to far more beauty and fascination than a single afternoon could possibly contain.