Art Review: '2020 Visions' artists address Rockford's future

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11097800562513.jpg’, ‘Photo by Susan Webb Tregay’, ‘Lee Sido's "In the Box" is one of many local pieces of artwork on display at Rockford Art Museum's "2020 Visions" show.’);

The Rockford Art Museum has again opened its doors to the visions and talents of the city’s artists. In its new show, “2020 Visions,” it asks them to imagine the city 15 years from now. Though one wonderful video mocks this, artists are not gypsy fortune tellers. We are citizens, and we care about the environment that we have come to live in. Artists, or rather our art, has much to say and many lessons to teach. So listen up.

“Flux,” a sophisticated triptych by Margo Shryack-Pagh, has an industrial feel to it–metallic, slate, and worn and burnished paint. The first two panels evoke Rockford’s past and present, but the third one looks into the future. It is a lovely, red eye-chart with the letter “E” facing this way and that. Suspended from the panel by long strings are old eyeglasses. But they have no lenses, no focus. In this edgy piece, Shryack-Pagh is asking the city for focus, not dreams and schemes.

Lee Sido may be the person to go to for frank discussion and insight. Sido’s ironic work is thought-provoking and pointed. Lying on the floor in the middle of the gallery is a guy in a box. The legs that stick out of the box may be fiberglass with an iron patina, but, to me, they symbolize the homeless who make downtown their home. Caring for these people, finding them living space, storage, jobs and recreation, is essential for Rockford’s future.

Sido and Shari Grace address the river as barrier and a dividing line, when, as Grace puts it in her artist statement, it should be a beacon. Her tranquil stained-glass box prickles with glass rods for the river and a few tall buildings. It is lit from within–a beacon. But a beacon needs to be clean. Frankly, sewerage is discharged into the river, and logs are dragged to the middle until they drift downstream and become someone else’s problem. Make the river a clean beacon. It is our best resource.

Some art work addresses the big box/fast food mania that is becoming problematic throughout our country. Michelle Door stacks three postcards in her work, “Corporate Alien Takeover.” Each is intricately manipulated to incorporate signs and logos of the store chains that you all love best–in and around the Symbol, the trolley and the river bank. She is warning us. This piece should hang in city hall.

Under it could go Adriana Villagomez’s ceramic sculpture, “?!?.” Question, explore and excite, and question again. Redevelopment is a cyclical process that needs constant evaluation.

The second question mark in her piece is upside down, and in doing this, she addresses both balance in the artwork and another vital point. City planners need to get input from all of its communities, Hispanic, African American and the rest. Balance.

Several architects’ work graces the exhibition. Beguiling all by themselves, they are full of dreams done in a professional and somehow believable way. They contrast the ideas presented by many of the artists, which some considered “negative.” But the viewers are wrong; much of the work is meant to be a warning. Know your city. Choose what is right for it. Work on the obvious problems first. Be wary of dreams.

“2020 Visions” extends through May 1 at the Rockford Art Museum, 711 N. Main St. The artwork is for sale through the museum. Its hours are Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sunday noon-5 p.m. Admission is $3, children and students are free, Thursdays are free for everyone. Phone: 968-2787.

Susan Webb Tregay is a writer and artist whose work can be found in “2020 Visions.”

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