Art Review: ArtScene perfect showcase of art

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-112854223912699.jpg’, ‘Photo by Susan Webb Tregay’, ‘Artist Katherine Martin stands next to one of her pieces at the Paragon Restaurant during ArtScene in downtown Rockford. The piece is a man’s suit and tie made up of childish pajama flannel. Displayed on a headless dress form, she seemed to be making a comment about the arrested development of our government officials.’);

Rockford’s annual ArtScene was the perfect way to enjoy the work, the company and insights of the city’s artists. While the local daily announced that “Art can be found all over town—FOR FREE [my emphasis],” we artists beg to differ. Art is for sale. Supporting these artists will enrich your lives as well as theirs. Artists’ studios have repeatedly developed decaying areas of cities. Artists are good for the city of Rockford’s health, too. By supporting them, you will be investing in your city.

That being said, ArtScene may be over, but the art continues. Many of ArtScene’s venues are in restaurants and will be on display for a few more weeks. All artists can be contacted with just a phone call. Art is a lonely profession; we love company. Studio visits are always welcome. Call. Art is available—and, yes, for sale—year-round.

My ArtScene evening began at Octane (124 N. Main St.) with Valerie Olafson’s exhibit “Urban/Urbane.” Val’s urban photos are not of buildings, but of the people that make Rockford colorful. A terrific, large photo of a ladies’ restroom at the Olympic shows someone off to the side, walking out of the picture I was reminded of the quick conversations and camaraderie I have developed with strangers while washing my hands. This piece makes me thankful for the other women in my life.

At the Paragon Restaurant across the street (205 W. State St.), we ran into Katherine Martin. Her conceptual pieces blew me away. One was vaguely airplane-shaped and made out of bent and burned dinner knives. OK, her work is there to make you think… These knives had United Airlines logos on them. Evidently, millions of them ended up in resale shops after 9/11, and were replaced by plastic ones in business class. We in the peon class may never have noticed, though, because we still ate our pretzels with our fingers.

Another of Kat’s pieces was a man’s suit and tie made up of childish pajama flannel. Displayed on a headless dress form, she seemed to be making a comment about the arrested development of our government officials.

Our final stop of the evening was at the Underground Studios (2110 11th St.), which is actually on the third floor of a factory building, where I saw some of my first truly enthralling videos. Since videos came into the art world, I have suffered though many of them. But these were fascinating.

One of Paul Harvey Oswald’s videos showed a Rubic’s Cube. While there aren’t too many icons of the ’80s, this toy is one of them. It was a simpler time. Having just come off the Vietnam War, we were a peace-loving nation, stung by what had happened there, and wiser for it. The Rubic’s Cube begins by displaying nine American flags and the narrator reads off nine Anglo-Saxon names, then a panel of three squares rotates to reveal three Israeli flags with three Israeli names. Eventually, a row of question marks shows up, then three peace symbols rotate into view, and so on. In the last minutes of the video, Rubic’s Cube is solved. It now displays nine question marks, and the narrator reads off nine names of indeterminate nationalities. We are a diverse nation.

ArtScene may be only one weekend a year, but quality art is a year-round experience. Take advantage of it.

Susan Webb Tregay can be reached via e-mail at

From the Oct. 5-11, 2005, issue

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