Rockford College is currently featuring an exhibition of mixed media photography by artist Gabriela Morawetz in the Clark Arts Center.
This is not a cheerful show, but an excellent one, the type of work that makes the viewer think carefully about what they are seeing. Morawetzs work is eerie, dark, and primordial. Done mostly large scale, her photomontages are murky and full of shadow. On closer inspection, the viewer can see the multi-layered surface of the canvas, implying more depth than offered by its flat surface.
Some pieces in the exhibition evoke surreal organisms, those that would seem fitting in a Joel Peter Witkin piece, although not as nightmarish. Still Life, a series of eight photographs on canvas, is much more than its title indicates. The photographic images are constructed from many others, molded into a single subject by the creator.
The everyday, inanimate subjects of a typical still life are reconstructed here into alien forms akin to organs and roots. Perhaps what is so disturbing about the images in the series is how they subvert the viewers expectations: seeing signs of growth and movement where it is not expected is jarring, to say the least.
Other works concern structures both natural and man made, including the dimensions of space and time. In some pieces, structure appears figuratively, as in the references to time in the series Fragment de la duree. Here, in a series of three canvases that suggest a white dress or cloth with quotes, geometric shapes, and dark holes, the experience of viewing the work becomes part of the artists construct. Time becomes part of the work.
Morawetz uses construction literally in her layered surfaces and geometric grass forms seen in Lights Fantastic, which play against the organic line of the grasses and natural landscape setting. The mathematical form constructed among the random and natural gives a sense of the artist as a primordial god in the process of creating.
A sign of quality in any creative work is how much meaning can be discovered in it, something that is always welcome in art. Morawetz is an artist with the rare ability to challenge her viewers while still remaining accessible.