Four video artists imbue a corner of the Academy Art Museum with motion pictures that invite you to supply your personal interpretations of installations ranging in form from multi-sensory to multi-screen.
As we entered the down-the-hall gallery space on the opening day of the Moveable Image exhibit, the front-door entry piece, Shala Miller’s “Mrs. Lovely,” was dark and silent, paused between 10-minute, 44-second continuous loops. So we moved on to the next alcove, Rachel Schmidt’s “Vanishing Points,” a 2020 triptych of stained-glass styled video windows framed in plastic trash, including takeout packaging and cheap sunglasses gilded in mixed-ink printer gold. While seated on a plush bench with a faux oriental rug at our feet, we viewed, TV-style, a video of human encroachment on nature. Ragged clothing hung from forested tree branches while prairie grassland rising to mountain vistas suggested climate-changing residue. Seen are rushing water lapping halfway up a street-level speed sign, dead fish left high and dry, and mining wastes piled up at the foot of a semi-decapitated mountain.
In the next room, Shannon Collis and Liz Donadia’s “Moving Still,” from 2021, garners scenes from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and other regional landmarks as a meditation inspired by Edwin Denby’s 1954 essay “Dancers, Buildings, and People in the Street.” Set to a quadraphonic soundtrack, the movement of rippling water and streaming clouds overlay everyday video imagery projected on rectangular shapes mimicking an urban skyline.
Re-emerging at the exhibit entrance, we found Shala Miller in mid-performance of her haunting love and love-lost soliloquy entrancingly delivered through a darkened window at the top of an antique stand-alone door. As “Mrs. Lovely,” Miller delivers a monologue about her absent, possibly abusive lover to viewers who she mistakes for confidantes, dropping such lines as “he says every woman is too much trouble these days” and “I hate poetry. It’s the language of the weak.” Miller seems just on the verge of roping us into an affair that would be none of our business even if we hadn’t just met “Mrs. Lovely.”
Also recently opened at the Eastern Shore’s only fully accredited art museum are the Werner Drewes Retrospective, featuring groundbreaking abstract prints by the former Work Projects Administration artist, plus Academy Retrospectives on WPA Artists. My review of these important shows can be found elsewhere on this Spy website.
Meanwhile, in the newly refurbished Saul Atrium galleries, which occupy the hallway separating the two main downstairs galleries from its upstairs art space, you’ll find Zoe Friedman’s “Sentient Forest.” This artwork is an ode to the recent birth of her first child and animates the inviting entry passageway off the Harrison Street courtyard with large-scale, brightly colored, and layered illustrations of a crouching tiger and lurching alligator along with a pair of jungle-lolling parrots and a towering couple of giraffes pointing the way toward art just one more flight up the stairs. Each playful image, far more than lifesize in the case of the birds and imposing enough with respect to the carnivores and the docile long-necks, is enhanced by three-dimensional lighting geometrics. On a smaller, home-scale dimension, check out the limited edition prints of each “Sentient Forest” resident signed by the artist.
Please remember that masks are still required indoors at Academy Arts, and as always, admission is free on Thursday.
Through March 6, Academy Museum of Art, 106 South St., Easton. Free open house reception 4-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 13. 410-822-2787, academyartmuseum.org
Steve Parks is a retired arts critic now living in Easton.