By Tyler Grezaffi
Earlier this month, I took a journey, and my vessel was the Baton Rouge Gallery. I ventured amongst the stars, traveled to another planet, met a French citizen, even contemplated my religion; and to be a bit cliché, it was all before bedtime.
The BRG had its opening reception March 4 for their latest exhibition featuring four artist members, which can be enjoyed March. Should you care for a quick preview of what I experienced on opening night, you’re welcome to follow my journey into the gallery.
I began near a wall peppered with paintings of Marcus McAllister, each containing constellations. Each canvas contains a grouping of stars blended with realistic images that seem to drift into focus within seconds of taking your first look. Saxophone music could be heard as McAllister informed me of his life in Paris, his newly acquired French citizenship, and his evolving technique. After studying fine arts at LSU, he began working with sketchbooks.
“The small frame drawings are actually pages cut from my sketchbooks,” said McAllister. “That’s the foundation. All of these constellations, all these ideas come from the sketchbooks.”
But now, let’s take a trip from the celestial to another kind of heaven. Artist Theresa Herrera was influenced by her spirituality, and Catholic scripture in her latest exhibition entitled “The Trinity.” Each painting contains a symbol linked to a verse from the Bible or actual religious figures. Nearing a threesome of her paintings, a reference to the Holy Trinity, Herrera explained how it wasn’t her intent to work in threes or triptychs.
“They were originally three separate ideas that were going to hang together, but not be as one,” she said.
I leaned in closer to study the piece that represents the Trinity. Visually, it can be likened to the sun; complete with swirling solar flares on the outer edges of a large ring, surrounding a triune that looks to be constantly in motion thanks to Herrera’s technique with the brush.Then I went to Mars. It’s hard not to let Jessica Sharpe’s installation art draw your curiosity before turning to anything else. That’s because the piece is roughly a 6-by-6 three-dimensional re-creation of a scene from the ‘80s television series Cosmos, in which astronomer Carl Sagan has tea with two children on the moon. Although in Sharpe’s interpretation, Sagan has been replaced by a live saxophonist (so that’s where the music came from), and the artist herself.
“I wanted to create some sort of experience of going to another planet. I enjoy the historical aspect of it; trying to re-create history,” said Sharpe, who plans to continue tinkering with the exhibit until its end on March 26. “I’m always changing and adding, so I’ll start getting even more detail and creating little scenes. I’ll keep working on it the whole time.”
It would be impossible not to catch a glimpse of the large, multi-media images of Preston Gilchrist hanging in the front gallery. While some works contain a mix of charcoal and paint images depicting women in the nude, the most thought-provoking piece involves a slightly darker version of the Mona Lisa, surrounded by blood red ink that seems to drip up and down.
Gilchrist started this drawing as a charcoal figure drawing, but slowly added paint over time.
“It just kept getting so encrusted with paint that the drawing disappeared,” said Gilchrist. “Almost like there’s no reason for a drawing to exist under that.”
Though he’s a bit saddened by the fact that the original sketch has been covered, the image itself still remains. As I walk away from our conversation, I spot a few remaining markings of charcoal faded away behind the dried paint.
With the dense, balancing themes of constellations, a trek to Mars, and divine influence; I will certainly have to return at least once more to take it all in. The four-person exhibition will be on display at BRG through March 26 with no admission charges during normal gallery hours Tuesday–Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.