SEPTEMBER 18, 2003
Artist Trinity Unites Somewhere in Hell
By Stephanie Geerlings
Andrea Stravrakakis's "It's not like killing someone if they are already dead."


he world is full of art and meaning. Of course, a deep sense of purpose is not always the most sought-after goal under the guilt of capitalism. You'd almost expect a Zen koan for capitalism to read, "How does one catch a goldfish with an expensive art pot?"

The Left Bank Gallery's “New Directions” exhibit yielded three judged winners for the “New Works” show, which runs Sept. 3 through Sept. 27. The artist reception will take place on the Gallery Stroll, Sept. 19, from 6 to 9 p.m.

The three artists squirm uncomfortably in the accidentally-shrunken-scratchy-wool-sweater sort of way. It is the perfect example that hell is other people.

Michael Bernard and Andrea Stavrakakis share a dark potency concerning the fragility of life and Augenblick transformation. Myron Willson, a potter, does not add to the edgy pensive atmosphere through his sculptural vessels.

The exploited personal experience is mismatched with the high design form-first ceramics. Willson's formal design explores the container as a reverent piece of art. There is a meditative space made during the bending of soft clay and the light reflected from the glassy glaze. They are not the kind of pots that will shake you out of your comfort zone, but that's not what sells, either.

  "Are you my mother?" expresses the catastrophe of detachment in everyday life.

Nice pots, very nice pots.

In another similar world is working artist Stavrakakis. She has been intaglio printing for at least 12 years and received a degree in integrated study in art history, visual art and women’s studies from Weber State University.

"I am very lucky that everywhere I have been so far has an accessible print studio," she said. In New Orleans, she learned to blow glass while she continued her love for printmaking on a pre-Civil War press.

The printmakers are the clever ones. Stavrakakis’ vineyard of personal life-changing events keeps her in tune to life and creating art. Her wit and thoughtfulness show through her mastery of titling her works.

"It's not like killing someone if they are already dead" is a piece that resonates in the lonely corridors where psychopathic lethargy builds stone walls around our emotional unavailability. She keeps the production down to about three prints each. There is no reason to mass-produce these sentimental one-time occurrences.

"Trickle" depicts the person-on-a-pedestal idiom trickling down the small but addictive leftovers to the tormented lover. Stavrakakis' pieces have a looming effect that pulls and sloshes the gravity of conscience. Before her ink is dry, the resemblance of her generalized images acting out specific situations can be seen in many facets of any human life. She has displayed her works often around the country.

Bernard’s paintings are not for the weak of stomach or the weak of heart. It is an especially deranged experience, if you happen to be ornithophobic. The many lacquered dead birds on the paintings and in the photographs run the gamut of life for Bernard. "The bird corners everything from death to life to sex to fragility," he said. "I have mastered acrylic. I know all of its tricks.”

His paintings with deep fleshy natural colors make it hard to believe it is acrylic. He uses rags instead of brushes, which puts him closer to the process. Bernard is looking for a rhythm in color and texture.

The last time I saw Bernard, he was reading “The Uncanny” by Sigmund Freud.

”Medusa’s Neck,” a piece about the “psychological signifier of the female castration complex,” is also about the impotence of too much analysis, a fault that dehumanizes experience by overgeneralizing.

Though Bernard mocks the overdone psychoanalysis, he is always partaking in his own critical skeptical analysis of sex, gender roles, love, doom and the mysterious man in the back alley.

In his scrawled hand he writes poetic titles on his paintings. “I don't like those little card things," he said, condemning placards in humorous disdain. The painting is all it needs to be. However, Bernard’s insightful titles gets one thinking on the right track.

He will get you contemplating your existence, even if you are more of a decorative arts kind of person.

The Left Bank Gallery is located at 242 S. 200 West and it is open 5:30 -9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

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