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Escape From Reality

Collage displays at Ventura College offer abstraction with visual intrigue.


Collage is the thing at the Ventura College art galleries this month, with two distinctly different post-paste-up artists showing their wares. But, as the shows confirm, it's a medium with various potential messages attached.

Jan Kunkle's notion of collage accentuates the visual and poetic gymnastics involved, playing with our perceptions along the way.

She works with the fine, but not necessarily polished art of joining fragments of images into a new whole, but tends to lean toward abstraction in the process. Just when we relate in a rational way to a small segment of a piece, other elements cast rational responses to the wind. It's that kind of art.

Her work tends to be kinetic and layered, to the point of looking overly busy, but it's always with an artful, purposeful bent.

Shapes, angles and vivid colors intrude on one another, as if in a cut 'n' paste conversation dense with truncated ideas, half-finished sentences and interruptions galore. What grabs us is the energy and visual intrigue at the core.

The mosaic-like conversation angle can be carried over to the content here, as in "Dinner Party," with disjointed bits of imagery--food and decor, the stuff of socializing.

But the dizzy blend of visual stimuli could also be interpreted as the bubbling din of multiple conversations in a given space.

Objects from distant worlds converge in "Worlds," with assorted grates, a stove top, a black and white rose, and a modular high-rise building resembling a house of cards.

These are worlds of varying scale and function, here reduced to visual pieces of a puzzle.

Kunkle further nudges her work away from the real, corporeal world by manipulating it with oil/dye emulsion transfers onto canvas for large pieces that have been painted over.

One of these larger works is "Origami," which could be viewed as an ode from one medium involving folding and metamorphosing to another.

In "Rendezvous," we find the almost cliched remnants of romantic interaction--the standard wooing equipment of roses, wine, soft fabric, but all tossed into a crazed salad of visual material that seems to gently spoof the suggestion of its title.

The real rendezvous in the piece, and in Kunkle's work, generally, is the happy collision of elements, in a peculiar and charming world of the artist's own imagining.

Unreal, Take Two: Over in the New Media Gallery, Ruth Terrill draws on the devices of collage to veer toward a different sort of escape from reality.

She freely indulges in the surreal juxtapositions of imagery to make her points--sometimes making her points at the expense of subtlety.

Mixing things both innocent and sinister, regenerative and destructive, she includes in her bank of recurring motifs eggs, guns, skulls, clocks, flowers, cages, cityscapes and money.

These images are snatched out of any traditional context and pasted together into little parables of earthly dread.

The work, which sometimes assumes Biblical, Apocalyptic resonance, can be ham-fisted in its suggestions of impending doom.

A little more humor or poetic detachment would have lightened the load.


* Jan Kunkle, "Urban Landscapes," and Ruth Terrill, "Visual Essays in Collage," through Oct. 30 at the Ventura College art galleries, 4667 Telegraph Road, Ventura. Call gallery for hours; (805) 648-8974.

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