Most of the imaginative worlds in this group show are so well made that formal and conceptual content seems beside the point. That’s especially true of Steve Hough’s carved and painted polymer relief: It mimics a concentric wave rippling on a liquid surface with the slick perfection of an automobile body. Whatever its significance to minimalism, craftsmanship is what makes it unforgettable. In some ways, Dana Oldfather’s “Chrysanthemum” is even better made, as her painterly marks feel both wanton and perfect. Usually, her abstract painting does not resemble anything in the natural world, but I recognized this piece as floral even before reading the title. It’s a flower as experienced by a pollinating insect, which is to say: it’s irresistible.
Many other pieces in the show offer pleasure, but usually with some ambivalence. Gregory Jacobsen’s “Glowing Garbage Aggregate” is equally beautiful and repulsive, like the dissection of a freshly killed animal. Renee McGinnis’ “Flower Power Park” whimsically contrasts the grim geometry of an industrial facility with high chroma foliage that may or may not be plastic. Justin Henry Miller’s “Voodoo Shroom” is a colorful, hyper-realistic depiction of a mushroom. Accompanied by scary bones and a ghostly face, it’s appealingly toxic. Suzy Poling’s color-enhanced photograph of a geyser presents that part of nature that appears the least natural. Amanda Elizabeth Joseph paints flowers in the crotch of a tree–or is it a human body? Are the flowers to be enjoyed, or do they conceal something both shameful and alluring? Brandice Guerra paints an opossum sniffing a lovely orange nasturtium as if a beady-eyed, sharp-toothed person was enjoying his garden.
Best of all, Amy Casey paints aerial views of a dollhouse city in five consecutive panels. Designed to hang diagonally above a stairway, a torrent of blue water cascades down from rooftop water tanks, flowing from the upper left to lower right of each painting. It’s absurd, fanciful, and strangely appealing—executed with the loving precision of medieval miniatures. It may be too congested and damp, but it’s the one para-natural world I could enter and never leave. (Chris Miller)
“Para Natural World” shows through February 28 at Zg Gallery, 300 West Superior.