“Borderlands” Explores the Vast Unknown at the Kaiser Gallery in Tremont

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click to enlarge “Borderlands” Explores the Vast Unknown at the Kaiser Gallery in Tremont
Kimberly Wetzel - Winter Frequency

Guest curated by Karen Petkovic, an artist and Artistic Director of BAYarts, "Borderlands" is a group exhibition at the Kaiser Gallery that calls upon the artists to “navigate the fine line between frontier and wasteland."

Grasping at a sense of austerity and desolation, this show begs to see what surfaces from a gifted lineup of artists that includes David Borawski, Brut Carniollus, Michael Greenwald, Scott Groeniger, Jeremy Jones, Anne Manley, Raheleh Mohammad, Lily Rodriguez, Kritsen R. Simonsen, Kimberly Wetzel, Will Wilson, and Kristen T. Woodward.

“I connected with Kaiser during Covid when Tanya Kaiser was new to the neighborhood,” said Petkovic. “I am on the board of the CAN Journal and always interested in new galleries and new folks to the Cleveland art scene. I reached out and met at the gallery and was hoping that when things started to take shape with the gallery I would be able to do something there with Tanya.”

Petkovic works primarily in oil and mixed-media collages using drawings, specialty papers, painting and photographs to create a layered effect. She says that natural settings and the human form are her preferred subjects. Her work at BAYarts has shed light on the work of many talented artists from the region.

“The title for 'Borderlands' comes from a place based on my own work as a painter,” said Petkovic. “I am most interested in scenes that are beautiful but also vacant in some way — there is often an emptiness in wide open spaces, or empty structures, abandoned places — and I wanted to see how other artists would approach this theme.”

Borderlands can simply mean the place where civilization and the wild frontier converge, but is often used figuratively to describe a person or persons living on the on the borderland of society or a vague transitional province. It can also imply a state of one’s psyche like the borderland between fantasy and reality, or between sleep and waking life.

In the work "Winter Frequency" by Kimberly Wetzel, using charcoal on vellum, the artist captures what looks to be an abstract landscape of a forest mountain-scape as seen from behind a cascading waterfall or through a snow storm. Either way the view is blurred, disjointed and abstracted where the trees become our main concrete reference to what we are seeing. The balance between positive and negative space offers a careful asymmetry and the movement of the lines feels somewhat frantic, while at the same time depicting a certain tranquility and sereneness.

“The fine line between frontier and wasteland asks artists really to look at how they approach what they are painting,” said Petkovic. “Are we seeing the world through hopeful eyes or are we so overwhelmed by the world and the current challenges that we depict scenes based on that? I think both are valid and wanted to see where the artists would take it.”

In the acrylic piece “Bear” by Michael McDonnell, he depicts a lone lamp post adjacent to a trail leading off to a highway overpass surrounded by overgrowth of grass and weeds. There is a lot of white space surrounding what we see, as if portions of this reality have been omitted. It is a snap shot of a moment and the viewer is confronted immediately with why are we seeing this perspective? What or who is along this trail, under this overpass? The overpass and the lamp post are indications of society, but we are on the uncertain fringe where odd things can occur.

“Borderlands” Explores the Vast Unknown at the Kaiser Gallery in Tremont (2)
Michael McDonnell - Bear

Kaiser has been expanding their roster of artists and curators offering a variety of work from more-established as well as early and mid-career artists. As a novel approach, Kaiser also curates artisanal cocktails as a sidecar to the artwork itself.
The hip little space also dabbles in eclectic programing, presenting periodic poetry readings, events such as drag bingo (Saturday, Sept. 24), and more.

The opening reception for the show is set for Friday, Sept. 9, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Kaiser Gallery (2418 Professor Ave.) and the exhibition will remain on view through  Oct 2.
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