Review: 'Relentless Incongruities' at the Maria Neil Art Project

Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” The father of the atomic bomb may seem like an odd starting point for an art review, but the quote perfectly describes Kristin Rogers and Pita Brooks’ Relentless Incongruities at the Maria Neil Art Project.

While the exhibition includes individual and collaborative works, Brooks and Rogers’ playfulness is a common thread. It is immediately clear how much fun they had making these works and it carries over for a very enjoyable and engaging viewing experience. While the work is strong in terms of visual aesthetics and conceptual content, it doesn’t take itself too seriously – and in doing so, allows for a much more accessible interaction with the viewer.

In a world that often takes itself far too seriously, Relentless Incongruities is both refreshing and eye-opening.

Brooks and Rogers’ work complements each other perfectly. The exhibition seamlessly blends the artists’ collaborative work and their individual pieces with a whimsical sensibility. Each work draws the viewer in, inviting you to join the fun. This playful atmosphere encourages viewers to explore the gallery for all kinds of “hidden treasures” lying just beneath the surface.

Pita Brooks’ work uses encaustic wax to create diorama-like three-dimensional landscapes. By adding tiny people to these miniature worlds, Brooks invites the viewer to create a narrative for the figures. Who are these people? Where are they from? Why are they here? How do they relate to us? The questions are endless, and no answer is right or wrong.

Kristin Rogers’ work features colorful, found object assemblages. Many of the works have additional sensory elements like speakers, lights and kinetic motion. The works appear simultaneously de-constructed and re-constructed; reborn, yet unfinished. Through his choice of materials, Rogers’ assemblages are both intimately familiar and completely foreign.

A small, red speaker from one of Rogers’ pieces softly blows the sound of wind through tiny trees in a miniature, encaustic forest in a nearby work by Brooks. Rogers’ candy dishes reverts the viewer back to childhood, inviting us to indulge all our senses in the experience.

The artists’ individual work aids the viewer in guessing which elements of the collaborative works were done by each artist. Upon first inspection, the entire exhibition almost appears to be done by one artist. However, by the end of the experience, each voice becomes clear.

In the center of the gallery Brooks and Rogers have created an L-shaped temporary wall that features a number of collaborative works interacting with this construction – a collaborative candy dish spins through the wall, while a semi-transparent work appears to be backlit through the wall. Below, a hole in the wall stuffed with pink insulating material sits a few inches from the ground. Somehow, even stuffed in a wall, it seems to resemble cotton candy more than building material in this context.

The path around the gallery allows the viewer to see this structure from all sides. In doing so, the journey reveals how the works interact with the world around them. These works don’t simply exist; they have a presence and a story to tell. What that story is, is up to you. The more time you spend with them, the more you’ll get out of these works. Stop by the Maria Neil Art Project soon and see for yourself.

Relentless Incongruities runs through Apr. 19. Stop by the Maria Neil Art Project this Friday, Apr. 3 for Walk All Over Waterloo from 5 to 10 p.m. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

(Maria Neil Art Project) 15813 Waterloo Rd., 216-481-7722,
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