Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Waiting Room: Craft and Wellness at the Central Library Gallery

By Vallo Riberto

Judith Christensen, NEW YORK BLINDS II



Waiting Room is a richly appointed exhibition curated by Bonnie Domingos, with eighteen artisans crafting an array of metaphorically, symbolic art objects that to one degree or another make conceptual or representational references to the exhibition’s theme, emotional and physical illness, suffering, healing and wellness. 


The waiting room theme is the curator’s metaphor for; “those liminal spaces that often invite introspection into our mental, emotional and physical worlds.”


Most of the work in this show moves between representational imagery to abstractions and conceptual and was created my members of the Allied Craftsmen of San Diego, with four exceptions, Michelle Montjoy, Christian Garcia Olive, and collaborators Victoria Fu and Matt Rich.

Judith Christensen,
 NEW YORK BLINDS II  (above) is on the conceptual side and is a large installation of hanging, folded paper. A series of folded paper strips are meant to act as window treatments, and attached to the many folds are a long list of unrelated, autonomous proclamations and statements like: “The white lotus season finale..,” “ All vacations come to an end..,” “ California mega storm, a different Big One is approaching ..”, or, “Cheney goes down, and more results from last night.” Randomly culled from newspaper clippings, put together cut and pasted, William Burrows fashion, a linguistic cacophony, to be read in any order, but instead of a Naked Lunch, we’re presented with a Rear Window view of urbane communiques that will “affect our personal health and well-being and the well-being of the culture.”  This work contains individual affirmations of trust and mistrust, anxiety ridden provocations, murder and mayhem, with an occasional, positive human interest story.

Linda Litteral, EVOCATIONS, 2022. 

Linda Litteral, EVOCATIONS, 2022.   At the opposite end of the room and opposite in application, another large, hanging installation, Evocations is a representational work with an array of small, ceramic faces, thin, shallow cupped forms with a glazed face on the convex side and on the concave side, child-like, graffito including a variety of imagery that reference repetitive, childhood sexual abuses. Hanging in alternating sections and rows are dark and light faces of different hues to represent the whole, with hallow or closed eyes, symbols for the silence that is the mode that allows the abuses to continue. 



Maggie Sasso and Adam John Manley, Mutually Assured, 2022

Maggie Sasso and Adam John Manley, Mutually Assured, 2022. Mutually Assured from the collaborative duo, is a thought-provoking object “born out of the stacked personal and societal anxieties of the past three years.”  Mutually Assured is a masterfully crafted wooden replica of a WW ll underwater “Naval” mine, decked out with colorful, intricately woven warning flags, alerting viewers to the object’s potential dangers. This work speaks volumes to the exhibitions theme -  the naval mine floats massively just below the water’s surface -  a perfect metaphor for “the many festering threats” that challenge modern societies.

Warren Bakley, Disease, , 2022

Warren Bakley, Dominance, Destruction, Disease, and Death, 2022.  Another work that aptly addresses the shows protocols is the very accomplished ceramic art with very powerful, stoneware, grouping of four, apocalyptic horsemen This work above, my personal choice,  is titled Disease, 2020 as a reference to Covid. Excellently crafted and well conceived, the forms are muted in color, reinforcing their intended meanings.  Disease, the hauntingly, ghostly grey rider - sophisticated simplicity with a chilling silent presence, and deceptively monumental in form.  This modest sculpture could easily be scaled up for public art as a fitting tribute to the San Diegans who lost their lives to Covid 19. Formalistically the work reminds me of Rodin’s heroic portrait of Balzac in the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. 


Victoria Fu and Matt Rich, Purple Potato and 13 Holes2022

Victoria Fu and Matt Rich, Purple Potato and 13 Holes, 2022.  In this collaborative work, two large aprons are hung side by side, physically connected by a thin, fabric, binding material that circumnavigates both aprons before hanging to the sides of each object as binding ties for wearing. One of the aprons takes the form of a house a child would draw, rectangular lower portion with an A line roof. The lower portion has 13 large holes neatly cut into it with other fabric elements and a plant frond attached loosely across the openings.  Ms. Fu’s Purple Potato is simpler in appearance with only one pointer-like decoration.  This work makes a rather obtuse reference to domestic or institutional care giving and the aprons worn by medical researchers in the lab.

Michelle Montjoy,  Sweater.

Michelle Montjoy,  Sweater.   Montjoy is a well-known San Diego artist and deeply respected for her knitted constructions Sweater is classic Montjoy, completed a few years back.  You can almost feel the warmth and healing effects of this work. 

Kathy Nida, Doctors Orders, 2023.

Kathy Nida, Doctors Orders, 2023. Nida created a large, and powerful protest work of finely quilted images, admonishing the medical profession for the way many of its practitioners handle certain women’s cases, especially women of color and women trapped in a cycle of poverty.  Nida’s fierce protagonist encircles her arms in a protective stance around a group of women, keeping them out of harm’s way from the menacing hands of a male doctor who is insensitive to the real needs and care of the women. This work skillfully illustrates the impact of the curator’s message about health and wellness and long, emotional periods in the waiting room.   

Polly Jacobs, Giacchina, 2023.

Polly Jacobs, Giacchina, 2023. Jacobs created a wall relief of four open weave, nest-like forms that represent security in all of its various manifestations; safety, shelter and protection, absolute necessities for the healing process. 

Gail Schneider, Tundra2023.

Gail Schneider, Tundra2023.  The artist states “A response to the problem of Global Warming, I have made these pieces of white brick to give the pieces a permanence that does not exist in nature but is a material with artistic and ancestral importance in human life” Tundra represents the curious forms of snow covered trees in the arctic region. Moderate in scale these art objects express a monumental quality.  

Kathleen Mitchell, Chrysalis2022. 

Kathleen Mitchell, Chrysalis2022.   Each layer of material, from the heavy, spiked metal base and the barbed wire to the fragile blown and carved glass, documents a personal journey. Chrysalis, a state of impending flight, expresses the rise from a dark, heavy depressive state to eventual liberation. This is a tour de force act of courage and fortitude! 

Charlotte Bird’s, Wonder.

Charlotte Bird’s, Wonder.   Shinrin-yoku or "forest bathing” is a stress reduction strategy to slow down.  This strategy lies at the heart of lovely, memory book Wonder an accordion fold book with mixed media images of rocks and stones collected on the artist’s forays into the arctic wilderness.

Richard Burkett, TheCure 1 , The Cure 2

Richard Burkett, TheCure 1 , The Cure 2.  Mounted on two, thick, saw toothed shelves are a series of three each, small Ceramic and found vessels with ornate luster glazes and surface treatments referencing the high cost of medical research and treatment.  

Ross Stockwell, 2D-3D, 2023

Ross Stockwell, 2D-3D, 2023 is a finely crafted walnut, ash and canary wood sculpture. “A 3D interpretation of a 2D logo for Sarah’s Kitchen, a vegetarian restaurant.” 2D-3D is representative of the more abstract interpretations of the curator’s title, and we must assume the intention here is good health through good eating.

Christian Garcia Olivo, Untitled White on Pearlescent Green, 2020

Christian Garcia Olivo,  Untitled White on Nacreous, 2020

Christian Garcia Olivo, Untitled White on Pearlescent Green and Untitled White on Nacreous both from 2020.  Intricately woven strands of thin, white acrylic pigment and yes, you read it correctly, (woven acrylic pigment!). These works are totally abstract in style and therefore the most difficult to read in relationship to the exhibition's theme of wellness. The only clue we are given in the artist’s statement: “Within history, marginalized groups and forms of art have been “recognized,” brought to the surface and semi “liberated” but still controlled/manipulated to maintain a categorical identity. This tension is a powerful reminder that in understanding ourselves and the surrounding world we must question our own understanding, perception, and true reality.”

Waiting Room
Central Library Gallery
9th Floor, 330 Park Blvd.,
San Diego, CA 92101
Mon/Tues: 1 – 7pm
Wednesday/Thurs/Fri: 12 - 5pm
Saturday: 12 - 5pm Sunday: closed


Vallo Riberto is the Alliance Studio Visit Program Chair, a support group of the Oceanside Art Museum. He is an Independent curator, Oceanside Museum of Art, and the Bonita Museum of Art and Culture, the Zone Contemporary Art Gallery, Osaka, Japan and is on the Exhibition Advisory Committee, San Diego Public Library Gallery
valloriberto@gmail.com 619.603.2214



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