News and information for Monday, November 20, 2006
 
Arts Almanac -- Exhibit
 BY PHOEBE MICHELL

COURTESY MO RINGEY
"Narcissivision" by artist Mo Ringey is one of several of her glass-mosaic-covered pieces on display at a show at Northampton Center for the Arts.


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Artist Mo Ringey might say the current focus of her work is about picking up the pieces of her life. She began working in tempered glass nine years ago when she discovered someone had smashed her car window outside her Boston apartment. She gathered up the shards of glass and saved them, later fashioning them into a vase.

Since then, Ringey has made tempered glass her specialty, using it to cover the surfaces of everyday domestic objects, from refrigerators to urinals, with sparkling, colorful mosaics.

Ringey writes: "Smashed glass is often associated with accident, crime, vandalism, perhaps violence. I see it as a metaphor for that part of all of us, the residue of past trauma and pain. We hardly notice other people's smashed glass and step gingerly over it, yet we see our own. We are all composed of fragments of our past experiences, present lives, hopes and dreams. Using this medium to create something new is, to me, a metaphor for healing, transforming and evolution."

Her artwork, as well as pieces in a variety of mediums by Holyoke artist Amy Johnquest, is on view at the Northampton Center for the Arts through Nov. 30.

Ringey's glass-encrusted pieces recall some of the works made famous during the Dada movement of the early 1900s, which sought to redefine what art is. Called by its proponents the "anti-art," Dada, for example, championed such pieces as Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain," which is in fact a urinal.

There's also a urinal in Ringey's exhibit, along with a Wringer washing machine, a 1950s-era television and a trio of Florence Diner stools, all covered in a glittering mosaic of glass.

Ringey makes you look at ordinary objects in a different way, but her work says more than that.

Her re-fashioned television set, for example, features a screen composed of shards of translucent glass fitted together in a mosaic with what looks like gold glue. The surface looks like the cracked sand of a desert floor, a flock of crows silhouetted against the sky or, fittingly, a smashed windshield. There's an ominous and, not surprisingly, hard-edged feel to the piece, which is heightened by a circular florescent light bulb that glows inside the otherwise empty television set.

The light bulb seems like a cheap attempt to add a little magic, a Wizard of Oz pulling the strings behind the curtain. The work suggests the fragmented visions and less-than-convincing images of reality that we view on television - often with cracks that are all too easy to see.

In the center's other exhibition room Amy Johnquest's work also has a sideshow feel with the gallery walls covered, almost from floor to ceiling, with the artist's large-scale black-and-white drawings and signature banners.

Painted on cotton mesh, her colorful banners draw from the timeworn circus tradition of larger-than-life advertising to poke holes in - or make fun of - accepted truths, or to put a new spin on well-known slogans. One banner, for example, depicts an idyllic seaside scene and this sales pitch: "Limited Time Offer - Everything Must Go."

A series of smaller banners recall the pitches of sideshow barkers, while raising, ironically, age-old metaphysical questions, with slogans like "All Secrets Revealed," "Inquire Within" and "You are Here Now. Why?"

Johnquest says her banners "blatantly advertise things that are not for sale and may not even exist ... they smack with an odd combination of tongue-in-cheek truth, invented history and sincerity."

The show is on view at the Northampton Center for the Arts, 17 New South St., third floor, through Nov. 30. Hours are Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information, call 584-7327 or visit www.nohoarts.org.

--PHOEBE MITCHELL