Powell and Tomashow’s collaborative collage exhibit at Julian Scott

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Powell and Tomashow’s collaborative collage exhibit at Julian Scott

Left to right: Leila Bandar, Peter Tomashow, David Powell

Left to right: Leila Bandar, Peter Tomashow, David Powell

Travis Leclair

Left to right: Leila Bandar, Peter Tomashow, David Powell

Travis Leclair

Travis Leclair

Left to right: Leila Bandar, Peter Tomashow, David Powell

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Artists David Powell and Peter Thomashow teamed up  at JSC to deliver the collage series “Exposition of Matter & Magnetism: The Wonders of Science Revealed.”

Their work displayed in the Julian Scott Gallery is the first of three upcoming exhibitions that bring their wonders to Vermont and New York City.

Powell is a collector and associate professor of art at SUNY-Plattsburgh; Thomashow, is a physician, collector and musician who teaches psychiatry at Dartmouth College School of Medicine.

The two met after Powell read the Cabinet Magazine article “The Old Curiosity Shop.” He tracked down Thomashow to inquire about early American electro-magnetic philosophical instruments.

The two learned that they had shared interest in the works of artists and sculptors Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp, and that they both loved to collect strange and forgotten ephemera and objects.

The two eventually began displaying their work together.

The artists’ statement written in the gallery is true in saying that their work encompasses a myriad of “mysteries and wonders,” including “childhood, electricity, space-time continuum, geometry, magnetism, human anatomy, thought experiments, carnival science, energy fields, natural history, tantric chakras, biodiversity, intelligent design, camouflage, bottle caps, toys, confetti, color theory, sub-atomic particles, extra-sensory perception, magic, scientific method, [and] evolutionary theory.

“The Wonders of Science Revealed” highlights that science and art are parallel forms of inquiry.

Powell and Thomashow visited JSC on Nov. 6 to tell more about their journeys of inquiry and collection.

Powell is more the type to visit dumps and dumpsters, sometimes striking out and sometimes finding gold. He is an artist who is fine with ripping out pages, and most of his work in this series consist of inkjet prints of images he has collaged in thought-provoking patterns, and touched up with image manipulation programs.

It took Thomashow (who began collecting magnets at age seven) longer to be able to warp objects and images. He is a man who is convinced that an object is the truest and most beautiful on its own, and that it could be blasphemy to mess this up. “It’s only been in the last five years or so that I’ve been able to use objects and take them out of their context. It was always hard to take that leap,” said Thomashow.

Over time, he became a collage artist, realizing that the simple arrangement of beautiful objects highlights their history and brings the past to life. He glues, nails, dowels and ropes his objects on wood, enclosed in glass, or in boxes that open to reveal the artistic innards. His work adds a rustic third dimension to the exhibit.

One of his works displays pieces of an old metal toy train, still holding onto speckles of the original paint. Another piece displays three dense, large paintbrushes under glass. Another is a collage of bottle caps; one displays an old set of original Crayola crayons.

My favorite Thomashow work is an assemblage within a two-framed box. On one side is a cutout of organs from an anatomy book. On the right side, Thomashow wove dozens of wires that mimic the color and shape of the exposed lungs, liver, kidney, and intestines.

Recently, Powell has been leaning towards working more with original objects and images himself, rather than with just digital representation. “There is something more seductive about the real materials being in place,” said Powell. “There’s more texture. In a sense, they feel more like time capsules, that a part of history has been salvaged or saved.”

Both artists love their work and its ability to bring to life images and objects that would otherwise remain in a dumpster or attic.

Despite their artistic differences, Thomashow said that the two artists copy each other. “Everybody deals with confidence and originality. Everybody copies everyone else, that’s what I’ve learned, because that’s what life is,” said Thomashow. “All art, which is just an expression of a way people look at the world, influences [other art].”

“Nothing’s created in a vacuum,” said Powell. “If you’re sitting around wasting time waiting for the clouds to open up and reveal some secret of the universe to you, you’re going to be waiting a long time. Nothing is created from nothing. It’s a matter of making stuff. That’s what we do, we like to make stuff, it’s our work and play, and it’s fun.”

Thomashow is an advocate for collecting and organizing. Director of the Julian Scott Gallery Leila Bandar spoke about artists creating inventory for themselves. “These are pieces that you can’t do all at once. You have to go through the process of finding, collecting, assembling, contrasting, composing,” said Bandar. “You can almost feel the sense of time it takes, in both bodies of work.”

For the artists, the assembling process is a partner with a spontaneity and openness that occurs when creating. Collecting is not about obsessing over the exact piece for a collage.

“For me, collage is almost purely recreational,” said Powell. “I never start with a blank canvas. That’s a frightening prospect- a blank page. [With collage] you always have stuff that your instantaneously reacting  to. When making collage I think it’s best to let go of the rational mind and just react to what is at hand.”

Powell’s work incorporates poetic titles such as “Mechanical Golem,” “Rabbi Juria’s Quincunx Experiment,” “21st Century Schizoid Man,” “Communicating Vessels with Magnetic Fields,” and “Babel Power.”

My favorite work of Powell’s is a series of three prints called “Graphical Analysis of Intelligent Design,” “Extreme Theory A,” and “Extreme Theory B.” The first piece displays images scanned from an old book: a cat, an ape and a hunched, prehistoric- looking man, all with red bones exposed through invisible skin, placed over a wavy matrix of red and black lines.

“Extreme Theory A” shows the cat again, this time hanging on a poster in an apartment room that is deteriorating, where outer space can been seen through the windows and cracks. An alarm clock hides in the corner as a man with red bones duals his dual image, a dark self with blue bones that stands on the ceiling.

“Extreme Theory B” shows the prehistoric man again, this time drawing onto canvas the image of the ape portrayed in “Intelligent Design.” Others in the room include Cronos, the god of time, and his wife Rhea presenting him with what seems to be their offspring. In Powell’s words, the god of time is standing in place of the alarm clock that no longer exists in the room that floats in the stars.

Thomashow and Powell’s work is in the gallery through Nov. 29.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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