Fall at the University of Tennessee’s Downtown Gallery has been off to a showy start with a university-centric exhibition, Everything Shines. The gallery offers a split show that is, in fact, quite shiny: UT professor of painting Marcia Goldenstein and painter Julia Jacquette, who served as artist-in-residence at UT in 1995.
The exhibition centers around light and the way we manipulate it to create desire, visual studies of the experiences we make. Goldenstein treads softly through humble matters with her paintings of suburban night scenes (shrubs and streets, a dog on a leash), small, snapshot-like pictures rendered hazily that stray toward an equally unfocused sentimentality. She hits cleaner notes in her landscapes, where large swaths of cool-toned skies never quite dominate the street lights and car beams below. Looking up seems to be Goldenstein’s specialty, and her 50 small paintings of jet vapor trails that puff and glow in every condition cap off an uneven collection with, whatever else it may be, a pleasant formal exercise.
Jacquette’s paintings take more pointed stabs at the images we create, advertising in particular. Round reflective bubbles and a glass of whiskey caught in direct spotlight (everything polished and markedly out of context) bob and weave around the point. Her hair series strikes the sharpest blow, as eight small panels hang in a row—all glossy strands of superficial and obviously limited (read: white) varieties, from “Blond Hair – Long” to “Brunette Curls I”—and culminate in “Red Brown Curls (Purple Sweater)” and “Red Brown Curls (Lips).” It’s in these last two that the point is driven home, a snatch of the parenthetical items being almost all we can see of the bearer of the hair, revealing only enough to insert ourselves into the hollow fantasy. In desiring the object, we momentarily annihilate ourselves.
Everything Shines is the second of a three-part series that pairs a current UT professor with a former UT artist-in-residence. Last month, the first installment of the series was also concerned with brilliance: a cluster of Pamela Fraser’s canvases each contained three blocks of ethereal neutral tones that, depending upon your shifting position in the gallery, would shimmer, turn flat, then mute themselves into barely-there brush strokes (if you bothered to stand that near to the wall, that is). It was a neat trick. Almost as catchy as UT Professor David Wilson’s wall painting—small squares in shocking yellow, pink, and orange, with jaunty cerulean, covered around 12 feet of wall and shouted a welcome no matter where you stood.
The final leg of the series opens Nov. 5, featuring painter Carrie Moyer and UT assistant professor Jered Sprecher. Both work in larger canvases and numerous layers, but more than that, it promises to be a somewhat fresher combination, with Moyer’s loaded images flirting with abstraction and Sprecher’s rigid lines suggesting potential animation. While the Downtown Gallery’s series has paved the way with flash and spark, the evidence suggests they may have saved the best for last.