Looking inward and outward

Andrea Lynn Santos's 'Asylum' at GRIN; Stephan Brigidi's 'The City' at Gallery Z
By GREG COOK  |  October 30, 2013

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SEEKING SHELTER Santos's 'Asylum.'

Andrea Lynn Santos’s art feels as if it’s tuning into some secret magic in the natural world. If you remain silent and don’t make any sudden moves, you might catch a glimpse of a certain light on frosted mountains or hear mice skittering under the floor.

In her show “Asylum” at GRIN (60 Valley St, Providence, through November 15), Santos, who is currently residing at AS220, seems entranced by the way long hair falls (in her aquatint and etching Lovelock). Or the texture on the bark of a pair of twigs (in an untitled pencil and gouache drawing). Or the glimmer of the sun atop the sea (in her projected video Oceans). Wide-eyed rabbits hop around a curled-up, sleeping fox in her woodcut-printed banners titled Burrow. With meditation on the beautiful workings of the world, hidden patterns of meaning may reveal themselves.

It “began as an idea to create a confined hiding place and evolved into an experimental gateway for self-reflection,” Santos writes of the exhibit’s title piece Asylum, a teepee with its point missing. The fabric exterior is embellished with branch-like lines, raindrop-tears, and thousands of hatch marks, as if the occupant was marking time. Inside a sheer black sheet sits atop sand and the walls are a mosaic of shards of broken mirrors. Look up and you see a star-shaped window. Twinkling, ethereal guitar music plays faintly.

“The experience of a time-stopping goodbye between Nick [DiSalvo, who collaborated with her on the music] and I triggered a need to build and isolate in shelter,” Santos adds somewhat vaguely.

Like much of the art here, it wobbles on the line between preciousness and delicate emotion. The tent feels like a child’s play fortress, insulated from the world’s distractions, perhaps a bulwark against a broken heart. But then all those mirror pieces reflecting yourself back at you — like an amplifier to channel powerful feelings. Take care.

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URBAN STUDIES Brigidi's 'City Study #169.'

Bristol photographer Stephan Brigidi has a taste for the romantic and the exotic (at least as seen from Yankee New England). Over the past two decades, he’s recorded the vivid colors of Jamaican streets; Venice’s narrow lanes and canals and carnival masqueraders; the blend of old and new in France and Switzerland and the town of San Miguel in the Azores. He’s hiked the American Southwest to photograph golden sunlight raking across buttes and canyons.

His show “The City” at Gallery Z (259 Atwells Ave, Providence, through November 16) surveys his urban photos of North America from the past decade as well as some okay recent collages done in a polite Abstract Expressionist style.

Pay attention to the photography. A bin of unframed black-and-white photos shows where he started. In the middle of the 1970s, he shot a series of sexy, scantily-clad folks — including some artists who would go onto fame. Surreal photographer Francesca Woodman, who committed suicide at age 22, holds a bowl to her bare chest; text artist Jenny Holzer stands in an ornate room at the John Brown House lifting her robe to flash the camera.

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