Hootenanny!!

AS220’s ‘Do It! Show It! Sing It! Work It!,’ and Holly Ewald
By GREG COOK  |  October 21, 2009

 ART_Zub-Seaweed_main

ENERGETIC Zub’s Seaweed/Rock Jumble.

It's not quite right to call "Do It! Show It! Sing It! Work It!" the AS220 biennial. This fizzy hodgepodge of art by AS220 staff, residents, volunteers, and fellow travelers is not as serious the term "biennial" implies. This is more like a hootenanny, lots of different voices, not all singing in key.

Among the highlights of the show, which is on view in AS220's main gallery (115 Empire Street, Providence, through October 24), is AS220 program director Meredith Stern's Cast Your Spell, a collage of relief prints. The title floats over two squirrels juggling leaves over a pot on a campfire, with rodents perched on their backs. Several more critters flank them. Stern expertly makes her scratchy gouging to suggest fur and motion. It gives the print a buzzing woodsy energy.

Paul Clancy, an AS220 photography teacher, and Alyn Carlson find inspiration in the beat up interior of the Mercantile Block building on Washington Street, which AS220 is converting into offices, studios, and live-work spaces. Their Mercantile: Two Part Intervention features a board ripped from the building sandwiched between photos of graffiti scribbled on a wall and another wall scarred from use. It turns the wear and tear of the old building into a found abstract art.

AS220 photo guy Scott Lapham's My Entire Life in Birds is a fine pen-and-ink drawing of a swarm of wrens, robins, crows, cardinals, and other feathered friends. It looks like a congregation right out of a field guide, which may be the case as Lapham is a birder.

Also check out Elizabeth Novak's cheeky God Save the Queen, which embroiders mustaches and beards, like graffiti, onto fabric printed with images of Queen Elizabeth, and Rebecca Zub's Seaweed/Rock Jumble, an energetic cartoony ink and watercolor drawing of tidal zone rocks. It could be an outtake from the late cartoonist Harrison Cady. Margie Butler shows her sense for evocative color -- rich greens, blues, and browns ? and crisp, flat graphics in three silkscreens of eggs.

At AS220's Project Space (93 Mathewson Street, through October 24), Holly Ewald of Pawtuxet Village has installed Languages of the Land, A Dialogue with the Downs, 13 hanging paper banners printed with digital collages. Her idea is to stagger the banners so that when you move among them it's like walking through a book about Pawtuxet. Low shelves along the walls bring the landscape into the gallery by holding real dirt, rocks, a feather, grass, shells, a bone, broken crockery, a fishing float, broken glass, and a dead crab, while audio plays of interviews with Pawtuxet denizens by folklorist Michael Bell.

The hanging prints combine old-time and recent photos, drawings, and shadows of woods, water, shore dunes, fish, birds, a dog (or is it a coyote?), sailing ships, clam diggers, people at play, and Narragansett Indians. The imagery on the banners is augmented by texts -- a list of foods Indians ate, ruminations on protecting wildlands, or how people get by during unemployment. A quote from William Least Heat-Moon reads: "To American Indians who believe that the past is to a people as dreams are to a person, stories are the communal snaggings of generations, the nets that keep people from free-falling toward pointlessness."

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