'The Quest' for on-campus art

AU professor exhibits series exploring survival

The Watkins Gallery The Quest: New Work by Zoe Charlton Open through March 5 Monday -Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 11 p.m.-5 p.m. Free

"The Quest: New Work by Zoe Charlton" is the first of a five-part series that incorporates still works and videography to explore the theme of survival.

The video begins with the line "Fear of water," as a black female enters a pool. She is learning to swim for the first time. Her instructors are not visible to the audience and speak to her in the colonial languages of Spanish and Portuguese. The simple idea of a swimming lesson is made very sensual by the slow motions of the model and the water dripping from her naked form.

The video is projected on a screen at the far end of the small rectangular gallery. The wall on which the screen hangs is a teal blue that mimics the color of a pool. The opposite wall is also the same color.

Zoe Charlton is an enthusiastic new art professor at AU and an artist in residence at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson in Baltimore. Charlton described "The Quest" as presenting the "symbols of attainment for the middle class." She said it was her first videography piece and that she was "able to do more with moving images." Charlton said the video is also easier for her audience to identify with because it is a more immediate art form.

On a white wall, three five-foot square sheets of paper are printed with rows of a stamp of four human figures. The figures are modeled after the human forms from old slave ship diagrams, used by slave traders to maximize the space on slave ships. Two of the large sheet works are printed with black ink on white and teal paper. The third is on ocean blue paper, and some of the figures are wearing life vests depicted with solid strokes of vibrant orange paint. The fourth sheet is on a wall across from the video screen and is densely covered with the image of human forms. These four stamp drawings are part of a seven-work series used to convey the idea of the amount of people crowded onto slave ships. They seem a bit repetitive, but work well as a collection of works. Charlton said that through the stamp drawings, she sought to expose the "passive, but aggressive and hostile" nature of slave ship diagrams.

The fourth wall of the gallery holds seven diagram sketches of swimming lessons. A few extraneous objects, such as a gnome and a cone-shaped birthday hat, distort the normal images. These works are rough and seem unfinished. They lack prominent appeal within the exhibit because they are not matted or framed in any way to indicate their importance.

The dim artificial lighting of the room, the constant sound of moving water from the video, and the teal, white and black colors of the room create a deep aquatic feel. The exhibit is original and the theme is insightful, but the selection of work seems sparse and the still drawings do not complement the artistic magnitude of the videography.

"The Quest" is open through March 5 in the Watkins Gallery on campus, near the Kreeger Building. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibit is free and open to AU students and the public.

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