Reception Date: 
Fri, 11/01/2013 - 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Show Date: 
Fri, 11/01/2013 - Sat, 11/30/2013
Catherine Ferguson: The Objects of My Attention

The Objects of My Attention     11.1.13
Connection and Change in New 2D and 3D work of Catherine Ferguson
– by Michael J. Krainak, free lance writer in the visual arts

      One possible takeaway from Catherine Ferguson’s new exhibit at Modern Arts Midtown, The Objects of My Attention, is that the one constant in the work of this multi-dimensional artist is change. It’s not that one of this region’s most accomplished sculptors, draftsmen and installation artists has a short attention span. It’s just that before after a particular work is finished, Ferguson’s fertile vision has already begun to “see” its potential for growth and alteration.
      Key to appreciating her work in this exhibit is an understanding of how mutability and connection play a major role, not only in the creation of her 2D and 3D art but in the process before and after as well. Overall, it’s this aesthetic that underlies the structure and form of those objects of Ferguson’s attention we see before us.
      She describes this rather intuitive, experimental approach as her “crooked path,” or as she explains, “meandering has aided my work by allowing my imagination to seek out new processes and materials that in turn suggest new forms and possibilities.”
      Viewers may be familiar with Ferguson’s work, particularly her public art commissions in the area, including the aptly titled aluminum “Totem” at the W. Dale Clark public library, downtown, and her “Aida” set designs and costumes for Opera Omaha. But her MAM exhibit reveals a more private side, perhaps, of her inspiration as it draws upon past work and from “my own personal vocabulary.” The Objects of My Attention features as its core subjects: A mantilla-influenced, monumental sculpture, “Willy Nilly,” that greets viewers outside as they enter the gallery, a series of wire wall sculptures and 13 bronze sculptures that reference accompanying photos of glass assemblage they resemble.
      MAM owner and artist Larry Roots says it was this sculptural element that made him most aware of Ferguson’s ability “to materialize an idea in flux with fluidity.  I witnessed her creation of glass assemblage which became another artform in the photographic image and then became yet another new form in sculpture. Each artform became a vehicle for change.”
      Each new object in this exhibit references something previous, creating a sort of 3D veil of complexity, not unlike that of the artist’s past installations such as Live Canaries at Creighton University’s Lied Gallery in 2004. Or that of her current large sculpture, “Willy Nilly,” with its draping of perforated lace—a sheet of metal fabric that can be rolled, bent or welded into another form, layer upon layer. The result is a structure of stacked animals and other shapes that seem to fold unto itself gracefully, due in no small part to the deliberate use of negative spaces within the work.
           The Objects of My Attention, then, “is all about connections,” Ferguson says, “taking unlike things, a broom, a tomato and a skyscraper…and then arranging them into something new.” Yet, as personally satisfying as each finished piece is, possibly her own greatest connection to her art has been process.
      “Sometimes, it’s more fun just to mess with things,” she says, “sketching, drawing, rearranging. The glass stacks themselves were the most challenging. It took almost a year and a half to get them where I liked.” Ironically, it may be a long time before viewers see them in their original form as each is packed away in their own individual box. Ferguson has moved on, repurposing their elegance and grace into the photos and sculptures before us.
      It’s not that she “can’t leave well-enough alone” or that she is a perfectionist. It’s that her mind and body are ever in motion, not unlike the kinesis that drives and unites her wire sculpture, particularly the torso “Stella” and the show’s title piece. Each is a cloudburst of never-ending energy that defies easy classification and interpretation.
      “Bending and knotting wire give me the pleasure of drawing and sculpting simultaneously,” Ferguson said. Multi-tasking, mutability and one last part of her credo: multiple meanings. “I never allow myself a single interpretation. I try to avoid one-liners.”