Critical Reflections

Redefining the Canvas

Date September 30, 2009 at 10:00 PM

Publication THE magazine

Categories Performing Arts


Eight Modern
231 Delgado Street, Santa Fe

The overriding concept behind this quirky three-person show was to present artists whose only relationship consisted in their effort to “conceptualize…in a way that blurs and redefines the traditional understanding of the canvas.” In each instance, the artists have leapt far beyond the pedestrian role of canvas—or other fabric—as mere support for the image. All three have seen the “support” in their works, be it an old blanket, a weaving, or a conventional linen canvas as materially and critically integral to the sum effect of the final creation.

Marie Watt, who describes herself as “half cowboy and half Indian,” is a descendent of Seneca Indians and Wyoming ranchers, and in all of her works there is a powerful whiff of frontier days. Watt uses old wool blankets as her point of departure and makes pieces that, as she says, “create narrative portraits that invoke histories both individual and universal.”

Using transfers of old photographs and cutout fabric vignettes, as in Stadium, the artist seeks to thread a reverie of associations surrounding the Native American sports legend Jim Thorpe. The over-all composition recalls hoary sport anecdotes: i.e. the old stadium blanket is studded with stitched cameos of Dwight Eisenhower, of “Pop” Warner, Thorpe’s famed football coach, of George S. Patton, of Babe Ruth, of Michael Jordanm, and of Sonny Sixkiller—a Native American star quarterback from the 1970s.

Intermingled with these faded images are emblems of brute, animal battles, silhouettes of fighting elk and cougars, and humping wolves and deer.

On the other hand, the contemplative work of Edda Renouf is in full retreat from all anecdote or incident. “In my painting, I start by looking at the weave of the unprimed, linen canvas…I remove certain threads…opening the structure of the material. I seek to reveal the life, the energy already inherent in the linen canvas and paint.” In meditative works like March Sounds and October Echoes, Renouf seems to conflate the weaver’s hand and eye with the evanescent Minimalist sensibility of a Robert Ryman.

Ramona Sakiestewa accompanied her offering of several abstract weavings with the pronouncement that, since “change is good,” these are the last weavings she intends to create, moving on to new media. Works like Nebula A,B,C suggest that Sakiestewa has closely studied Hans Hofmann’s push and pull. Moreover, several of her vivid, woven “paintings” seem to emulate the jagged, flaring forms and dynamism of Clyfford Still. With such a point of departure, we can only guess at the new forms this artist’s work may achieve.