ART REPRESENTS LIFE: BUT WHEN THE LIFE IS EXTINCT? – Joseph Rossano’s exhibit “The Hunted: Reflections of the Hunter” has been challenging viewers since December, in part because no one could step inside. You can, Saturday, at FORUM Art’s open house. See their ad, below. This segment is Chapter 3: ‘The Wash.’ – Photo courtesy of the artist, Joseph Rossano
By Blair Hansen Joseph Rossano’s multi-part installation at FORUM Arts in downtown La Conner centers on the urgent need not just to preserve the Earth’s natural resources, but to accept our oneness with those resources. Rossano has been dedicated to ecological conservancy for decades, and as America’s political winds shift ominously away from these concerns, the artist’s project grows all the more urgent and ambitious. The exhibition title, “The Hunted: Reflection of the Hunter,” amounts to a pointed merger of American consumer culture with the increasingly endangered resources it consumes; continuing as we are, we will end up hunting and consuming ourselves. The series of artworks on view in La Conner are satellites to those Rossano has sited at Theodore Roosevelt’s former New York home, now the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. President Roosevelt is revered both for his prowess as a hunter of big game (there is a permanent installation of his East African trophy mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History) as well as his legacy as a preservationist, creating five of our most beloved National Parks and allotting millions of acres of other protected Federal lands. Rossano gained access to Sagamore Hill’s collection of firearms, basing a series of paintings on the etchings of bears, big cats and other animals on the barrels of Roosevelt’s now-antique guns. Not only do these works comment on the foundational American paradox of loving the wilds of the frontier as much as we love the guns that threaten them, the works are painted on wood milled from a tree on the Sagamore Hill grounds, the dark paint itself constituted by ash from the same. In deriving his art media from this narrative-rich source, Rossano reminds the viewer that our natural environment holds not only material value, but our own living histories as well. Rossano’s investigation continues in his Vanity works, in which he replaces the mirrors of found bedroom vanity furniture with reflective, hand-blown glass forms. These organic round shapes allude to both giant water droplets and traditional glass vessels. On the floor, meanwhile, an arrangement of large chunks of broken glass recalls both a flowing river and a meteor shower. This work is also reminiscent of Robert Smithson’s elemental floor works, and, along with them, Smithson’s prediction that the law of entropic change will eventually lead to a great leveling of the universe, wherein all is reduced to a single, homogenous matter. As with the Roosevelt paintings, this physical echoing of a conceptual conceit draws our attention to the unity of the material world: the form of water is dictated by its container; containers are activated by that which they hold; hunters exist only as long as there are subjects to hunt. Blair Hansen is a writer, curator and designer living with her family in Bellingham.