Exhibit ‘Collide,’ curated by Kara Taylor, at Featherstone


“Collide,” the newest exhibition at the Featherstone Center for the Arts, is stunning. The 23 artists work in an impressively wide variety of mediums, techniques, and styles, but each is visually compelling. “Collide” is curated by Island artist and gallery owner Kara Taylor with selections of her own pieces and those of artists she either knows of or has worked with in South Africa, where she spends six months every year pursuing her art. For her, “Collide” celebrates the transient and native cultural diversity unique to South Africa. And Taylor gives us a vision to behold.

Most of the art is quite large, even when in nontraditional media. For instance, there is Chloe Seraphine Townsend’s 83- by 50-inch “Following the Thread,” an enormous vertical wall hanging made of intricately woven, painted cowhide “threads” or colored strips, which, when you step back, create a complex design that vibrates at a high frequency before your eyes. Liza Grobler attaches elaborate, shiny buttons to her towering, slim 87- by 14- by 8-inch wall hanging, “Magic Carpet,” which reaches up toward the heavens. Her bio states, “She is a compulsive maker of things. Her work exists in physical space, but the worlds she creates are manifestations of imagined landscapes. The viewer is an accomplice that can step through the portals and move unhindered between fact and fabrication.”

Maurice Mbikayi’s mixed media, “Portrait I,” is a fascinating combination of media. He adds cut pieces of computer plastic that define the young woman’s face and a hot pinkish-purple keyboard for her sleeveless dress to slips of collage and acrylic on canvas in this contemporary cubist-esque piece.

Another exciting work is Norman O’Flynn’s reverse acrylic painting on glass, “Angora,” whose glossy surface lures us in for a closer glance to discern how he renders the two rams standing in an abstract landscape who look out at us gazing at them. The technique requires O’Flynn to paint “backward,” laying down the paint on what will be the underside of the glass when he flips the finished piece over, giving the composition that curious smooth sheen.

Equally as arresting, although totally abstract, is Elad Kirshebaum’s “Vertical Flow,” made with spray paint and markers on a large horizontal canvas that mimics the precision of mechanical drawing, connected to the artist’s background in architecture. The flat, vibrant colors in unusual hues evoke an abstract architecture, which, in defying logic, engages both our vision and mind.

Taylor herself employs natural and treated hide, emu feathers, and beads to create tribal-looking ritual adornment. Her breathtaking “Raven Wolf Totem” and “The Agreement” are part of Taylor’s new “Tiny Totem Series,” which is full of allusive symbolism we can interpret in our own way. Self-taught artist Cyrus Kabiru, too, reinterprets ritual tribal art in thoroughly inventive ways. In his huge photographic self-portraits, Kabiru wears “masks” he constructs from parts of radios, bicycles, and other found objects he collects on the streets of Nairobi.

At the other end of the spectrum are Ledelle Moe’s intriguing fragments that look like archaeological “Findings.” Moe actually sculpts these anthropomorphic works from concrete and steel, using her materials to bridge the divide between ancient times and the contemporary world. 

The only truly small pieces in the exhibit are Adi Cloete’s exquisite silver necklaces, bracelets, and rings adorned with semiprecious gems, each of which is a singular work of art, enhanced by titles like “Midnight Sky,” “Moon Forest,” “Grow a Garden,” and “Happy Dance.” Tellingly, Cloete writes in her statement, “Jewelry making is a layered process of possibility through which you get to tell a story using metal and gemstones, unique to your imagination.”

The artists working with more conventional materials also have a unique vision. Corlie de Kock uses charcoal in “Rite of Passage I — Run to the Water” to render in sensuous detail a tender moment between a mother and daughter, naked from the waist up with their backs to us. Supermodel Josie Borain is immediately recognizable in her black-and-white photo self-portraits as the “face of Calvin Klein”; they allude to her former profession while clearly establishing her as an artist in her own right. Matt Hindley takes oil painting to a new level in his enormous 75- by 87-inch wall-size canvas, “Annihilation Is Impossible,” which stops you in your tracks. Two strips of land on either side recede deep into the horizon in this moody landscape, with a mysterious symbolism of a deer standing on one side and a car approaching us through the mist on the left bank.

You will be delighted with the many other rich examples in this striking exhibit in which, just like Africa, every artist is unique unto themselves and their country of origin. Taylor chose the title because, as she writes on the introductory panel, “We cannot predict who and where we may meet certain people in certain places, how our individual worlds may ‘Collide.’ It can be fortuitous and unexpected, and if you’re lucky, incredibly inspiring, and miraculously diverse.”

“Collide” is on view at Featherstone Center for the Arts through Sept. 10. For more information, see featherstoneart.org/galleryshows.html.