Baton Rouge Gallery is showing “The Mississippi River School” in June, an exhibition featuring the latest works from four of its artist members — Charles Barbier, Clark Derbes, Wylie Sofia Garcia and David Scott Smith — through Thursday, June 25.
This exhibition marks Baton Rouge Gallery debuts for Derbes, Garcia and Smith. As the artists explain, “‘The Mississippi River School’ is more of “a nostalgic snapshot than a movement, a moniker encapsulating a group of artists with decades of collective collaboration and friendship who came of age together, influenced by relationships with the people and cultures that make Baton Rouge special.”
In his latest work, Barbier, a gallery artist member since 1994, once again offers his signature entertaining and colorful style, this time delving into the 1960s to revisit the era that has heavily influenced his art-making. Armed with a strong sense of humor and an eye for composition, he ushers visitors through subjects ranging from pop music icons to war, from religion to science fiction.
Using a combination of folk art methods with contemporary painting dialogue, Derbes transforms locally felled tree trunks into fine art objects. With a montage of pattern and dimension, he outwits the eyeball and begs the viewer to ask, “What am I seeing?”
He became inspired to work with wood when he discovered, and subsequently purchased, a giant poplar tree cut down by an arbor crew. He offered the crew $20 for the tree and soon after had it delivered by a crane to his studio, where he began carving it with a chainsaw. Using the natural growth of the tree as his guide, Derbes uses a carving technique called bas-relief.
As powerful and unapologetically feminine as it is beautiful and strong, Garcia’s work continues a long tradition of self-expression through textile design. Garcia uses fabric installations, performance art, dress forms and textile design to create strong topographies that express a womanly perspective on sex, femininity and life’s journey.
Garcia is master of fine arts thesis mentor and art coach, providing portfolio consultation. Smith, a sculptor and mold maker, re-contextualizes familiar objects and textures often humorously, dealing with serious issues of excess and consumption.
At a young age, Smith worked for his father in the family taxidermy business, re-animating dead animals into lifelike forms. Smith uses light, pattern and color as tools for unification and reordering. His objects are cast in translucent porcelain and then illuminated from within. Smith lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he is an assistant professor of Ceramics at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.