Susan Goethel Campbell: Field Guide
Oakland University Art Gallery
10 January-22 February 2015
Exhibit website: http://www.ouartgallery.org.
Reviewed by Giovanna Costantini
Susan Goethel Campbell's exhibition Field Guide explores the nature of art and the conceptual process through a multi-media installation that also reflects upon temporality, art history, ecology and science. Introduced with a time-lapse video of weather patterns captured by web cam over the course of an entire year, atmospheric effects assume the quality of translucent washes that blur distinctions between opacity and transparency, painting and technology. Aerial views of built environments set against expansive cityscapes present essential imagery for large format digital woodblock prints realized in monochromatic tonals and saturated grids of yellow and blazing orange. Some combine undulating wood grain patterns with pinhole perforations to admit light; others consist of diaphanous walnut stains applied to hand crafted paper, a self-referential allusion to art's planarity and permeable membrane.
The evanescence of these views is echoed in pristine impressions of filtered dust and shimmering milkweed assemblages contained in Plexiglas light boxes. Known as Asclepias, milkweed is an herbaceous flower named by Carl Linnaeus after Asclepius, the Greek god of healing due to its efficacious medicinal powers. Like the weather, the milkweed's reflective silver filaments respond to shifting currents of air, like breezes that waft treetops projected in the viewing room. Here pearls of light corresponding to the spheres and pinpricks of the prints on the walls float randomly over the fictitious frame of a cubical vitrine. Orbs appear and disappear amid nocturnal shadows as figments of the imagination, their languid dispersion eliciting not-of-this-world sensations of suspension, ascent and transcendence.
This joined to the mesmerizing stillness of a gallery pierced occasionally by the sound of super-sonic aircraft, a reminder of the machine in the garden. Beyond, the history of landscape photography and the Romantic sublime are encoded in works titled "Old Stand" that render miniscule figures of stationary box photographers against the grandeur of ice capped Rockies. In some of the works the human figure is effaced as an historical memory through exquisitely modulated rubbings whose unbounded spatiality contrasts with the reflexive interiority of the viewing room. Campbell's incandescent vision of nature asserts the phenomenal power of art to elevate the human spirit in the presence of heart-stirring beauty. It dares to reaffirm the timeless union between the material and immaterial substance of the universe, between human life and the ephemera of the natural world.