Jan. 12 - 18. 1996

Allegories and icons 'Angels' show
Staff writer

There is an intense feeling in the work of four Southern California artists now on display at the Hearst Art Gallery.  All of them explore spiritual topics, and as a result their works are highly contemplative and allegorical.  But what makes them such a joy to look at is their exquisite technical mastery and an artistic vision that transcends generic religious art.

Of the four, Jan Saether and Michael Schrauzer’s pieces are most visually reminiscent of Renaissance works, replete with symbolism and carefully painted light.

Saether’s “Magus” shows a bare-chested, Christ-like male figure.  With his long hair and jeans, He could be the guy down the street getting a suntan or working on his car. But his nude torso is bathed in otherworldly light, and his arms are opened wide as though he’s about to cast a magic spell.

Equally compelling is “Limbo”, a study of a nude man lying abandoned in an empty parking lot.  His body is partly in the dark and in the light, a reference to the limbo of spiritual confusion.

Schrauzer’s work is equally mystical.  He creates triptychs, altarpieces and other works out of wood and paint, and he uses the panels common to these artforms to create mystery.

“Triptych (to be opened on the Last Day)” shows a closed triptych featuring two hands on two panels bathed in a mysterious light.  The third panel, if indeed there is one, is hidden from view.

An even more modern vision manifests itself in “Secret”. Here, profiles of a man and a woman are painted on separate panels; the faces look away from each other. Between these profiles is a tiny cabinet revealing a brain and heart, symbolizing thought and emotion.  Only when the outside panels are closed can the man and woman actually face each other, thereby communicating outside of public view, in “secret”.

Laura Lasworth’s large paintings, like St. Thomas and Mr. Eco”, show the interiors of rooms filled with numerous allegories.  The symbols can be decoded if you’re familiar with the individuals she portrays and the prevailing religious and scientific systems of thought.

Beautiful as the paintings are, Lasworth’s drawings are perhaps even more compelling.  The drawings play off of themes in the tarot, but even if you’re not aware of their source, they are magnificent.  Decorative flowerlike forms mix with organic, human-looking veins or nerves. They have the intense emotional quality of some of Georgia O’Keeffe’s close-up studies of flowers.

John Frame is the only sculptor of the group, and his wooden images recall high-relief carvings on churches built in the Middle Ages.  Many speak to the issue of broken spirituality.  “Blind Joe”, for example, looks like as angel, but only at first.  This “angel’s” torso is on backwards, his right arm is missing and the small buds on his head could be horns.

None of this art lends itself to quick digestion.  So many symbols are built into the works that they demand long contemplation.  An exhibition catalog containing meaty essays on each of the artists helps decipher some of the mysteries of their work.

Public tours of the exhibit will be led at 12:15 p.m. Jan. 31 and Feb. 28.

‘Burning Lights’: recent & from City of Angels

Jan. 1996 – Contra Costa Times

The Hearst ArtGallery of Saint Mary's College presents "Burning Lights: Spirituality, Tradition and Craft in Recent Art from the City of Angels", opening Saturday, Jan. 13, and continuing through Sunday,
March 3.

Four Southern California artists—John Frame, Laura Lasworth, Jan Saether, and Michael Schrauzer—are attempting to find a common understanding of the place of the artist in the natural order of things, while pursuing their own spiritual and artistic journeys.

While highly personalized, the mature bodies of work of all four artists share as dedication to lovingly crafted art from the past, paying homage in pan to woodcarving and painting of the Northern European late Middle Ages and early Italian Renaissance.

    “St. Thomas and Mr. Eco”, by Laura Lasworth


“St. Thomas and Mr. Eco”, by Laura Lasworth

Gordon L. Fuglie, Director of the Laband ArtGallery at Loyola Marymount University and curator of "Burning Lights," organized the exhibition and selected the artists based on four suppositions: the necessity for artists to re-acquire knowledge of, and be in dialogue with, the major traditions of Western art; the absence of an authentic spirituality in contemporary art; the desire for the revitalization of academic studio training for aspiring artists; and the conviction that contemporary art had become an isolated institution within the larger culture. He even suggests that this is an exhibition which may require of the viewer "prolonged quiet contemplation and rumination," an almost obsolete notion in our era of instant communication.

The exhibition is circulated by the Laband Art Gallery, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles and is sponsored by the Marymount Institute for Faith, Culture and the Arts. The accompanying color catalog includes essays by Fr. Luke Dysinger, OSB, Gordon L. Fuglie, Michael Schrauzer, and Ruth Weisberg.