3 artists explore the diverse changes in their works

Friday, 20 February 1998
By Pamela Portwood, Special to The Arizona Daily Star

In the current three-person exhibition at the Dinnerware Contemporary Art Gallery, members
of the cooperative gallery continue to explore and expand recent developments in their work.
The exhibition features work by Gary Benna, A.C. Huerta and Joanne Kerrihard.

In her one-person exhibition at Dinnerware last May, Kerrihard moved from paintings to
sculptural works. Her motifs of carnivals and magicians turned into miniature carousels, and
some of the paintings were raised in relief. While most of the items in this exhibition are small
oil paintings, the highlights are the new sculptural works.

Kerrihard knows that much of what makes magic magical is sleight of hand, and in ``An
Exquisite Act,'' Kerrihard has made the hand literal. Just like a magician, she has called a
member of the audience up to the stage.

The piece is a triptych framed in relief so that the two side panels stand out from the wall. In
the central image, several colored drapes shift in the air as though someone has just slipped out
of the picture, leaving behind a thin pole held by a floating, disembodied hand.

Down the middle of each side panel is a thin pole, and at the bottom is an ornate disk for the
viewer to turn. On the other side of each side panel is a magician's assistant. When they hold
out their hands - voilà! - what they reveal is you, the person standing there, the one who makes
the picture complete.

Kerrihard is coming into her own by moving into three-dimensional work. Her iconography
and the surface of her painting are well suited to this transformation into beautiful objects.

In a two-person exhibition about grief last March, Gary Benna used some of the classical
Greek forms of his earlier sculptures, yet a raw emotional edge replaced their cool classical
restraint. His new works hold both Benna's past and future as he makes his way toward a new

``Escape'' is an engaging piece and a good example of the changing technique and tenor of his
work. It is an earth-tone vessel that has been split in half. (There are classical overtones in the
vessel's gilt trim.) The top and bottom have been pulled apart and the middle enclosed with a
Plexiglas tube.

A mass of nude bodies made of burnt-sienna clay has been stuffed into the tall, see-through
vessel. A man and a woman are climbing a ladder, ready to jump in the top of the vessel. The
question is: What could they be fleeing that would make this pit of writhing humanity an

The rough-hewn, amorphous quality of the bodies in the vessel is something new for Benna,
and the mix of styles makes for interesting work. Raising the emotional tenor of his sculpture
has strengthened Benna's work, which had grown increasingly formal.

In his two-person exhibition at the gallery in 1996 and in individual images in Dinnerware
members' shows, A.C. Huerta has been assembling sequential black-and-white photographs
of a single scene to create panoramic views. Typically, his photographs have depicted people
and places in Latin America.

Yet in this exhibition Huerta also has turned his camera on the United States, and some of the
scenes are rife with irony. In one, there is a veritable traffic jam of baby strollers at
Disneyland. Another is a rear view of Santa Claus walking into Mission San Xavier del Bac.

In all of these works, five separate photographs are mounted out from the wall with a space
between each image. While the photographs are hung so that the panoramic view is
continuous, the photographs themselves are out of line, creating a jarring, jagged-edge top and

The images themselves, particularly the new ironic ones, are interesting. But the conceptual
artifice of spacing out the photographs and creating the jagged edges weakens the images,
especially the landscapes, which rely more heavily on the panoramic flow of the images.