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art: Artistic Triad

Three Virginia artists share a love of the Virginia landscape at Artspace.

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Artspace is currently exhibiting the collaborative efforts of three Virginia artists, Buddy Terrell, Gary Colson and Chris Stephens, who met while teaching at the Virginia Governor's School for the Visual and Performing Arts at the University of Richmond. "The Power of Three2" displays individual works by each artist, such as the landscape paintings of Stephens, an artist-in-residence at Front Royal School in Warren County, and the wood assemblages of Terrell, an art teacher at Midlothian High School. Particularly appealing are Colson's sculptures of the human figure carved from Virginia soapstone and Portland limestone. Colson is an art teacher at Liberty High School in Fauquier County.

But what this show is really about is how these three artists, coming from different backgrounds, regions and media, have capitalized on their commonality — a love of nature, the outdoors and the awe-inspiring Virginia landscape.

An example of this collaboration is "Box Swap," approximately 20 wooden crates, made by the artists, using standardized measurements and then exchanged with another artist to complete the interior. One box holds a Nativity scene, another protruding scissors. Together, they range in spirit from the whimsical to the foreboding. Recycled pieces, found objects and even trash are compiled to create a three-dimensional landscape of our material culture today.

Perhaps less effective is the trio's "Exquisite Corpse" mural. Like the surrealists' game, of which the title is borrowed, the artist drew or painted one-third of a composition, covered it and passed it on to the next artist. And like the surrealists, the artists intended here to create a spontaneous image that taps into the subconscious and eradicates preconceived ideas. The result is, well, a rather dull mural of floating vessels, twisting lines, biomorphic forms, bland colors and meaningless text. While the artists may find this project interesting, to the outsider it is just a rather glorified doodle.

More successful is the "Fall Line Project." Colson, Stephens and Terrell took clay slabs to the James River in July to impress on the numerous boulders. Inspired by the British sculptor Henry Moore, who often studied natural formations to produce new modernist shapes, the trio studied the rocks over a stretch of the river and realized that the dramatic water erosion made the rocks conveyors of "the memory of water." Studies for the project consist of 13 raku rectangles hung on the wall. They crackle, fold and fossilize like the bark of a tree or the skin of an ancient rock. Above these studies, three large plaster friezes are installed in the gallery's window frames. Cream in color, the forms seem to drip and harden before our eyes, successfully capturing the fluidity and solidarity of water against rock.

This show is apparently the second installment of three, each highlighting a different region of the state. Based on this collaborative interpretation of the central Virginian landscape, I think we can look forward to further projects by this artistic triad. S



"The Power of Three2" is on display at Artspace, 6 E. Broad St., through Sept. 1.



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