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Our critic picks the most artistic fish from Richmond's Go Fish! project.

The Mightiest Fish


Circumambulate the city. Go from Regency Square to Shockoe Slip, and from thence south to Westover Hills Boulevard, or northward, by way of Carytown to Ashland. What do you see? Posted like outlandish sentinels all around town, stand about 200 exuberantly decorated epoxy fish fixed in their various reveries.

The polychromed and polyclad sentinels of "Go Fish!" are the culmination of a two-year project originated by 1708 Gallery to introduce the community to the excitement of working and living in an art-filled environment. Chicago's now-famous "Cows on Parade" was the original model for the exhibition. The Chicago cow began as a regional agricultural motif that eventually made its way to Manhattan for a separate public-art happening. It wasn't long before other symbolic shapes that better suited their localities began to show up. In Norfolk, for instance, the subject was mermaids; in Canada, they looked to their local moose.

"Because of Richmond's environmental success restoring the rockfish to its natural habitat in the James River, it was the natural choice for our sculpture," says Susan Jamieson, a 1708 board member and "Go Fish!'s" project chairwoman. It was Jamieson who first proposed the idea to her fellow board members, and Jamieson who guided it through its many promotional and administrative stages along with the assistance of Go Fish! project coordinator, Katie Adams Parrish.

[image-1](Jeff Simmermon / Cox's "Ultimate Recycling" at the James CenterFollowing the casting and delivery of 200 drab but spirited rockfish, originally sculpted by Alex Nunnally, everyone got their puns in gear and began to interpret the many moods, meanings and messages of our aqueous ancestors. The industrial gray finish of the naked fish has been coated with myriad brightly painted patterns illustrating everything from potato chips to feathers to postcards. Three-dimensional fish scales have been applied using buttons, tin can lids, lifesavers, pennies, computer chips, glass shards and bottle caps. "Their prerequisite was that they had to be completely waterproof for exterior display and safe to the touch," Parrish explains of the design requirements. "We didn't want anyone hurting themselves on these."

Surprisingly, there are no red herrings in the bunch. There are more than a few fish that need each other in order to have a strong visual presence, principally because of their scale. "We decided to keep the size of the fish down so that their unit price could be lower," Jamieson explains. "That way more people could participate."

[image-2](Jeff Simmermon / Pocklington's "Sea Monkey" at Library Park Nonetheless, there are some stately examples, consummate works of art that could stand on their own outside of the project's critical mass. It is those sculptures which, surpassing their piscine matrix, effectively extend beyond the project's telltale ready-made mold or that could be paintings in their own right that are especially singled out for mention here. With a playful nod to Hermann Melville's "Moby Dick" my Style critic awards for "The Mightiest Fish on the Scene" are as follows:

"The Captain Ahab Award for the Most Sharkish"
Steve Bollinger for "Sushi's Revenge"
Bollinger's incisive and uncomfortable ring-of-truth humor turns the tables on our continental appetite for consuming raw sea life. It's a seamless piece of excellent bad taste.

"The Pip Award for the Most Foreboding"
Jamie Pocklington for "Sea Monkey"
Pocklington has harnessed his personal rockfish via his beer-can trash and rides it for all it's worth. It's a nice statement on anti-evolution and the sort of destructive caprice that passes for a good time, all rendered in tacky glitter with Elvis Presley-style rock-and-roll glamour.

"The Queequeg Award for The Most Complex Surface Design"
Jude Schlotzhauer for "Fish de Verre"
This intricately fabricated mosaic with hundreds of tiny copper- wire fish fossils and other sea-floor amalgam trapped in aqueous hand-cast glass segments begs you to get out of your car to view it closely.

"The Apocalyptic Revelation Award"
Jennifer Cox for "Ultimate Recycling"
Cox's remarkable painting of reincarnation, life after death — or in spite of death — depicts a surprise landscape enclosed in the bleached bones of the rockfish.

"The Melville Magnum Opus Award"
Susanne Arnold for "Aten-Ra-K-Fish"
Arnold's wonderful, imaginative and ambitious reconstruction of an ancient Egyptian fish ruler is majestically immortalized in fake stone. It is the pharaoh-est of them all. Give it close attention and you'll divine the "Rock-Fish" in his royal