The Fish Market
The first time your art is on public display is always exciting. I got into the first juried show I ever entered, only to find at the opening that my ceramic sculpture was on display–in a gravel bed, beneath a suspended staircase, surrounded by potted yellow mums.

It was still thrilling.

A new space in downtown Raleigh will likely give many their first thrilling opportunity to publicly display their work. The Fish Market is a gallery run by students at NCSU’s College of Design, located at 133 Fayetteville Street Mall, with an entrance on Hargett Street. Look for a brass handrail and steps going down.

The building’s owner let the school’s students adapt a previously unused basement (with the help of students from the industrial design and architecture programs) into a gallery. They knocked out a wall, tore up carpet and painted. The result: a great space, with a large main room and smaller rooms to the side.

The Fish Market’s October opening attracted about 200 visitors. Its current show features work by design students. Founder and current director Jan Tedder, a senior in the design program, is represented in the space in a lovely large-scale acrylic painting, “The Power of Two.” The Market plans also to display works by faculty and alums, and to host social functions.

The current show includes works from a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, and even animation.

When I visited, I sensed the students’ excitement. A strong feeling of exploration and pride in accomplishment was evident in all the work.

Ben Callaway’s large untitled mural, which wraps around a corner of the room and even across an internal window is particularly powerful. With some marks referencing graffiti and other quite painterly ones, it is partially painted over a mural from a previous show, effectively incorporating the earlier work’s different style. It’s really refreshing to be in a space where artists have the opportunity to make work like this, without some of the usual limitations imposed by gallery spaces.

Off the main gallery, a room contained a computer on which projects from the media arts class could be viewed. Since each student had completed four projects related to computer imaging and animation (some of them interactive), it was fascinating to observe the evolution of their work over the semester. Digital media is underrepresented in traditional gallery spaces. Hopefully the Fish Market will continue to display this type of work.

The Fish Market is open First Fridays 6-11, and Saturday and Sunday from 1-5. They will also be open from 5:30 to 8:30 on New Year’s Eve. Their next exhibit opens Jan. 10, in an event that also celebrates the first issue of THEEGG, an architecture student publication.

But why call it “The Fish Market?” Simple: Consult the acronym of the College Of Design.

Durham Arts Guild
Despite entering several times, I personally have never been accepted into a Durham Art Guild juried show. The Guild states its primary mission is “operating a visual arts gallery that features work of regional artists … providing artist education and community outreach services to enrich and develop the awareness and appreciation of the significance of art.” Their 48th Annual Juried Show at the Durham Arts Council fulfills that mission, by including a broad range of area artists with varying levels of skill, using a wide variety of techniques and media.

In her juror’s statement, internationally recognized photographer Joyce Tenneson notes she selected works that “showed a strong, signature style.” The first place award went to Diana Bloomfield for her platinum print photograph “Annalee II.” Bloomfield was also awarded a solo show at the guild. Second place went to Helen Dallas’s pencil drawing “Esencia II.”

Another photograph, Bruce Melkowits’ gelatin silver print “Veneer,” won third place. In this meditative study a headless nude begins to vaporize in the presence of lights hovering before it, as bright as the piercing reflections on water on a cloudless day. The figure’s hands, cupped at his genitals, wait patiently as if to catch the lights if they fall.

There were other strong photographic works in the show. York Wilson’s large-scale black and white photomural, “Thanksgiving Night, Orange, CA,” is a cinematic full-bleed print that includes the sprocket holes at the edge of the film. Composed of two scenes, the photograph depicts four young adults in a diner, making their own family of friends on a holiday evening. The approximately life-sized figures create a sense of intimacy with the viewer, and invite the viewer to enter into the nostalgic scene.

Also quite large in scale is Max rada dada’s Polaroid monoprint, “Dwight Chorus, Part 1.” The image features four penises; two costumed as brides, two as grooms. The four bodies attached to the penises are the backdrop to the scene, and white strings hold up the penises like puppets. The overall shape of the composition could be also read as phallic. rada dada’s initially humorous image provides a commentary on issues of gender and the politics of same-sex marriage.

Louanne Watley’s toned archival silver contact photograph, “Nun Series: Feet No. 1” left me with an intense curiosity about the other images in her series. The pained-looking feet of an older woman, toes twisted and bunions bulging, rest tenderly on the floor. The photograph’s gorgeous range of tones presents the nun’s feet as precious artifacts.

I was also intrigued by June Merlino’s “Album.” Merlino carefully cut the heads out of three vintage portrait photographs, mounting them so that they float in front of the portraits, hanging on the wall. Merlino took a series of self-portraits with these images, both with and without the faces. Her self-portraits, sepia pinhole Polaroids, are displayed in an antique photo album, along with a text describing her discovery of the vintage portraits at a yard sale and her photographic experimentation with them.

Her purchase, dissection and experimentation with someone else’s family pictures goes against the reverence with which we tend to treat photographs. Merlino’s Polaroids are brilliant. They tell a compelling story of our culture’s relationship with photography, and photography’s relationship to loss. Still, I felt distracted by the accompanying vintage portraits and text: Her Polaroids can stand on their own.

I was especially glad to see an encaustic painting by Jill Bullitt, an incredible Raleigh painter. The work, “Cap Frehel,” is a semi-abstract line drawing incised into luscious smears of faintly colored waxes. Phantoms of earlier versions of the drawing drift below the surface of the wax, and the drawing, its forms fragmented and isolated from each other, waft between the various layers. There is a tension between the flowing wax and the drawing’s fine, sharp lines. While they cut the wax, it threatens to absorb the drawing and fill in the incisions, like skin healing over a cut.

A couple of other paintings particularly caught my eye. Peter Paul Connolly’s “Powerlines, Northwood Road,” and Anna Haynes Jenkins’s “Season of Red” are beautiful landscape paintings worked with colors. Both are more about evoking ideas and feelings than about realistic representation. David Wilson’s “Down Home Blues” is a vibrant portrait of a musician, the atmosphere around him enlivened by his concentration.

It’s a huge show, and there are lots of other wonderful works that I haven’t mentioned. Like the Raleigh Fish Market show, the Guild show provides great opportunities to see new works by emerging artists, alongside well-established artists’ latest works as well. EndBlock