Phoenix gallery to host opening artist reception Jan. 9

Opening January 2016, Lisa Sette Gallery will exhibit recent work by two young artists addressing issues of personal identity and digital personae.

Arizona artist Rachel Bess makes modern-day vanitas and still-lifes in gemlike oil on panel, while Virginia-based Charlotte Potter accesses traditional forms of glassworking in creating distinctly contemporary sculptural and installation works.

Both are rigorous practitioners who apply their formal skill to investigating concepts of selfhood and connection in a world of manufactured identities and enigmatic interactions, according to a press release.

A reception for the artists will be held 7-9 p.m. on Jan. 9. The gallery is located 210 E. Catalina Dr. in Phoenix.

Rachel Bess, Peeling Off the Darkness, 2015, oil on panel, 18″ x 14.5″ painting, 25.25″ x 22″ framed (submitted photo)

Rachel Bess, Peeling Off the Darkness, 2015, oil on panel, 18″ x 14.5″ painting, 25.25″ x 22″ framed (submitted photo)

Ms. Bess melds traditional artmaking methods with 21st century concerns: wielding light and shadow like an enchantment, Ms. Bess creates likenesses that are limpid and acute, in the formal vein of the old masters.

Yet her models are contemporaries in leather corsets and black lipstick, posed in eerie vignettes, and her paintings are studded with present-day references. The result is startling—romantic and stylishly dark, somber and suggestive.

Ms. Bess states in the release that her newest body of work came about in part through “thoughts about how different people and times are connected through inanimate objects.”

To this end, her exhibition will comprise a series of portraits and still lifes linked by a common object.

“The thread that runs through all of the work is the idea of disparate people being, often unknowingly, connected through something that has no sentiment for the people it connects,” Ms. Bess stated in the release.

The notion of a bestowal of secret information, passed down through unknowing generations, seems appropriate for these Gothic-contemporary works. A mysterious narrative is contained within each constellation of symbols Ms. Bess expertly devises, and it is up to the viewer to divine the plot.

Charlotte Potter, Post Script – Susan, 2016, custom hand engraved glass cameos, glass beads, silver, 17″ x 17″ (submitted photo)

Charlotte Potter, Post Script – Susan, 2016, custom hand engraved glass cameos, glass beads, silver, 17″ x 17″ (submitted photo)

A pioneer in performative and conceptual work in the medium of glass, Ms. Potter uses the material as a metaphor for the fluidity, duality, and transparency of the self, and as representative of that which delineates the invisible borders between people.

Some of the works in her Cameo series are made up of the profile pictures of would-be Facebook friends, blending the idea of a traditional cameo silhouette with the dissembling imagery presented on social media feeds. Her works are examples of rigorous handwork and traditional craft practices set to the purpose of defining or delineating a contemporary and intangible experience.

In Lenticular America, Brown/Wilson, Ms. Potter shifts her subject matter from overtly personal to the more politically motivated. The series focuses on three distinct cases of altercations between white police officers and African American men, the release stated.

In each case there was use of excessive force, one resulting in death, which sparked nationwide outcry and riots spanning 20 years. These events polarized America and this piece asks the viewer to visually reconcile the two opposing perspectives.

The hand engraved portraits are spliced together and mounted using lenticular technology, so that when viewing the work straight on the portraits are completely unreadable and are only revealed by physically changing perspective. The cameos themselves are black and white but the cases are not.

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