“Sweet,” on display at the Citadel Square Baptist Church through June 7, is the product of a 12-person collaboration from Artist on Fire. Spouses Alex and Sara Radin founded this organization as a grassroots effort among regional artists to elevate the potential and role of art in the area.
Artist on Fire showcases a dozen interpretations of the exhibit’s eponymous theme using a variety of media, including painting, photography, film, and sculpture.
Conceptions of “sweet” range from Helena Rutan’s rather literally stylized “Smorgasbord,” a print containing photographic elements pairing a female child with candy, to Amelia Whaley’s patently Christian “The Pomegranate Seals.”
Whaley crafts a series of 10x12-inch paintings enclosed by thick gold frames that echo Christian art from the Middle Ages. Each piece bears a written metaphor accompanied by a pomegranate motif. One example is “perpetual,” about which Whaley muses, “Everything ending is a new beginning.”
The artist’s conception of sweet emanates from faith as much as from the taste of the fruit. Some experts believe pomegranates, not apples, were the actual food with which Eve tempted Adam in the Garden of Eden.
Unfortunately, “Sweet” does not meaningfully juxtapose Whaley’s or others’ interpretations of the theme. This is in part due to the space available on the church’s third floor. The hallway provides direction to a succession of rooms curated to separate individual artists, but this flow succumbs to inertia. The fragmentation prevents easy wandering between temporal and spiritual manifestations of sweet.
The floor plan underserves Sara Radin’s admirable film, “Love Story of an Ordinary Girl,” which abstractly depicts the artist’s early relationship with Alex Radin.
Shots of dancing women in interlocking patterns mimic early 20th-century cinema’s emphasis on corporeal movement. Radin’s cinematography paradoxically comes off as both formulaic and impulsive, but ultimately proves her to be a thoughtful artist.
She screens her film in a large, slightly isolated room that dwarfs the experience. “Love Story” calls for a more intimate space, and Radin’s personal story is lost in the venue’s emptiness.
This is Artist on Fire’s fourth year exhibiting at Citadel Square Baptist during Piccolo Spoleto. The church presumably serves several community needs throughout the year, but good intentions cannot compensate for the final product.
Hilary Siber solely defies this conundrum. Her charcoal drawing “Untitled, Cloth Study I” spans the spectrum of sweet and is one of few works that openly dares to defy the limitations of its surroundings. At first glance, Siber’s piece resembles a lakeside mountain range cloaked by a translucent curtain. These iconographic forms, however, are nonbinding: Siber evokes serenity through a protean composition that can indulge even the most singular interpretations.
Whereas Whaley creates art through a Christian lens, Siber places no qualifications on her work. The freedom to derive calm or inspiration from the ordinary encapsulates sweetness, in life and in the mind.
Zach Marschall is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.