The Austin Chronicle

Gathered Treasures

'Collected Response' is an extension of two artists' shared passion for collecting

By Madeline Irvine, February 13, 2004, Arts

Collecting is a passion that flows through your veins, urging you on in a never-ending quest for the next acquisition. Some people speak of it as a bug you catch, but artist Steve Wiman knows better. "You are born with the gene for collecting," he says. "If one is good, five is better, and then to see the world's largest one is the best."

Wiman found another born collector in fellow artist Marjorie Moore after Moore visited Uncommon Objects, the South Congress antiques and collectibles store owned by Wiman. There she found a doll of Froggie the Gremlin, a character from a beloved TV show of her childhood. Loving the store and hearing that the owner was an artist, she invited him to lunch. They've been friends ever since, trading studio visits and collecting stories. Now, their passion for collecting can no longer be separated from their passion for art-making. "Collected Response," their first joint exhibition, is an extension of their conversations, with their art doin' the talking.

Wiman's work is thoughtful, meditative, and playful – assembling like objects in evocative ways, at times in a gentle, joshing dialogue with the architecture. A stack of red books, arranged from large to small, runs from the floor to an I beam that cuts across the gallery ceiling. A stack of envelopes and their contents sit on a shelf, weighted down by a gilt ball. The top envelope is addressed to a bank in Dallas, handwritten in pencil. One feels short stories, novels, lives, hidden inside those letters.

Moore's paintings, drawings, and assemblages of frogs and birds, among other things, are accomplished, attractive, thoughtful, and kinda creepy. The layered ink and graphite drawings on vellum combine perceptual jumps between real and imaginary layers of transparencies, and overlap while poetically depicting the life cycle of frogs and the pond they call home.

The genesis of Moore's collecting lies in childhood. She invented private worlds with her toys and was impressed by visits to the Smithsonian museum, which she remembers as dark and creepy, with jars of dead things displayed on shelves. "The nation's attic," as it was called, was more akin to a museum of natural history than the visitor-friendly museum it is today. In her art, her toys mediate for her, as they did when she was a child.

Wiman was inspired by his mother's household collections, born of Dust Bowl-era deprivations. Everything was saved: washed and flattened aluminum foil, rubber bands, strings, or shoelaces turned into balls, and many other things often transformed by disassembling them and storing one like thing with another. Wiman once asked his mother where a box of plastic balls came from; they were from roll-on deodorant bottles. Wiman has taken this aesthetic into the studio and made a life's work of reimagining the most ordinary things.

"Collected Response" is not about differences or similarities but about affinities. Even operating on different wavelengths, the artists' work is in tune, and the audience feels it. As a viewer from Port Neches commented, "Collaborating is a better way for the art to be and the world to be." 'Nuff said. end story

"Collected Response" is on display through Feb. 19 at 02 Gallery in Flatbed World Headquarters, 2830 E. MLK. For more information, call 477-9328.

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