'Radical Nautical': Awash in water works

For its annual juried show, Gallery Lombardi asked artists to dive into the fantastical and mythical depths of the ocean

Rapture of the Deep, by Harris O'Malley
Rapture of the Deep, by Harris O'Malley

Just in case Austinites have not yet had enough water this summer, Gallery Lombardi sets sail on Aug. 2 with "Radical Nautical," an exhibit of 71 pieces of sea-themed artwork. To celebrate the show's maiden voyage, the gallery is hosting a celebration with live music, spoken word, seafood refreshments, a word from the Save Our Springs Alliance, plus a live mermaid on the porch.

The event launches Gallery Lombardi's annual juried show that is open to submissions from anyone. This year's theme, which attracted 350 submissions, came out of a desire to explore the fantastical and mythical, from fairy tales to unicorns. The ocean, where humans can't live, seemed the right kind of primordial soup for artists to create.

"A lot of people are scared of water," says Lombardi director (and Chronicle Arts writer) Rachel Koper, who is one of five curators of "Radical Nautical." "It's evident that water is also a metaphor for dreaming, being lost in the subconscious. There's also a dark side to it."

Many of the pieces delve into the fantastical and even the macabre. Scott Ewen's Venus shows an emerging goddess surrounded by violent waters and alienlike ghouls overhead. Charlie Chauvin's Sailor's Delight features a yellow-toothed, claw-fingered sailor facing down an omen of rough seas.

"Radical" could mean both original and political. The multimedia show features Suzanne Koett's Measure of Pride, a photograph of a gay sailor holding both American and rainbow flags, and Mark Wade's Sailing Through America (Interior View), a telescopic view of decaying trash.

The curators hoped to avoid the most obvious types of water-themed artwork. "When we said 'nautical,' we wondered if we would get seashells, pelicans on the pier, watercolors, grandma-style. But it's much more representative of modern style," Koper says.

The opening-night event will allow visitors to pick their favorite piece for a $300 people's choice award. "One of the things we do at Gallery Lombardi is show first-time artists alongside established artists. We're proud of that," Koper says.

Other announced events include a knot-tying contest, projections of work by video artists, and local improv master Shannon McCormick reciting Dutch sea tales. Hawaiian band Combo Mahalo performs at the end of an evening of other sea-themed music acts.

Plus, there's that mermaid. "There's a woman who wanted to sit somewhere with shells in her hair and sit with blue projections on her, singing," Koper says. It seemed to fit.

"Radical Nautical" runs Aug. 2-Sept. 1 at Gallery Lombardi, 602 W. Seventh Ste. A. For more information, call 481-1088 or visit www.gallerylombardi.com. Also, see Arts Listings.

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Radical Nautical, Gallery Lombardi, Rachel Koper, water theme

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