Seedlings, Dead Mice and the American Flag 

Art and the urban canvas showing at the VAC

The opening of "Eleven11" at the Visual Arts Collective (VAC) was filled with plenty of affordable, intriguing art, two stellar performances by trapeze artist Fabienne Lab, music by Neut and a constant flow of satisfied viewers. Once again, the VAC did a fine job of bringing in a group of local artists to create an exhibition that pushes the boundaries of Boise's typical gallery scene. The show consists of works by 11 Boise artists who created urban-focused art, using mediums ranging from collage, to graphics, to graffiti, and more.

Sam Stimpert, artist and owner of the VAC, said he has wanted to put this show together since the gallery opened. While all of their exhibitions aim to feature progressive art, Stimpert feels this one is different from any of their previous showings because of its dedication to street art. Typically at the VAC, a jury made up of artists who have previously shown their art in the gallery vote on who the next contributing artists will be. However, this time, Stimpert alone selected the 11 finalists who include Vy Boutdy, EPIK, paste eater, Gahlen Fridley, Bobby Gaytan, Jennie Myers, Erin Ruiz, Ben Wilson, Jeremy Webster, DMIZE and one anonymous artist.

Out of these 11 artists, there were four whose work forced viewers to reconsider their values and also evoked lasting emotions. The first of these was Jennie Myers. Although Myers is petite in person, the political, social, environmental and religious commentary she delivers through her art is immense. A graphic designer by trade, it's hard to deny her talent when viewing her largest piece--a mock of the American Flag standing approximately 12 feet tall. Using a variety of symbols, she portrays her opinion of how the American public acts vs. what their country supposedly represents. It is also a potent response to her being raised Mormon. In one portion of the flag Myers has a "V" of bombers flying east led by an upside down dove holding an olive leaf in its beak. Another portion shows two women hiking up a wedding cake only to be dumped inside a garbage can in the next image.

A second artist at the show was Ben Wilson. By the end of opening night, all six of the pieces that made up his installation titled "Flight of the Seedlings," were sold. His work doesn't share Myers' sense of urgency, instead his "seedlings," which look like pink and green robotic curly-tailed fireflies, melted my heart. Rather simple backgrounds and foregrounds pleasantly leave the focus on the whimsical creatures. Using collage, Wilson extends the tips of the seedlings' wings off the canvas ever so slightly. Upon discovering this extra dimension, viewers can almost feel a moment of weightlessness.

A third noteworthy artist contributing to "Eleven11" was Erin Ruiz. The most compelling element about her work was the diversity of her subject matter. Ruiz had many small portraits of mainstream characters and superheroes, including Indiana Jones, Frankenstein, Batman and The Joker, and then one large painting, The Dunce, a classical figure sitting in a corner wearing a dunce cap. Yet another of her works, The Common Conundrum, is of a dozen or so "mice angels" floating up heaven-ward from a mousetrap. Her installation (which is so lovely that VAC is considering cutting out the drywall and salvaging it) is of a group of mice being washed away to sea. Dunces, Hollywood movie stars and dead mice, though all subjects that differ starkly, in Ruiz's work all contain a sense of her style--once the viewer realizes that the little pink and blue mice are doomed, the mood of her installation becomes increasingly foreboding.

Graffiti artist paste eater, pushed the boundaries of the entire exhibition even further, bringing the street right into the gallery with his dismal yet humorous Dr. Seuss-like installation. Using all found objects, he created a layered wooden canvas giving his work a stair-step feel with rectangular blotches of varying shades of green representing the leaves of a bonsai tree. On the left, rickety pipes fasten small shanties to the "tree" limbs. One of the most fascinating elements of his work is his mouseketeer-like figures. One of them, resembling a young Asian girl/mouse, is chained to a house, holding a knife in her hand and is missing a limb. Originally, his characters began as a response to the irony that Disney exploits their main target audience: children.

Following the urban theme and upcoming trend, the owners of the VAC are throwing a "closing party" for "Eleven11" on New Years Eve, featuring DJ Art Hodge spinning records. Thanks to the success of opening night, they are considering making "Eleven11" an annual event.

Visual Arts Collective, 1419 W. Grove St., Boise 83702, 424-8297

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