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'Desaturated Worlds' exhibit focuses on the wandering path to a goal

| Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
'Branes Surround Us'
Desaturated Worlds
'Branes Surround Us'
'A Wrinkle in Human Hide'
Desaturated Worlds
'A Wrinkle in Human Hide'
'Unlikely Love'
Desaturated Worlds
'Unlikely Love'
'The Matter of Betelgeuse'
Desaturated Worlds
'The Matter of Betelgeuse'
“The Treatment of Peter”
Desaturated Worlds
“The Treatment of Peter”

In their latest exhibition, artists Casey Sommers and Angela Briggs present 30 new works in an exhibit titled, “You can't get there from here.” The show's title refers to the couple's belief that an aspiration can never be achieved directly – the path to any goal is a wandering one.

The title of the show is based on that Pittsburgh colloquialism, says Briggs. “That phrase always kind of stuck in my head, so when we were working on this series I kept going back to that phrase.”

“The way that I like to explain it is that in life you can have goals, say in five years I want to graduate from college, or in five years I want to be married,” Briggs says. “The same goes for art. With art you start with a blank canvas. You want that to culminate into a finalized piece. How do you get there from here? The answer, nine times out of 10, is whatever you foresee for yourself actually meanders in ways that you couldn't imagine. That's the same way with these pieces. We don't really know where they are going until we are there. We give the piece what it needs to get to that end goal, but it was a meandering process to get there.”

The exhibit, currently on display in the FrameHouse's Jask Gallery, consists of similarly created mixed-media works the couple worked on simultaneously over the past year.

“We only do one show a year,” says Sommers, “because the pieces actually take us all year to create, and we work on them just about simultaneously.”

Married and living in Munhall, Sommers and Briggs work together under the moniker “Desaturated Worlds.” They say their creation process is slow and intricate – a single piece can take up to a year to complete as they add layers of texture that include gesso, glaze, latex, acrylic, tempera and spray paint, as well as string, twine, tape, glass beads, rocks, wood chips, tissue paper and sand.

As in life as a married couple, their work constantly transforms as two separate minds, opinions and tastes combine on a canvas. In this way, unsettling outgrowths of texture shatter perfect lines, expressing the artists' past journeys and their often unforeseen outcomes.

For example, with the piece “Branes Surround Us” a complex linear pattern created by triangulated stretches of twine is interrupted by a splash of aquamarine paint.

A brane, as hypothesized in string theory, is something that can have any number of dimensions. This elongated piece is wrapped in several layers of twine, which seem to hold the work – and its many layers – together.

Pieces of black tape that crisscross the canvas also help hold the composition together.

“The broken lines of black tape are representative of the unknown in our lives,” says Briggs, “where and when an emotion or an idea begins and ends is not always clear.”

The inspiration for “The Matter of Betelgeuse,” another complex canvas incorporating tape and twine, was the couple's journey into a side-by-side meditation practice. “Once we started sitting together, we found a greater peace and happiness compared to when we meditated alone,” says Briggs. “The purple wisps of sand are akin to a spirit as it flutters into a deep, relaxed state. The attractive interplay of green and purple reflects our tranquil state of mind during those moments of silence.”

One standout piece is “The Treatment of Peter.” This yellow-on-yellow composition is a nod to Vincent van Gogh's sunflower series. A circle of blue lines resembles a flourishing flower, and shattered orange shapes represent fluttering petals. “We have travelled many miles to see Vincent's work in person because there is no substitute to standing in front of his masterpieces and feeling our lives change at the sight of them,” says Sommers.

“Unlikely Love” is a nod to the couple's romantic relationship. “The highlights of this piece are the three square shapes that break through the composition – these represent our body, mind, and spirit,” says Sommers. “Our belief is that we are three-part beings, and in order to feel at peace, all three facets must be unified. Similarly, all three parts must be fed and cultivated in order to achieve a deep, everlasting happiness.”

It's works like this that harmonize texture and tension into tactile environments that manifest a shared memory or moment in time.

The couple's 7-year-old daughter was the inspiration for the piece “A Wrinkle In Human Hide.”

Here feminine, lively colors dance across the composition, which is balanced by strings that are pulled down by a collection of plastic beads, reminiscent of a child at play.

“The title is a lighthearted joke to remind ourselves to never take life too seriously,” says Sommers. “It's easy to get swept up in the difficulties of adulthood, but we try to carry in our hearts the positive outlook and endless possibilities of a child's mind.”

Sommers and Briggs will discuss this current body of work 6 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 23, as well as chat about their unusual processes, and share some of their favorite memories of creating art together. The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided.

Kurt Shaw is the Tribune-Review art critic.

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