CBC's art exhibit explores dark themes

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldOctober 29, 2013 

Columbia Basin College's November art exhibition features a macabre theme.

Deconstruction and Destruction opens in Pasco on Nov. 4 with the grisly paintings of artists Kate Vrijmoet of Seattle and Marcus Durkheim from California.

Their work is a mix of the expectations and perceptions of violent acts, such as Vrijmoet's depictions of grotesque, bloody figures mangled in horrific accidents by chainsaws, shotguns and axes.

Durkheim describes his work as perceptions that deal with guns, grenades and spy planes, as well as household items such as shoes and food.

But even though the images might appear violent or gruesome, not everything is what it first appears to be, the artists say.

"When I look at the work, I don't immediately think violence," Vrijmoet told the Herald via email. "I see beauty in the paint shapes, texture and colors."

Durkheim describes the work as an investigation into the elusive nature of physical reality and how beliefs and preconceived ideas prejudice your responses to everything around you. And though he's never been a victim of a crime or suffered an injustice that involved weaponry, he believes the best way to solve problems is using diplomacy instead of weapons.

"The objects in these works are extensions of the self, inert avatars that acquire meaning through the associations, memories and emotions that we attach to them," he wrote. "In this way, the objects also symbolize larger philosophical questions about human understanding and interpretation of existence."

Both artists are known internationally, having shown their work across Europe, China, Scandinavia and South America.

Vrijmoet says she paints from life, from what is observable, like trauma. Trauma is part of the human condition, she says, and her paintings are an attempt to depict that scenario.

"I've had trauma in my life. People have died, gotten sick, lost jobs. Things have not always turned out as expected," she said. "I heard someone once say, to get through trauma you need a sense of humor or a sense of self. While I gravitate towards humor, the subjects in these paintings seem to gravitate toward a sense of self. Toward being. An acceptance of the circumstances."

She used two male models to pose for her paintings in her studio, staged to look like accident scenes.

"The accidents are a metaphor for how vulnerable we are -- the things we do to ourselves that are not in our own best interest," Vrijmoet said. "When one experiences an unexpected life-altering event, we suppose our reaction will be big, but it's most often one of acceptance."

Vrijmoet uses her friend as an example of the story her paintings tell.

"A friend of mine was squeamish about these paintings and would give me a bit of a hard time because they made her uncomfortable," she said.

"Then one day, she called me in an excited state saying, 'Kate, are you sitting down? I get your paintings!' She had fallen down her steps and broken her ankle. She said as she lay at the bottom of the steps in pain, looking at her oddly positioned ankle, she felt an overwhelming sense of calm and acceptance."

Deconstruction and Destruction runs Nov. 4 through Dec. 5 in the Esvelt Gallery on the CBC Pasco campus.

Hours are from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 8 a.m. to noon Fridays. Admission is free.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @dorioneal

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