san francisco art magazine

Summer Group Exhibition
Mark Wolfe Contemporary Art
San Francisco, California

Emil Alzamora - Yee Jan Bao - Holly Boruck
Ramiro Hernandez - Jennifer McNeely - Don Porcella
Jana Rumberger - Peter Walker - John Zoller

August 5th - 30th, 2008

Reviewed by Anastasia Steinberg
Holly Boruck - Blue Bird I

"Blue Bird I", 30" x 41", oil and graphite on mylar

      Much of this group exhibition seems at first glance to typify summer--carefree, colorful, and fun. But there is a specter of something sinister in many of these works that creates an interesting and evocative experience for its audience. The art characterizes not only life to the fullest; it also illustrates the decay that comes with the fall.

Jennifer McNeely - Toughy

"Toughy", 28" x 20" x 9", various media

      Yee Jan Bao's "Grey Beach" depicts the typical figures of happy children posing for a photo at the beach. Their body language clearly expresses their excitement and joy, but the artist's loose brush strokes portray the children's faces as somewhat masked or mummified. Tragedy may be near--or not--and the ambiguity of the painting is fascinating.

      "Ghost II", by the talented ceramicist Emil Alzamora, portrays an odd and sort of other-worldly man who is neither lying down nor standing. The figure's feet slightly overlap, reminiscent of a crucifixion. The figure hangs eerily, as if from its neck. Although the image is beautifully crafted, it is disturbing and unsettling because there is something unnatural about the figure's life as well as death.

      I wandered over to Don Porcella's "Swimming Hole", featuring life-sized cartoonish figures constructed from vibrantly colored pipe cleaners. (Remember all of those innocent arts and crafts projects as a kid? What could be more fun?) The figures in this work are so colorful and so clearly just folks enjoying a fun and silly day at the beach, that the tension between life and death was not patently obvious. That was, until I noticed the equally colorful rat lurking near the water's edge and the striped bird, hovering over the swimmers, that was more vulture than seagull.

Jana Rumberger - Family Tree

"Family Tree", 108" x 12" x 12"
orthodontist wax, crochet thread, acrylic,
and acrylic gloss medium

      I was enchanted by Jana Rumberger's "Family Tree". Tiny replicas of the artist's relatives hang from the ceiling, encased in many layers of orthodontist wax. These figures look like cute little toys in a cocoon. But the layer upon layer of wax gives the effect of some large and sinister force trapping and wrapping the figures, much like spiders do to insects.

      Jennifer McNeely's "Toughy" protrudes from the wall, looking like a soft and harmless elephant's trunk and not at all "tough"--until the viewer notices that the trunk looks more like the stump of a human appendage and is clutching a billy club. The contrast between the composition and the subject matter makes a brutal impact.

      Sitting down to reassess whether the macabre really was lurking in these pieces of art, or whether it was a commentary on my current mental state, I saw Holly Boruck's oil and graphite "Blue Bird I" and "Blue Bird II". I had the sensation of looking out the windows at an innocent and traditional landscape. As I approached for a closer look, I realized that the birds were perched on lifeless branches on a barren landscape. Barren, actually, would be a euphemism. Rather, this was scorched earth with nothing else alive, and nothing else with color, except these two blue birds. It was disturbing. And interesting. And possibly hopeful.

-- Anastasia Steinberg
Anastasia Steinberg is a pet portrait painter and shoe artist. Visit her web page at:

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