Ideas, not themes, form unconventional exhibit

Photo by Rachel Palinkas

Photo by Rachel Palinkas

Dominic Baez

It’s hard enough to come up with a topic for a term paper, much less trying to put one together. Now, imagine trying to create an exhibit without a theme, without an obvious cohesive unit. That is what TJ Norris did with .meta, the newest exhibit in the Miller Fine Arts Gallery.

Norris is the curator for .meta, a “themeless” exhibit featuring artists Nayland Blake, Jesse Paul Miller, Stephanie Robison, Robin Rimbaud, Jack Daws, Harrison Higgs, John Waters, Jenevive Tatiana, PE Lang + Zimoun, Eva Speer and D.E. May.

Cris Moss, gallery director and adjunct professor of art and visual culture, invited Norris to realize the third incarnation of his “themeless” exhibitions. Both of his previous curatorial projects in this series, grey|area (Guestroom Gallery, 2006) and invisible.other (New American Art Union, 2007) focused on exploring the origins of ideas, not complete thoughts.

“I’m a glutton for the challenge that comes with critical oversight and review,” Norris said.

He said .meta is the finale of an unofficial three-part curatorial series that began with grey|area and included 13 West Coast artists from the Bay Area to Victoria, B.C.

“Where nature emerges as geometric and
mechanical, I often discover unique relationships between the organic and the fabricated, virtually mapping the intersection between the experiential and the concrete,” Norris’ artist statement explained. “Taking pictures or making video are acts of collecting source material for evolving multimedia projects. Like an archeologist would, I observe nature’s quintessence and digitally transpose its fragility. I seek to offer my audience a sense of immediacy with the sense of place, by bringing them closer in, causing a contextual repurposing of public versus private space.”

This isn’t the only process that has helped him create this exhibit.

“Over the past three years, I’ve developed exhibitions from digested bits and pieces of found ideas,” Norris said. “These flash moments are scrawled on receipts, shorthanded into my iPhone and sometimes based on the reliance on my own memory. Big ideas are often prefaced by even more fleeting minutiae. While building these exhibitions, much became divisible through the power of imperceptible suggestion-both philosophical and rhythmic. As such, .meta becomes a richer examination, drawing to some form of non-linear, barely narrative conclusion in this series.”

Norris said that, as a freelancer, he has enjoyed using alternative spaces and forward-thinking galleries that think beyond the consumer.

“Spaces that appeal to me most are those with the ability to bring in a cross section of the population based who welcome a thematic thrust with a twist for the unexpected,” he said.

Norris said this process is invitational, in which he mostly selects work from artists whom he watched grow in their studio practices. Because of this process, he has seen some fairly
creative art.

“A few years back, I was particularly interested in the work of John Waters in his exhibition Unwatchable and how it related directly to his work in film,” he said. “The piece ‘21 Pasolini Pimples’ speaks for its wry self by navigating flaws via a freeze-frame technique of another filmmakers work, simply isolating the imperfect flesh of his actors. That is simply brilliant to me. I’m sure that Cris Moss and his staff might have some to share about stuffing Nayland Blake’s ‘The Big One’!”

Norris will be a part of the coming exhibit, Of Other Spaces, which explores how the origins and functions of spaces shape human

“I think it is essential that future creatives know that my own work as an artist has truly allowed me the flexibility to look into outside forms, like curation, as a mode for my voice,” he said. “In this era, we should look beyond the confines of our studio walls, to how we relate to this changing environment through relational aesthetics, collaboration, interative, kinetic work and face the truths about how technology can be integral and overused in our individual practices.”

The .meta exhibit is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. The gallery will be closed Nov. 26 and 27 and will reopen Nov. 28 and 29.

An artists’ talk will be held Nov. 12 at 4 p.m. in the gallery.

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