Santa Fe Art in Review: Cruikshank at Gebert, Sutor at Verve

Gebert Contemporarys new artist, Eric Cruikshank, excavates notions of sublimity in his Santa Fe exhibition. Nancy Sutor sees blue anew at VERVE Gallery of Photography.

In relation to natures power, we humans are lesser. The sublimity of nature“”the fathomless ocean, ominous tornado, or infinite sky””was excavated during Romanticism through realism. In opposition to both Romanticism and realism, Eric Cruikshank paints the sublime abstractly. Cruikshank grew up on a farm in Scotland, where he sometimes returns to work.

His recent show at Gebert Contemporary reveals how Cruikshank understands the land in his home of Scotland as abstruse””planes of color, movement and light express place, not representational forms. However, the painter dexterously captures moments of looking out into a terrible storm with acuity.

The artist may not be able to bring his viewers the rolling hills of Scotland, but he can mimic the light, color, mood, and sensation of a particular place and time, which arguably brings his audience closer to seeing that place than a more mechanical representation. In a sense, Cruikshanks paintings are the space, medium, or window into abstracted sublime landscape. How do we know what a landscape is except through its likeness to the furies of its elements?

Painted with an eastern restraint, Cruikshank reiteratively and gently layers color over his canvases. Thus, he spends considerable time with the actual object, incurring a relationship with the painting. He feels a responsibility to the art form, to return to it week after week. Through that I know his home. Its awesomeness, the heavy austerity.
– Katy Crocker

At Verve Gallery of Photography, Nancy Sutors new body of work Compose/Decompose remarks a shift in processes – and outcomes – for this artist. Sutor, who began teaching 19th-century photo processes at the former College of Santa Fe in 1996,  had for many years employed cyanotype, named for the cyan-blue of the print (and its cyanide chemistry), historically associated with botanist Anna Atkins who introduced cyanotype to photography around 1843. It was Atkins striving to record her fern and other plant specimens who helped establish the new science as one that enabled a new system in art. Left: Dicks Bee.

For Sutor, that process paired up with her own 20th- into 21st-century interest in botany, as an avid gardener, and with her practice of capturing sun-shadow ephemera and light-changing phenomena. Shed send little plastic ants marching through a planting bed jungle. Or set up a dejeuner of eating utensils. Or track a fern blowing across the paper, which became a field for Sutor to treat as a drawing surface, even as she took the color chemistry of the print down a few notches from bright blue to a purplish tannic brown.

Two years ago came a big change in Sutors garden and picture-making which in this show comes across as color, first, and an imaginative play to the imagery unconfined now to a historic printing process. But there is consisency too: Communicated in the prints are effects on the verge of change. Sutor has said she experienced a “radical slowing down”, and going inside, which has accompanied the change in her work.

Though  there are heavy frames setting each image off in series, her photo work still communicates sequencing. A welcome breeziness, particularly  as concerns the color blue, cavorts. Theres a turquoise blue toy truck. The outline of a glass. The motion of a sheet in breeze closer to the tannic tones she had preferred (Apple Tree Screen 2, left).  It might be fun to envision these series scroll-like narrations, choreography of the every day.

– Ellen Berkovitch

Write us your thoughts about this post. Play nice.