I can’t say I’ve spent much time in Walnut Creek. Aside from using its many chain stores to populate my wedding registry, I wasn’t aware of other good reasons to go to the San Francisco suburb. I now know otherwise. The Bedford Gallery is a 3,500 sq ft contemporary arts space, located inside the large Lesher Center for the Arts and overseen by the City of Walnut Creek’s Arts Commission. Without knowing this, you could drive right past it. (I would say “walk past it,” but it is the suburbs.) I don’t know how edgy a civic art gallery is able to be, but The Bedford Gallery’s roster of past and future exhibitions is definitely intriguing.
Outfitters: The Contemporary Art of Clothing came to my attention due to its inclusion of one of my favorite artists, Nick Cave. (Not to be confused with the musician Nick Cave, another favorite.) Cave is one of twenty participating artists who, according to the press release, are “on the conceptual edge of craft, creating artworks that address our deep-seated attachment to what we – and others – wear.” The works on display are more surreal than wearable; concept art in the shape of garments. Luckily, that didn’t translate to overly sentimental “handicrafts”. It could’ve, but Bedford Gallery curator Carrie Lederer did a fantastic job assembling work that feels fresh rather than syrupy. Even without reading the signage, the artists’ voices, or at least personalities, seem clear.
One installation that really stood out for me was Victoria May‘s Blouse Series. Six sheer organza blouses, each one encasing different objects (hair, auto glass, rusted nails, sand, chicken vertebrae) between two layers of fabric. The resulting juxtapositions are gorgeous. According to May, “each blouse is a metaphor for an attitude we ‘wear’”. Perhaps my favorite, the blouse with the vertebrae, intends to expose “the sensitive nature of our nervous system”.
Charlotte Kruk‘s FlaM&Menco and M&Matador with El Traje de M&Matador were in bright, bold, cheeky contrast. In 2001, Kruk, whose medium is discarded candy wrappers, received a cease and desist letter from the M&M/Mars company demanding that that she “immediately turn over for destruction” all artworks using the corporation’s former packaging. The exhibited pieces are a direct thumb-to-nose response, displayed along with the ornately framed C&D letter itself.
Another stand out piece for me was Beverly Rayners‘s Accretion. The installation, in the form of housecoat with floor-length sleeves and a room-length train, is a trove of paper ephemera Rayner found at an estate sale. The newspaper clippings, greeting cards, photos, receipts, letters and inspirational poetry were the life-long collection of a woman and her mother before her. The piece poses questions about what amassing so much stuff means about us, and whether, at a certain point, the stuff begins to take on a life of its own. (Both good questions, and ones I revisit each time I’ve moved.)
Several more good shoes in the show, and a few puns.
A few more personal highlights:
I really enjoyed this show. Enough so, that I finally quit talking about starting this blog and actually put fingers to keyboard. Thank you Bedford Gallery and all of the participating artists:
Vic De La Rosa
Margo Jones Duvall
Outfitters: The Contemporary Art of Clothing is on exhibit from March 4 – May 13, 2012. Bedford Gallery at the Lesher Center for the Arts is at 1601 Civic Dr. in Walnut Creek, California.
Photos by Jeremy Brautman.