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Brent Budsberg and Shana McCaw Catch Moments in Time at Portrait Society

Mar. 14, 2017
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At Portrait Society Gallery, the piece called Breach is one that surprises. A grayscale photograph shows a spindly candleholder, and at the edge, the rounded stile of a chair catching some strong raking light. An intriguing scene, but that is not really the point. The whole thing is falling apart, and by that I mean the photograph is askew, the mat board is coming out, the bottom of the picture frame is undone, and the glass is ready to head to the floor. 

But, of course, it is not, really; it is the craft of collaborative artists Brent Budsberg and Shana McCaw to make objects and images that excerpt momentary droplets of time, suspending them in a way that stretches the past into the present, which folds onto itself so that the contemporary becomes antique. 

Viewers familiar with McCaw and Budsberg will recognize motifs of their previous endeavors, particularly ongoing touches upon the symbol of the home (especially in farmhouse form), and wide open, wild landscapes where they often appear as characters emerging from someplace in the 19th century. 

The video The Inhabitants: Simultaneity finds Budsberg and McCaw working with filmmaker Tate Bunker in a two-channel poetic narrative. The piece is fairly short, just about five and a half minutes, so take your time to watch it again. Set in a room that is also part of an installation at the Chipstone Foundation’s Fox Point location, the costumes and furniture carry us back to the 1800s but at different points. A man starts to paint whitewash over floral wallpaper, but in the same room, a bonneted woman concocts a potion. The man finds the dusty bottle and sips, and time slips like an ongoing dream state.

Paintings by Robert Lahmann are also on view, mounted under the title “Ideal State.” Lahmann studied art in the postwar years and while employed at Milwaukee Electric, used his off hours to drive the countryside and make pictures like those on view. His bucolic landscapes shimmer and are evidence of momentary idylls of the past: colorful, peaceful and lastingly tranquil. 

“McCaw and Budsberg: The Cleft and Shimmering Hour” and “Ideal State” continue through March 26 at Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo St., #526. For more information, visit PortraitSocietyGallery.com.

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