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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

Artists Who Express Who They…and We…Really Are

It seems ridiculous that somebody would go to the trouble of creating art and then create work that is designed to please or be current or imitate somebody else who’s popular, but it happens all the time. That’s why gallery hopping with my artist friend, Ardith, is like finding treasure at the end of the rainbow.

We begin at the end of Manhattan’s West Side — 547 West 27th Street, a pretty rough part of Chelsea that is in the process of gentrification. As usual, the art community is already there amidst the blasting, construction, and street mess. But up one flight in the Ceres Gallery, a cooperative supported by and supporting female artists, there is a whole other world. We’ve come after seeing this fractured face in a story about sculptor Cynthia Eardley (Art Knowledge).

I don’t speak “artspeak” (you can click on the links for that), so suffice it to say, I take one look at Eardley’s fractured but exquisitely beautiful sculptures and I feel something deep — what, I suspect a whole lot of people are feeling these days — broken, but hanging together as best we can.

I suspect everybody feels some aspect of what Eardley communicates in her hand-modeled, resin-cast portraits. She tenderly displays everything we try so hard to hide — with clothes, manners, and civilized behavior. But the word “suspect” is a lie; I “know.” I know we all feel these things because I have spent so much time in so many places where large groups of ordinary people come to find out who they really are. And, in my experience, when people tell the truth, it turns out we are all equally fractured.

The show runs through April 24. To learn more, go to ceresgallery.org and Cynthia Eardley's website.

In the big room next door in the same gallery is a show called “Small Murders Under the Sea” by 70-year-old environmentalist artist Ethelyn Honig. She, too, is expressing something primordial. Standing in a big, open, sun-lit room, we have the weird feeling of being under water, as we “bear witness to sea creatures as an invisible community.” Honig is on a mission, says Stefany Benson, the gallery director. She’s turning out paintings as fast as she can. She’s on a mission to make people see the beauty and danger that she sees.

The next stop is downstairs to the Sundaram Tagore Gallery, which is “devoted to examining the exchange of ideas between Western and non-Western cultures” and focuses “on developing exhibitions and hosting not-for-profit events that engage in spiritual, social and aesthetic dialogues.” We haven’t planned on stopping here, but we are drawn in by the vibrant colors and sun-like energy of what is on the wall. (I hesitate to try show the work because it doesn’t come close to the in-person impact. You can see a video at the gallery website, but you still won’t get a clue of the power.)

This is the work of Sohan Qadri, an artist, poet, and Buddhist yogi from India who lives in Copenhagen, and, according to the gallery receptionist, at the age of almost 80, he doesn’t give a hoot about the art world, but somehow it still comes to him. Qadri bathes paper in acid-free water, then carves it, then applies inks that look like the colors you might see when you’re deep in meditation.

The receptionist tells us that lots of famous people collect Qadri’s work and a book about him is due out soon — which is remarkable since he, too, doesn’t speak “artspeak” or even discuss what he does.

“But really, how does somebody who doesn’t talk, doesn’t explain, doesn’t promote on Facebook — how does somebody like that become so famous in this day and age?” I want to know.

The receptionist smiles. “When people see this, they just know they’re in the presence of a real master. And they keep coming to him.”

Hmm, I think. Hmm. Yes, this is a very satisfying day.
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