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Gallery Hop: Desotorow, Non-Fiction 

Tricia Cookson’s ‘Ubiquity and Balance’ @ Desotorow

May's First Friday Art March featured two particularly well-executed exhibitions.

At Desotorow Gallery, Tricia Cookson presented her MFA Fibers thesis show, titled "Ubiquity and Balance." Through large gauge crochet compositions and accompanying finely-focused color photographs of her constructions, Cookson explored material and mental manifestations of suspension, tension and weight. From her chosen title, to space planning, to the textures and colors she chose to juxtapose, her show evinced remarkable mindfulness and meticulous attention to detail.

Like living, organic masses, massive crocheted forms seemed to grow from all corners of the gallery space. Nest-like knit forms encased the room's white walls and, creeping up to the ceiling, suspended white, egg-like objects at their apex.

At the room's center, three white orbs sheathed in heavy, brown knit netting hung at eye level, tethered to the ceiling by thin, pink strands of yarn. Dense brown yarn appeared to drip from the suspended globes to pool on the floor in an amorphous crocheted shape. The fine, pink fibers converged in a pop of exuberant color at the point where Cookson affixed them to their thick, brown counterparts. Dispersing upwards, the pink threads urged beholders to shift their gaze up to explore the full extent of the artist's transformation of the gallery's interior. Cookson thoughtfully staged the browns and pinks of this central installation before a knit purple web dynamically unfurling in a loose V shape, and these varying densities achieved a stunning comparison between masses, textures and colors.

Cookson said she turned to crochet after a long process of experimenting with various materials and techniques. Recalling her grandmother, she noted crochet's traditional association with the home, its utilitarian feel and its flexibility. These features rendered the method ideal for her artistic investigations of mental and physical tension, pull and balance.

The artist, a native of San Francisco, took full advantage of these properties to make work as beautiful as it was legible. Crochet offered Cookson the degree of pattern control necessary to give accessible, sculptural form to the experience of being pulled in many directions. A mother of two, her medium's maternal connotations only bolstered the emotive quality of her fabrications.

Evoking universal experiences of tension, packed schedules and overstimulation, Cookson's constructions mirrored their maker's calm presence, grace and sense of whimsy. "Ubiquity and Balance," then, proved the perfect name for an exhibition that forged direct connections with viewers as it impelled the sort of grace under pressure necessary for twenty-first-century living.

Home Sweet Home @ Non-Fiction

Just north of Desotorow on Bull Street, Non-Fiction Gallery exhibited "Home Sweet Home," a collection of large-format color photographs by Abigail Cassner and Carson Sanders that communicated each artist's impressions of Savannah living.

Cassner's set of nine "Low Country Studs" humorously posed shirtless, bearded and burly beefcakes in coastal marsh settings. Further down the wall, 10 more landscapes and portraits evidenced the artist's facility with formality and photographic effects. Insistent geometry and skillful manipulation of light conveyed the sublime, the ephemeral and the unutterable.

Sanders's photographs occupied the opposite wall. His "Southern Comfort" body of work offered viewers a bevy of images of the city and its residents. Sanders noted his love for West Savannah, and recounted with utter sincerity his affinity for getting to know local Savannahians, specifically at such locations as barber shops. He said it's been important for him to form relationships with the city and its people outside SCAD, the squares and costumed tour guides.

His photographs, then, were decidedly informal when contrasted with Cassner's well-planned and well-composed images. Yet his portraits told the stories of born and raised Savannahians, and his sitters' countenances and eased postures illustrated their acceptance of Sanders and his lens into their environments.

Hung on opposite walls, Cassner's "Low Country Studs" and Sanders's "Southern Comfort" portraits spoke to each other, but their dialog nonetheless framed a tension between the staged studs, presumably Savannah transplants, and the local men, women and urban spaces Sanders sought to register as they are.

While photographs are typically dependent upon titles or captions, "Home Sweet Home" included no labels or artist statements. The absence of supplemental texts allowed the images to impart a neutral tone, engaging viewers in the labor of constructing a likeness of Savannah out of the images and impressions the artists offered.

"Home Sweet Home" thus successfully blended photographic techniques, subject matter and individual interpretations of Savannah to express just how multifaceted and idiosyncratic the Hostess City is.

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Jared Butler

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