Artists have been going on about what daring, iconoclastic rebels they are as long as there have been artists, especially throughout the century before this one.A show at the Durango Arts Center called "No Rules" fits into that tradition in its name. But fewer and fewer rules are left to be broken in fine art, and this show is the opposite of radical.
Except in one instance.
It's made up of 80 works (depending on how you count, some artworks consist of several pieces) by four regional artists: Judy Hayes, MarSan, Deborah Gorton and Fiona Clarke.
The grand, grand exception to the show's lack of rule breaking is the movement that Hayes has chosen for her subject: feminism.
For centuries, rules have kept women in constricted, unappreciated roles that were convenient for men. Hayes, in her work and in her splendid artist's statement, encourages rule breaking.
She writes "As a feminist from the Betty Freidan/Gloria Steinem era, I am passionate about equality for women and the status of women and girls throughout the world. I first envisioned doing this work when I heard a news commentator refer to the present as 'post-feminist.' What???? I was incensed. Obviously this current younger generation did not fully comprehend how hard we worked or how far we still have to go to achieve parity with men."
That's tellin' 'em, sister.
Besides her passion and her painting skills, Hayes makes her points with humor. Take "Women's Issues Beauty/Bondage: Dickies for Modesty" (mixed media $1,250): The "modest" dickie is made of beads and sheer black net.
In her comic clock, amusingly named "You've Come a Long Way Baby???" ($750) she compares foot binding to cripplingly high heels freely chosen. She's even written and recorded a rap song that pokes fun in a downright salacious way at what could politely be called come hither pumps.
MarSan has broken her own rules by moving from nearly life-size torsos wrapped in eclectic findings from around the world to many small pieces. I'm guessing this is one artist who's determined to take home some loot during the recession. We knew this artist as Susan Anderson when she worked at the Arts Center. She's now Susan Cardin.
She still combines all sorts of found objects. One ingredient that is enormous fun is a series of pyramid-shaped teabags with twigs leafing out through their tops. The tea bags appear with an antique pen-and-ink set in "A Star Is Born (Hive Series)," priced at $285.
It's hard to see what rule ceramicist Clarke is breaking unless it's that vessels need to be thrown on a potter's wheel. She works entirely in slabs. Clarke has chosen reasonable prices for her works as in "Nature as Designer (series) Bulb." The three pots are priced at $40, $42 and $44. As of Wednesday, more of her work was sold than that of any other artist.
Gorton may be breaking the expectation that artists should work in only two dimensions or three. She has continued her little doll people. I found "Bare Bones" at $550 the most winning.
She's also moved into large-scale collages like "Exploration" with canvas, papers, acrylic, inks and found objects, priced at $4,000.
Gorton says in her artist's statements that she rarely follows the rules for traditional art techniques. Maybe those old rules have had their day for so long that we no longer even notice when they're flouted.
This is a show to enjoy for the pleasure of the art but also to honor Hayes, the one artist who has taken the theme with deadly serious intent and skill.
Her purpose and her accomplishment are bewitching.