Where do I go from here?

April 1st, 2010

“Where do I go from here?” Work by Mark Wagner, Clayton Thiel, and Salane C Schultz, at FLOAT. March 20th – April 24th.

In 1992 I visited Virtual World, a gaming immersion center in nearby Walnut Creek. Hot on the release of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s novel “The Difference Engine,” steampunk was just starting to catch on as a subculture. The lounge at the entrance to Virtual World was designed to resemble an expat bar in colonial India (or was it Mars?), the decor replete with potted ferns and ceiling fans. Following a debriefing, we were led into the gaming area, where each pilot stepped into their own mechanized warrior. I’m a bit claustrophobic, but once the door closed, rather than feeling trapped, you felt immersed in a new, virtual reality, while on your HUD new found allies and enemies lumbered across this fresh vista. You were cut off from the outside world but completely in touch with this other dimension.

Walking into FLOAT, which bills itself as an “urban art spa,” I flashed back to Virtual World. It is not only an art gallery, but a flotation center as well. They offer “Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy” (R.E.S.T.)–which provides a much better acronym than “Flotation And Relaxation Therapy”–in what is commonly referred to as a sensory-deprivation tank. And after a briefing on what to expect from their experience, clients are similarly led from the gallery’s lounge to where the flotation tank awaits behind a curtain.

“Where do I go from here?,” work by Mark Wagner, Clayton Thiel, and Salane C Schultz, is guest curated by art publicist Nancy Vicknair. The gallery’s website broadly describes the exhibit: “Three artists explore the next dimension through magic, mythology, symbolism and story telling.”

This is the first show in sixteen years for Alameda-based artist Wagner, who made news in 2008 when his nonprofit “Re-Enchanting the World through Art” organized the world record-setting chalk drawing in Alameda’s former naval air station. “Where do I go from here?” includes some of Wagner’s older work, including “Creation of Language” (1992) with the strong Native American imagery for which he is well known, as well as “The Nature of Technology” (2003) which humorously shows African animals depicted as bipeds posing for a camera, as indicated by the focusing circle at the center of the print.

"Horned Goddess" (detail), "Green Man Medicine" (detail), and "The Art of War" by Mark Wagner

Wagner’s newer pieces are complex, beautiful, and fearsome. The trio of signed, numbered, digital prints–“Horned Goddess,” “Green Man Medicine,” and “The Art of War” (2010)–all appear to be warriors, there to protect or heal us. The theme of fierce but beneficent figures continues with his new paintings “Sentinel of Time” and “The Soul Gatherer.” The latter, a 32×44 oil and mixed media on board, was among the pricier works in the exhibit, and fetched $3200.

"Tree House I Never Got to Build," "Raven Head," and "Totem Figure w/Toys" by Clayton Thiel

Mark Wagner has collaborated previously with Clayton Thiel and their styles and mythologies mix easily. According to Thiel’s statement, “Once imbuing his heads and figures with more obvious narrative elements, often composed of symbolic objects or story-telling hints to be interpreted, his sculptures now ask only to be examined for themselves.” However, his work in this show is not only beautiful and intriguing, but also has a strong narrative quality. One cannot help but wonder what story they are telling.

Salane C Schultz with her "Sideways Girl"

The paintings of Salane C Schultz are playful, a quality exhibited by the artist herself. Schultz is also a musician–she’s Miss May in the tongue-in-cheek 2010 West Coast Accordion Babes Pin-Up Calendar–and she anthropomorphizes music into figures reminiscent of Kokopelli, the Native American fertility deity who also represents the spirit of music. With their silhouettes and intertwined loops, the subjects populating the mythology of her two-dimensional universe also call to mind Keith Haring.

"The Concertina Player" and "Man in Museum" by Salane C Schultz

FLOAT is located at 1091 Calcot Place, Unit #116, Oakland CA, 94606. (510) 535-1702. Open 7 days a week, 10 am to 10 pm by appointment.

Michael Singman-Aste
Postdiluvian Photo

Tags: , , , , , ,

4 responses to “Where do I go from here?”

  1. Mom says:

    As usual I loved what you wrote. This place must be facinating! Really liked “Man in Museum.” The pics by Mark Wagner are fabulous.

  2. MW says:

    Nice review, thanks! It’s been 16 years, not 6… great show & space.

  3. Love this work… mirrors the mythological life we live as human beings.

  4. Great exhibition Mark! My favourate is Raven Head! XXXPatriciaSteur

Leave a Reply