Sunday, September 24, 2023
September 24, 2023

Little Pockets of Defiant Beauty intrigues

By Cicela Månsson

Special to the Driftwood

The masses crowded in on Saturday, April 1 during the Little Pockets of Defiant Beauty opening in the gallery rooms at ArtSpring. Viewers were greeted by a true experience: impactful art, DJ Matsya’s ambient abstract music, artful food by Country Grocer and Vivezza Vineyards’ chardonnay and pinot noir.

The seven artists are: Seth Berkowitz, Stefanie Denz, Ella MacQueen-Denz, April Cooke Mackey, J. Robert Moss, Anette Schrage and Michela Sorrentino. Berkowitz conceived of the collaboration, deliberately choosing the artists though not curating the art. The exhibit continues daily through April 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Pieces comprising this exhibit use a multitude of media: photography on metal, photography on paper, oils on canvas, oil on impermanent materials, layered mediums, watercolour on paper. These diverse pieces hang as a cohesive exhibit that surprises and delights. The use of the word “pockets” may suggest that the works live in their own space quite separate from one another. But there are relationships here too . . . mother/daughter, friends, colleagues. There are repeated images of bridges. One artist whose work hangs in this show created the graffiti that appears in another collaborator’s work. There is the detritus of everyday life, car wreckages, injecting human interference upon a beautiful landscape, and here too is another bridge in the distance. Strangely the bridges don’t lead anywhere.

Denz’s beautiful and story-full work is painted on impermanent transparent sheets or food packaging. The impermanence is bothersome but it gives a sense that the work is fleeting and ephemeral.

Berkowitz presents difficult scenes of the panhandling homeless juxtaposed against forgotten and forlorn buildings. The negative exposure exacerbates the brittleness in the images and underlines the situation in which the underhoused find themselves.

Digital composites and photographs of a dark graffiti-filled hallway, wrecked cars and thrown-out bicycles at the local dump are the raw materials through which mixed-media artist Schrage tells stories. It leaves one standing and wondering what happened.

Textile and graphic design influences figure large in Sorrentino’s work. Large, bold and multi-layered there is an organic and brash feeling to her work.

Intense dreamlike images bordering on cartoon-art are the domain of MacQueen-Denz. These aren’t large pieces but one can stand and look at them forever making up all kinds of story lines of her intense watercolours.

Mackey takes the common-place found in all of our homes — the leftovers of breakfast — and creates beautiful oils in joyful spring palettes that so jump off the canvas you can almost taste them.

Both beautiful and ugly landscapes by Moss are overlayed with images that suggest the problem of human acts: a plastic storage bin in front of an oil refinery, a beautiful landscape with an outline of two nudes. The two portraits suggest that the sitters are somehow held hostage, one exhausted and the other full of worry.

There is an undercurrent of questioning sadness in the exhibit. It is commentary on the challenges many face in this world, but there are pockets as well — little pockets of defiant beauty. Life is hard for many, so keep and nourish the pockets where you find them.

For more information about the artists and the show’s art work visit


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