Cryptic Imagery


School is in, which means artistic life picks up the pace in town. Ventura College's two art galleries, a fine source of exhibit-inspired intrigue, has kicked off its 1998-99 series with shows involving artists with subtle agendas.

For Cheryl Coons, showing in the New Media Gallery, the expressive point of departure is insects and fossils, depicted with the apt materials of beeswax and dry pigments.

These cryptic subjects are addressed with varying degrees of attention and importance in terms of the finished painting. If bugs are ostensibly the basis of Coons' mixed-media works, their sensuous textures and effects imply ulterior motives. Insect life is only a tangential message of her art.

Her technique and use of materials leads to a reflection on process as much as image, as in "Metamorphosis," with the twin images of a caterpillar and winged thing afloat in a mucoid, sticky-looking bed of yellow-orange.

Darker thoughts arise in "The Kafka Moth," in which an ambiguous insect could be seen as a protagonist in a Kafka-esque vignette, an emblem of alienation.

"Fossil" has a bumpy, tactile surface like the enigmatic face of a fossil, with secrets waiting to be deciphered. "Fire Brat" is a slightly menacing bug, appearing to illuminate a volatile, incendiary atmosphere of heated colors.

Coons' buggy work, carefully balancing abstract and representational elements, is all of a piece. Creepy and resilient, these insect and fossil impressions suggest a dimension beyond our everyday awareness.


Artistic Readings: In Gallery 2, Seiko Tachibana shows a series of intaglio works, ranging in size from small square pieces to the giant "Michi (Life/Road)." A "scroll installation," the latter piece extends from the ceiling, spilling halfway down the gallery floor.

Essentially a mosaic of squiggly lines in small rectangular boxes, the fragments strive toward fluidity. It's a dramatic gesture writ large, underscored by the quality of the artist's quiet elegance.

Just as Coons tightly defines her visual vocabulary, Tachibana relies on a recurring series of shapes and gestures in a process she describes as "symbolic abstraction." Repetitive markings establish rhythm and patterns, coolly alluding to the process of reading and language. Meanwhile, disconnected shards of imagery lead naturally into the process of trying to connect the pieces in a logical, meaningful way.

In pieces under the title "Sound of the Earth," modular elements blend together in overlapping, ghostly imagery. Tree limbs, spirals and other hints of the recognizable world are woven into designs of roughed-up symmetry.

"Existence III-1" finds discrete images fitted into three distinct squares, generating a graceful tension through juxtaposition.


Cheryl Coon and Seiko Tachibana, through Sept. 30 at Ventura College's New Media Gallery and Gallery 2, 4667 Telegraph Road, Ventura. Call for hours: (805) 648-8974.

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