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Weekly Update 2 – Sarah Roche at Cerulean


This week’s Weekly has my review of Sarah Roche’s exhibit at Cerulean Arts. Below is the copy and see more pictures at my flickr set.

From Dust Till Dawn
Sarah Roche draws from her experience as a museum cleaner

Sarah Roche
Sepia-toned painting by Sarah Roche. Looking through a glass vitrine at the objects and window in a room at the PMA.

By day Sarah Roche dusts and polishes precious objects in the Art Museum’s multimillion-dollar collection. By night she creates paintings and sculptures that translate her museum maintenance staff experiences into moody dreamscapes that evoke Alice’s descent down the rabbit hole.

By focusing on the art, frames and glass protection systems, Roche creates her own museum collection. It contains objects, but the main interest is the ambient experience of people and life intermixing in grand rooms filled with priceless wonders.

Roche - Sweet Briar Volcano.jpg
Sweet Briar Volcano

Roche’s Sweetbriar Volcano oil painting has the drama of a movie poster. The painting of an antique painting trapped under glass shows a fiery eruption scene interrupted by reflections in the glass of a) a viewer taking a picture of the work, and b) another viewer looking down and away, silhouetted by light coming in a window. It’s a funny, chaotic work but brilliant in its ability to communicate just how many levels of activity—not all focused on art—there are in a museum.

A deft painter whose oils have great brushy passages and nice colors (especially the two sepia-toned works that depict period rooms), and whose watercolors are delicate but sure-footed, Roche’s even bigger strength is her ability to create mystery and drama and tell a story.

Lee Friedlander_3.jpg
Lee Friedlander, Canton Ohio. 1980. That’s the photographer’s shadow captured on the woman’s coat.

Like the photographer Lee Friedlander who captured reflections in glass and his own ghostly shadow in his photographs, Roche makes magical self-portraits that distill life today into tales with universal meaning about slippery reality and the beauty of optical illusions.

Sarah Roche
Art Cleaning Cart

Art Cleaning Cart (a facsimile so correct in its scale, color and contents that several viewers actually mistook it for a real cleaning cart) is a great stand-in for the artist and her peers up on museum hill. Its objects—spray bottles, puffer, dusting brush and tote bucket—are faux. They’re porcelain or stoneware made by Roche, who also works in ceramics. This Duchampian faux-
readymade is a great monument to the museum’s unsung heroes.

Sarah Roche
Faux dusting tool, made of ceramic and wool. maps of the PMA.

I once heard about the museum “dusters” from artist/maintenance staffer Rob Matthews, who said he’d go around with his cart and visitors would ask him if he’d come to their homes and do the windows. Apparently Roche hears that as well, because the quip comes up in the show’s brochure essay.

Sarah Roche
The cart is so realistic some viewers saw it as a real maintenance cart and not an art object.

I’d never thought of the maintenance staff as part of the collection, but I’m reconsidering. They’re on display for viewers, they provide educational information and (as the men and women for jokes about window-cleaning) they provide viewer entertainment as well.

Sarah Roche
Some of Roche’s ceramic pots are on display as well like these cheerful urns in the front window of Cerulean.

This is a great exhibit by an artist mining her life and turning it into a reflection of something universal—the quest for clarity, truth and a little humor.

It looks great in the new Cerulean Arts gallery, a welcome addition to the scene with a serious exhibition program.

Sarah Roche: “The Collection”
Through Feb. 23. Cerulean Arts, 1355 Ridge Ave. 267.514.8647.