If art is a language…-Julia Barello

I posted a much longer version of this article on my page but as it involves an upcoming event I am posting this shorter version to just focus on Barello’s work.
Since May, Julia Barella’s excellent show “SWIRL” has been hanging at the Ruben Center on the UTEP campus. She precisely dissects and hand dyes pieces of discarded MRI imaging film and x-ray film to make delicate shapes which she fastens to the wall.
In the downstairs entrance, a large portion of the wall is covered with what appear to be swooping birds placed in such a way as to give depth and movement to their forms. In the There are pinwheels and other shapes. It’s an interesting use of and transformation of material. In the excellently written catalogue for the show Kate Bonansinga, gallery director writes of this work “The tension between a body focused material and beyond -the- body subject matter synopsizes the artist’s two primary intentions, which are diametric. The first is to remind us of our physical beings and consequently, our frailties and mortality. The second is to involve us in our surroundings to the point that we extend beyond the corporeal.”
Everytime i read something like this, I am reminded of an old Peanuts cartoon in which Charlie Brown and Lucy are lying on the grass looking at clouds. What do you see? asks Charlie Brown, and Lucy goes into a long metaphysical description. How about you?, Lucy asks. “Well, I was going to say a horsey or a cow…”
In reading much contemporary criticism this is often how I feel. In the case of Barello’s work she may be wanting to make us think of human frailty, but the individual pieces of mri film are so small that I tend to not look at the them that closely or to remember what they used to represent; I become lost in their current shapes. I admire the artistry involved in making a large wall of swooping birds, but I am perhaps too superficial to reflect on, as the catalogue suggests, “celebrating individuality while also acknowledging intra-species similarities, and the inevitable loss of self.” I am not saying that’s not there, I am only saying that it would not have occurred to me.
hose did not change but were merely brought out. In the case of much contemporary art, nobody understands what, if anything, the symbolism means. We are often reduced to minute description and speculation because there is no longer any universally understood alphabet-there is no longer any certain idea of what anyone is trying to convey, often including many artists. Julia Barello is giving a talk at 6 pm on August 30 in the gallery and it should be fascinating to hear her take on her own work.-david sokolec

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