Haviland Street Gallery is an oasis, a vintage home turned gallery, with its space originally designed for living, not looking. And I hesitate to say this, but all this welcoming homeyness makes the overall art experience here fun. We get so used to the white windowless boxes we call galleries that one can easily forget that art is being made in people's homes and in distinctive studios. For this exhibit, Gloria Santoyo Ruenitz offers a number of beautifully composed works that are wistful, celebratory, painterly and steeped in objects and symbolism. And, even though the potent content of these art works is rather specific and direct, as the exhibition's title suggests, it takes a good amount of time to fully appreciate these works.
There is also a suggestion here, when looking at these works, of going through a grandparent's bedroom drawers or attic, reading a stranger's diary, or perusing an old photo album. This effect is clearly amplified by the gallery itself, with its cozy dimensions and personal elements. In making her art, Santoyo Ruenitz often scrolls right into their waxy surfaces with meaningful words that, when combined with reproductions of old photographs, earthy tones, and well-worn, Latin-looking objects, become alluring and timeless. And Santoyo Ruenitz's art is so wonderfully simple and symbolic as it represents love, memory, and dreams with a quiet wisdom that is both edgy and comforting. In one piece titled LOVE, the artist dangles from various strands, numerous keys form a whitewashed, metal, sacred heart crowned with its classic mane of flames. The symbolism is easy to read, yet the work radiates its message beyond its physical borders. I suspect this has something to do with the size and shape of this work, a tall and very narrow wall piece. But there is something else going on here. I am guessing it's reverence -- a feeling that her subjects really and truly mean something to her. She, or someone she knows intimately, has lived through a weighty experience and come out with a deep respect for that experience, and what has been learned from it -- and that is what ends up in the art here.
There are also less weighty works on display that are quite successful. My favorite is another example of how powerfully emotive in their simplicity these works are. WISE HEART (image above left) has as its main element a decorative pin -- another metal, pendant-sized, flaming sacred heart -- that opens up to reveal a small toy eye as its lone treasure. And when viewing this seemingly quick and immediate gesture, it is easy to imagine the artist smiling, even laughing, while it was being assembled. Yet it is in that playfulness, in that immediacy, that stands the soul of a thinker, an observer of life, and a chronicler of experiences that are fluidly shared and completely revealed. - D. Dominick Lombardi
"Shelter," the verb 22 Haviland Street Gallery Norwalk, CT 203-852-6727 Through April 1st Mr. Lombardi is an artist with representation in Kasia Kay Art Projects and Lisa Boyle Gallery in Chicago, and Van Brunt Gallery in Beacon, NY; a writer with Sculpture, DART, & Magazine and NYARTS; and an independent curator.