It's Worth Crossing Over to Hygienic Art

'Great Expectations,' photograph by Richard Koehler of Niantic, honorable mention.
"Great Expectations," photograph by Richard Koehler of Niantic, honorable mention.

"The Fifth Crossing" represents the fifth year that the Hygienic Art Gallery has urged artists and art lovers to ignore physical barriers and take a leap, as it were, over the waters that divide New London from other Connecticut towns and cities.

Originally called the "Crossing the Bridge Show," the juried exhibition has been successful says Kat Murphy, the Hygienic's curator and director of programming, in getting people to start crossing the bridge, as well as to motivate them to become involved in the arts scene in downtown New London.

Despite the poor economy, if the show is any indication, Murphy observes, artists are clearly still creating art.

"It hasn't been our best year in terms of sales, but it's great that artists are still working, even though it costs money to make artwork," she notes.

"We had a huge turnout at this year's opening-people came from farther than usual-Guilford and New Haven, which gives artists [exposure] outside of the local area."

Artists are encouraged to submit their best and most recent work. This year 212 pieces were submitted by more than 100 mostly professional artists; 111 pieces were accepted into the show.

Every year there is a different juror, and this year the pieces were selected by Sharon Butler of Mystic, an award-winning artist and faculty member in the department of visual arts at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Although the exhibition isn't theme-based-it's open to all themes and all mediums-in her juror's statement Butler says, "I instinctively sorted the work into loose categories, as if I were curating several intimate group shows?I tried to imagine how one piece might inform another in unexpected ways and sought to illuminate how conceptual content emerges from choice of imagery and materials."

Butler grouped the works in the following categories: Geometric Abstraction, The Body, Sentimental Narrative, Portrait, Gestural Painting, Loneliness, Water & The Sea, The Nest, Conceptual Narrative, Constructed Objects, and Place.

Troy Zaushny, a Hygienic coop resident won first place for "Kiss," multimedia sculpture; Denny Rivera of New London took second place for "Contained," oil on canvas; and Joshua CJG Robinson of Providence, R.I., won third prize for "Pferd," oil on board.

In addition, 17 honorable mentions were awarded to artists from various towns in New London and Middlesex Counties.

Online Dating

Troy Zaushny's fascinating first-place winning sculpture feature two miniature TV screens facing each other, which he rewired, building the electronics into the base. Each screen shows a 6- to 10-minute video running in a continuous loop-one of a male mouth, the other of a female mouth-so you never see the same two images together at the same time. One wing, made of window blinds, is attached to each screen, representing the couple's co-dependence, Zaushny points out.

Primarily a printmaker and painter, Zaushny says he used to do a lot of video work but hadn't worked in the medium in 10 years.

"I like to create these beautiful floral shapes that grow out of obsolete, mundane household materials," he says.

He says this new piece was inspired by how people use online dating sites.

"I wanted to make the male figure seem disinterested," he says. "I was inspired by how people look for intimate relationships through a computer ... It's a commentary on how people try to meet through this very limited description and how absurd it is-how can they kiss through glass?"

"The Fifth Crossing" continues through May 22 at the Hygienic, 79 Bank St., New London. Most of the works are for sale. The gallery is open Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. For more information, call 860-443-8001 or visit www.hygienic.org.

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