That horrid, high pitched screeching you hear is not some mechanical error—it’s coming from Marley Dawson’s 'Slow Burn (full circle).' One of three pieces Dawson has in the exhibit, 'Slow Burn (full circle)' is probably the first piece you will see and definitely the first one you’ll hear when you walk into his section of gallery. At first glance it’s just a vintage motorbike propped up on a white circular platform, leaned in a little bit as if from centripetal force. There are two dark circles on the bike's platform, which, before discovering that this sculpture is the source of that ungodly sound, could easily be mistaken for paint-mimicking tire residue. But the bike’s tires actually drew those lines and the back tire is still leaving residue as it spins, moving the bike around in hair-pullingly slow donuts like some deranged, overly complicated protractor. The tire’s struggle to move against the platform and the fact that mopeds were not built to move in tight, endless, near-perfect circles is what causes the screeching. This kind of abrasive approach might not be uncommon in one of the smaller experimental galleries in town, but it is somewhat shocking to find a motorized vehicle drawing and screeching in the generally staid halls of the Walters.
On the surrounding walls, 'Circle Work (rocket assist board 1-5)' features several giant canvases with long metal arms outfitted with bullets, which, like the bike, mimic protractors, tracing burnt circles that look like more tire marks. The circles in 'Slow Burn' are still being drawn by the bike’s tires, whereas these circles are complete and now hanging on a wall. That doesn’t mean 'Circle Work' is static, though. The canvases, subtitled “rocket assist,” look like blueprints for the bike’s endless circles and their bullets add a sense of menace to the exhibition.On the other walls around the bike 'Sign (Landscape/Constellation) #11-17),' a series of former street signs stripped down to a reflective, mirrorlike aluminum dented with bullet holes, tying this series to 'Circle Work.' Instead of informative paint, the viewer is left looking back at her own reflection, warped by the indentation of the bullet’s punctum. These empty signs, the burnt circles and bullets, and the bike all create an uncanny scene: The bike is going in circles and the signs no longer lead anywhere.
Sondheim Artscape PrizeIntroduction
Lauren Francis Adams
Why Prizes Matter