Recently, artist Curtis Bracher posted an intriguing question on Facebook.
"Oooooh," he wrote. "To cut or not to cut?"
Along with the post were photos of "Banquet," a gorgeous, large-scale black-ink-on-Mylar piece depicting a table packed with food and drinks. It's one of his two installations in Lure, a group exhibition opening from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, at San Diego Mesa College Art Gallery (7250 Mesa College Drive in Kearny Mesa). Bracher was trying to decide whether to continue cutting away parts of the art, leaving only the sections of the composition under see-through panels made from old computer screens, or to simply stop chopping and leave more of the original intact.
Bracher's a community-college arts teacher who's constantly pushing his students to view art as an exploration rather than a final product. To help make his point, he sometimes walks by their work and purposely pours coffee on it, prodding them to keep going despite the setback.
"I'm always telling my students not get too wrapped up in the work they do," he says. "Let it be something where you kind of play and move on."
Bracher eventually saw the hypocrisy in his hesitation to discard parts of his own work. He kept cutting, but he compromised and found more computer screens to incorporate, thereby leaving more of the original composition alone.
The effect is stunning. The screens distort the images behind them, making it look as if they're constantly moving or shifting and forcing the viewer to step up close and move away in order to make sense of it.
Bracher's piece is at home among the other dynamic work in the show. Artists like Dan Allen, Bret Barrett, Angella d'Avignon, Alexander Jarman and Richard Gleaves were asked by guest curator Susan Myrland (a CityBeat contributor) to use elements such as color, light, sound and movement to examine ideas of temptation, attraction, repulsion, deception, satisfaction and satiation. The resulting conceptual work is interesting and demands that the audience engage with each piece in order to figure out exactly how the 24 artists responded to the exhibition's underlying question, "What captivates you?"
"Art is never an answer," Bracher says, stepping back to gaze up at his dizzying piece. "It always needs to be a question."