'Scuba Night' was one of Audrey Sochor's original sea curtains, which showed in 2000 at the Rogue Gallery & Art Center.

'Sea Curtains'

An experiment by Russian artists Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid revealed that most gallery-goers spend less than a minute looking at a piece of art. Intrigued by this concept, local artist Audrey Sochor conducted a similar experiment, timing people at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.

"Parents and kids would stand there mesmerized for minutes!" says Sochor. "That's what I want them to do in front of my paintings."

With this in mind, Sochor set about creating her own aquatic phenomenon: "Sea Curtains."

Sochor's water-themed installation premiered in 2000 at Rogue Gallery & Art Center, where it will again show from Friday, Jan. 7, through Tuesday, Feb. 8. An opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 7, at the gallery, 40 S. Bartlett St., Medford.

The show features free-hanging, sheer, fabric panels illuminated by lamps. Sochor creates motion by layering two panels and hanging one panel right behind the other to create a moiré effect, which occurs when one design is placed closely over another, creating a pattern different from either. She also employs Alexander Calder's idea that hanging things off-balance will keep the object trying to achieve balance — again creating movement in her work.

"What I am after is reality," she says. "The reality of what is happening in real life is embodied in how I use double layers and the moiré phenomena."

Aspects from Sochor's childhood weighed into the exhibit. Growing up in the dry, high plains of North Dakota, Sochor says she would hang her mother's lace curtains from trees in the pasture to create a whimsical playhouse. Frequent droughts in the area also roused her fascination with water.

In pursuing her graduate degree at University of California at Berkeley, she echoed the style of abstract expressionist painter Helen Frankenthale, staining canvases with oils. In an effort to separate herself from Frankenthale's label, Sochor began exploring painting with acrylic dyes on cotton and polyester curtain fabrics. Later, she studied stage design at UC Davis, where she learned methods of lighting, dimming and hanging.

When her friends and avid scuba divers Richard and Dianne Hurst showed Sochor underwater photographs from a dive excursion in the Republic of Palau, she began to conceive a marine exhibit.

She immersed herself in marine ecology, talked with divers and visited the Newport and Monterey Bay aquariums to study their sea life. Unfortunately, an extreme case of motion sickness prevented her from ever pursuing diving on her own.

For her work, Sochor stretches sheets of polyester screen-printing fabric on a frame. Following the example of auto painters, she fashions a tent of clear plastic and, using a spray gun and compressor, applies transparent acrylics. After spraying both layers of the piece, she hand-paints fish and kelp forests onto both layers.

Using office dots, often used on file folders, Sochor creates small oxygen bubbles suggesting the presence of divers.

New this year, Sochor has created jellyfish with curling, moving tendrils and crocheted underwater vegetation, in addition to several new waterscapes.

"I have created the setting, and now you create the play."

For more information, see www.roguegallery.org, www.audreysochor.com or call 541-772-8118.

Share This Story