Mike Calway-Fagen at Murray State University

The sun in its singular nature—out of reach in so many ways—beckons to be stared at, to be dealt with, to be understood. Yet as we all learn in our most ripe and formative years, to give a glance back at the life-sustaining power source is to put at risk the very engine of vision itself. To stare at the sun is to essentially let too much in. The eyes are not designed to receive that much information, almost as if to suggest that within the reception of such brilliance there is more than we can handle and as such could be struck blind. Life itself is at times like that as well. I have no idea if Mike Calway-Fagen stared at the sun as a child, but his very affecting and poetic exhibition The limit is the sun at The Clara M. Eagle Gallery of Murray State University teases the linearity of reading imagery in much the same way. To presume you can or must take in vast amounts of predetermined information is to risk missing the enigmatic nature of his prints, sculptures and collages as they could blanch and dematerialize like a visage in the burned retina.

Take for instance the image from some 60 chosen framed collages from the series In Full Sight in which blurred vignette of a lush, coral-red rose field with four roses compactly positioned, low and centered, and in perfectly focused resolution. The image has been cut in a somewhat rectangular grid-like pattern and sequentially reassembled. Their disordering and reordering into the original order invites a sense of finality and further thought of what “final” really is. Nestled into the complexity of the collaged grid is a filmic profile of a female dramatically lit by frontal raking sunlight and its inclusion bends the subject matter into a psychological arena and unites the entire collage into a discursive texture. The series’ title In Full Sight is called into question as every nuance of visual information possesses a multitude of interpretations and resolutions. The image is of course “in full sight” but the reading is indeed limitless.

Amid the salon style arrangements of collages, which flank the walls throughout the exhibition, Calway-Fagen’s two significant sculptural additions provide an opportunity to engage the poetic, playful qualities of the collage works in three dimensions. Stopping Prevents Starting lists its media as “principal’s concrete parking stop from turn of the century middle school” and has been altered in form by having three separate parts of the block surface removed in varying degrees thus like the collages, re-forming the form into a newly discoverable entity. Again Calway-Fagen flirts with paradoxical ideas of the creative act, delineating how accelerated or stalled a work can be dependent on its viewer.

The curious What’ll we do about names mimics a department store garment rack with shirts on hangers all completely in a not-quite-royal, not-quite-Yves Klein blue. The hanging blue shirts are blank and seem to be waiting for the finishing touch of delineation. The configuration of the racks allow for the viewer to enter and get lost like a child who has wandered from mother at the mall. The choice of blue brings us full circle to the exhibition title, which refrains the vastness of sea and sky and quest for meaning. With The limit is the sun Mike Calway-Fagen has engaged the multifarious possibilities of form, which in the most mercurial fashion escapes itself and poetically re-presents itself while brilliant revelation is pursued.

Mike Calway-Fagen, The limit is the sun is on view at the Murray State University Gallery from January 30 through June 29, 2014.

Images courtesy of the artist.

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