Rosewood show is funny and thought-provoking

Both artists showing works at Rosewood have fanciful imaginations. The difference is, Rob Millard-Mendez of Evansville, Ind., uses all kinds of construction and found materials; Toledo resident Mary Gaynier uses only paper and glue. Kids and adults with a sense of humor will love this show. Blind date with an alien? Gaynier has that covered. A boatload of superstitious cargo? Millard-Mendez is not afraid of that subject.

“In the last year, I have worked with a very diverse range of media including bone, fabric, tagua nut, ostrich eggs and many other things,” said Millard-Mendez. “The wide range of media I use defines my practice because I am always out to use the best material to express the idea I want to get across.”

And he has plenty of them. For “Triskadecka,” he created several harbingers of bad luck: black cat, broken mirror, crow, a person walking under a ladder, and an open umbrella inside a house. The black boat is fixed upon a Ouija Board base. In “Dreamhouseboat Navigating Dicebergs,” the boat made from Three Stooges scratch-off lotto tickets is chasing a dollar bill. The money hangs out from the bow of the ship as the ‘bait’ on the end of a fishing pole.

Millard-Mendez is the University of Southern Indiana department of art assistant chairperson. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell with a BFA in sculpture. He holds an MFA in sculpture from University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. As you may have guessed, his mixed-media sculptures focus on nautical themes. These are inspired by his childhood in New England.

“Boats are powerfully metaphorical, and the ones in this exhibition are laden with layers of interwoven meanings,” said Millard-Mendez.

Gaynier’s meanings in her creations can only be guessed by the viewer upon close inspection. She uses a high-quality rag paper infused with strands of cotton. Those who see her intricate works might wonder about her process.

“I start by folding the paper into eighths or quarters, depending on the design. I do a drawing right on the paper,” said Gaynier. “I make a photocopy of it … I unfold it once and use the photocopy of the design for a graphite transfer to the backside of the unfolded paper.”

Got that? When she gets all the cuts made with her Xacto blade, the design “is always a surprise” to her. She spends the most time cleaning up jagged edges or pieces that didn’t originally detach. She uses an acid-free glue stick to mount the finished product on black Arches paper.

In any case, the viewers will be pleasantly surprised by her creations. Her go-to themes include aliens, monsters, mischievous dogs, menacing plants, and accidents waiting to happen. In “Alien Weed,” an unsuspecting gardener is about to be attacked by an evil plant that is receiving signals from a maniacal alien hovering overhead. For “Cat and Mouse,” a fat feline is about to pounce on a mouse on the table, while nearby a woman is balancing one foot upon a stool.

“(She) takes the most elementary form of art imaginable, and turns them into multidimensional pieces that are more M.C. Escher than they are fifth-grade crafts,” critic Rob Lockwood has said about her work.

For “Morning Rush” Gaynier imagined an excited dog tripping a sleepy man in pajamas spilling his tray of eggs and cereal. One can only expect the dog heard the mailman. In this way her works become more than just amazing images; they are stories to be told.

Gaynier has a BFA from the University of Toledo. She began her experimentation with cut-paper art forms in 2001, and started showing her work in 2005. She has won many awards with this intricately-crafted paper art style. In addition to creating works in her studio, she teaches paper cutting workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art and the University of Toledo. She is holding a free workshop at Rosewood Gallery on Saturday, April 12.

“Both take the viewer on a journey, Rob Millard-Mendez takes you by boat, and Mary Gaynier gets you there by alien spaceships,” said gallery coordinator Amy Anderson. “I was particularly excited to see the craftsmanship and attention to detail by both artists.”