By Bruce Roberts
Imagine an art display combining the wackiest, most imaginative of three-dimensional work, along with a shattering array of children’s art focused on the horrors of war: imagination and reality, a combination that startles a viewer’s consciousness.
Foothill Gallery of the Hayward Arts Council is hosting this unique combination from Jan. 15 to Feb. 6 in the show “Places We have Never Been.” The 3-D works are by James Pridham, a man with a long Bay Area career of putting things together—“assemblage” in the world of art.
The children’s drawings and paintings are from Paintbrush Diplomacy, which encourages the exchange of children’s art from around the world. Executive Director Joan Sieber, a Hayward resident, has loaned these pictures, simple in their design, but complex and chilling in their subject.
James Pridham’s work is amazing, crafted with consummate skill and intricate detail. His miniature seaport took 4,000 hours of work, creating every building, every boat, every knot in a His mysterious devices made of found materials challenge the viewer to break out of old categories.
Many are steampunk creations. Steampunk has been defined as Victorian futurism, a sort of “Jules Verne meets Rube Goldberg.” Others have distorted allusions to classical stories and ideas. Fans of J.R.R.Tolkien will love his “Encounter in the Mirkwood” and “Middle Earth Pridham’s flights of fancy are balanced with the serious and tragic pictures created by real children from war zones.
The Paintbrush Diplomacy artwork focuses mostly on art by children caught in the Croatian War of the 1990s, by artists from 8 to 16 years old. A recurring theme is groups of people surrounded by barbed wire, many of them faceless, as if their humanity has been erased.
In other scenes, tanks roll over flowers, armed paratroopers descend through the sky, a large, blood-red hand reaches toward a city. In one particularly violent image, two white doves—traditional symbols of peace—fly before a city exploding with red billowing clouds, while underneath, a black-hooded figure with slits for eyes and a long gun fires upward.
This thought-provoking exhibit is on display at Foothill Gallery, 22394 Foothill Blvd., Hayward, in the Center for History and Culture. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday. The artist’s reception is from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24.