Anderson Gallery Review - Heide Fasnacht
by Allison Dickert


Currently on exhibit at the VCU Anderson Gallery, Strange Attractors features a mid-career retrospective of artist Heide Fasnachtís work. The exhibit showcases the artistís wide range of techniques from drafting to sculpture, but presents the work as a recognizable whole. The pieces included all focus on the artistís interest in biological or astronomical phenomena and suggest that there is a great deal of similarity between these two seemingly unrelated subject matters.

The first works presented in the show, R.E.M. I-VI. immediately reminded me of diagrams of constellations. The artist erases away or physically punctures the paper to create a system of randomly spaced dots and then connects them with precise, straight lines. This technique suggests that the artist is trying to make some kind of organization out of a chaotic mess, and sets up the theme for the rest of the pieces in the gallery. The title, R.E.M. probably alludes to Rapid Eye Movement, the state of dreaming. This may be the artistís way of telling the viewer that through our dreams, a sort of biological anomaly, we can inhabit the stellar world that is out of our reach when conscious.

From there, Fasnacht continues to compare the biological to the physical sciences. Her three pieces included that feature the sneeze demonstrate this by the obviously precise way she has depicted the completely erratic act of a sneeze. In two of the pieces, she has burned holes in the paper, similar to R.E.M., at first glance the dots and holes all seem to be placed at random intervals with no care for their position. At a closer glance, however, the viewer can plainly see the evidence of pencil marks around the holes. This would suggest that Fasnacht has considered the order of her holes to some extent and can extend to the theme of her show. She is demonstrating that there can be no random act, that even in apparent chaos, some organization exists.



Fasnachtís work is unique in its concept and aesthetic, and I really enjoyed stepping into her chaotic/ordered world for a few minutes. The organization of the exhibit however, detracts from her work and I felt I would have seen the progression of her ideas better, if the work were presented in an other fashion. The whole retrospective is housed in one square room, than when the visitor enters, he or she can already see all the work hanging on the walls at once. The space available at the Anderson Gallery is perhaps not conducive to anything other than how the curators have arranged the pieces, but the work would be all the more powerful with some changes.

The pieces should be shown one at a time, so that the viewer can fully internalize the concepts of one and see it progress to the end. The small prints in the R.E.M. series are a bit over shadowed by the Sneeze exploding from the adjacent wall, but their draft-like qualities are nonetheless crucial to understand the energy and force of the Sneezes and the Clusters that are immediate attention grabbers. Fasnachtís fascinating point does come across, but only after the viewer has sifted through the works displayed and ordered them in their mind.




Back to 2004 Contents - Next