Hans Weiss Newspace Gallery

"The Toy Show"

February 7 through March 12

Opening Reception: Thurs. Feb 7 at 6pm

In the hands of artists, toys become a vehicle for speaking about our most promising hopes and most conflicted desires.  The artists in this exhibition use these objects as evidence of our want to control and create our experiences just as children do when playing with toys. The work here often goes further by showing what motivates these inclinations and what the results of pursuing them can be.  Toys here are talisman used for revealing the many aspects of the human heart.

Tim Doherty's work is haunting and medieval.  Viewers turn handles that engage geared apparatuses of rusted steel that spin and push the delicate corpses of birds into forced mechanized flight. Operating the work we are simultaneously mesmerized and uncomfortable with the scrapping, screeching of metal, and our ability to generate movement which straddles torture and pleasure. The work suggests that for all the loud, continual labors of life, it is mortality that is the sweetest and most constant of companions.

Peter Edwards is a master of circuit bending as well as of transforming and reclaiming electronic materials.  Using objects such as discarded electronic educational equipment and a Barbie sound box, Edwards creates anew both these instruments, and our familiar experience of them.  Speaking into a microphone attached to the Barbie box, viewers can personally transmute the expected sweet, vacuous, upbeat sound into a trippy, exaggerated, wavering version of their own voices.  All three of Edwards's works directly engage the viewer and tap into our inherent desire to transform the world we are a part of.   

Baseballs and trains are among the most potent icons of male youth in this country, and for all of us hold strong references to the passions and protective structures of childhood. In Tom Hebert's work these forms are stripped of nostalgia, and brought into the present where they stand as symbols of the transience of childhood. The quality of line Hebert uses is quivering, making the images seem to be at once emerging and disappearing.  With his use of space, in the tradition of Cezanne, forms are at once stable within themselves, and appear to be falling from the picture plane. All aspects of the work parallel the ephemeral nature of memories.

In Cathy McClure's large scale photographs tin toys of yesteryear smash their way through a fluid, glassy environment into this very moment. Here a suggestion of Dickensian architecture distorts into organic membranes and a small ship, which doubles as a time machine, dissolves into the cosmos.  How else could the power, poison, and pleasure of past, present and future be brought together? In her work "Seal" a small bronze seal barks and spins in the biosphere of a plexi-glass dome showing how what has been made precious can hold elements of obsession and greed.

The work of Mark Williams can freeze the smile on a viewers face.  Initially the vibrant contemporary colors, use of Play-Doh and toy soldiers seem compelling, familiar…fun.  Time, and more careful attention offer a sad and more subversive message.  The combination of cartoonish Play-Doh forms, (including an octopus, monkey and rooster), with toy soldiers echoes how the realities of war can be covered-up with denial and patriotism.  Particularly potent is how the toy soldiers are rendered more lifelike through their juxtaposition with the play-do forms.  With their pretense as heroic symbols removed, these soldiers have real bodies, are vulnerable, and freely, perhaps unfathomably, placed in harm's way. 

Contemporary culture has a strange relationship with tragedy.   Some robust appetite prevails to emotionally and intellectually consume such events, while keeping a safe distance from the actual reality of them.  Stranger still is how Bradley Dean Wollman is able to use, and parody, these inclinations in these constructed photographs of the explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle shown here.  We freely enter these images through their "pretend" quality, taken with the color, drama, and artistry of presentation.  There is then a giddy pleasure in knowing the artist convincingly staged this event, on a small scale, and that these are toys, not the real thing.  But wait…we're taking pleasure in the excitement of images representing a terrible event…but wait, how often does that happen?

The seven small paintings by Melanie Vote, hover on the wall, and are heartbreakingly lovely.  They capture us in the same way memories of prized objects and experiences do. In the three paintings from her 'little people" series, Vote first cast the original toy forms in plaster before painting them.  This creates a certain level of remove, rendering the forms universal rather than individual icons. And, too, this process communicates an intimacy between artist and subject that is evident in the work.   All of the toy figures in these paintings seem monumental though their stature is small in both their original and painted forms. In her latest work (represented in 4 of the paintings), Vote places cast Precious Moments kissing dolls in landscapes as ruins and monoliths. Here they become archeological evidence of a society with nothing of substance to leave behind.  Though these paintings are so beautifully offered, and executed, they suggest something different.

Toys… the essence of youth, harbingers of adult behavior.  There is magic in them, just, perhaps, not the magic we imagined.

Susan Classen-Sullivan
Hans Weiss Newspace Gallery

Gallery Hours

Monday - Friday: 11am - 8pm
Saturday: 12pm - 5pm

The Hans Weiss Newspace Gallery reviews work on an ongoing basis.
Materials (images, resume and statement) can be forwarded to:

Susan Classen-Sullivan
Hans Weiss Newspace Gallery
Manchester Community College
MS#19 Great Path
Manchester CT, 06040
or via email to:

Last Update: September 22 2009
For additional information, contact: Susan Classen-Sullivan