Tim Tate Review
Dr. Claudia Rousseau reviews Tim Tate in The Gazette; she writes:
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In his third solo exhibit at Fraser Gallery in Bethesda, artist Tim Tate shows new work with exciting explorations of subject matter and materials. “Caged by History” is tightly themed with a marked unity of form and content. The show’s title refers to the myriad ways our histories direct our futures, the carrying of memory and the persistent effects of choices and events of the past.
Tate’s work also references the great unseen forces of nature that inexorably shape and direct our lives. The latter is especially well represented in works that include iron filings held captive by earth magnets. A fine example is the formally elegant “Sacred Cone of Magnetism,” with its echoing shapes and etched formulas for magnetic forces.
The brilliance of Tate’s work is in the way it fuses expression of ideas such as these with a deeply personal iconography about taking control of fate, healing and the will to live. “Positive Reliquaries, No. 1-3” are three blown-glass spheres topped with large red cast-glass crosses. They are also plus signs. Inside each is a cast glass nest, each with three spotted glass eggs. All around the exterior of the spheres the artist has etched a handwritten narrative relating his reaction to being diagnosed HIV-positive 20 years ago, and of the process this fact provoked. It was then that he decided to become an artist and then that the whole array of life affirming, healing imagery he uses began to come into focus.
Much of this imagery has a distinctly Catholic feeling. For example, the spheres topped by crosses unavoidably look like the orbs often held by Christ in medieval and renaissance art. The hot-glass flaming hearts – here in strong reds and blues, traditionally colors of divine and human love — are distinctly reminiscent of votive objects. Nevertheless, these works have a fascinating polyvalence, a sense of layered history that draws the viewer close and rewards attention with a rich variety of allusive meaning.
Tate has long used steel as a corollary to fragile glass in his work, which also frequently contains found objects. Recently, he has experimented with concrete as a sculptural medium with varied results. One of the most powerful works in this exhibit, however, is “Heart of St. Sebastian,” a concrete heart with a neck, like a vessel, topped with a dark red cast-glass flame. By shaking the concrete in the rubber mold, Tate caused a skin to separate from the heart form into which he has cut a large plus sign — an equal armed cross. In the neck is a tiny biohazard symbol. The work explores a number of iconographies including an identification with St. Sebastian, martyred by arrows, and the sense of being targeted as a biohazard when one is HIV-positive. A consciousness of death produces no pathos here, rather life-affirming strength, hard and resistant as the Sacrete Concrete mix with which the work is made.