Some artists draw upon their personal experiences for inspiration or to give some measure of content to their medium. If the feelings and narratives become transfigured into something other than mere artistic recapitulation, then the work has the possibility of being genuinely poetic. And Michael A. Morris’ work in “It’s Just Meant To Be,” at Oliver Francis Gallery, accomplishes this transformation.
Featuring film, video, audio recordings and cyanotype prints, this show requires that you linger and listen, that you wait and watch. Like poetry these works say something apparent, yet also hint at something more elusive. By joining a relaxed stance toward formal staging with a passion for process and experimentation, Morris achieves a subtle aesthetic that becomes neither fussy nor bare. It reveals the audiovisual-poetic undulations of his curiosities, perhaps his fixations. His dedication to showing and transposing this particular narrative without self-indulgence or an overt attempt at catharsis allow his work a rare authenticity. Think of reading a journal written half in a language you know and half in a private language of the imagination.
And what’s so elusive about them? If you follow the narrative chain beginning with “Confessors” — which deals with family, sexuality, secrets, visual documentation, and what seems a rare and touching entry into “blue movies” and Candy Barr — you can track along with the work’s heart. You can begin to find reasons for the process and form. Still, the works only find their start there, not their transformative resolution. And that’s what’s elusive and artful.
The digital video, “Blue Movie,” best manifests this transfiguration. Like all the work in the show it’s tied to a series of experiences, explorations, and discoveries. Yet it stands upon its own. You need no information about it to enjoy it. You find everything you need — including your questions — in the work itself.
What truly set this show apart was the audiovisual performance that took place February 18. By way of cross-projected film and video, “First Hermeneutic” offered lines and motions and alternating rhythms coalescing as a powerful experience of light and sound. It pulsed and verged. Ten minutes passed timelessly. It was an event not soon forgotten.
While this work deserves any and all praise it might receive, Oliver Francis Gallery also deserves your consideration. The small space off Peak St. is dedicated to experimental, thought-provoking work. Work not readily classifiable or easily ignored. Work like Morris’.
—Andy Amato, PhD
Andy Amato is a Dallas-based artist, writer and teacher
(This review originally appeared in Arts+Culture Magazine)