By Amy Zurcher
No matter how many orbits around the sun I might make in my lifetime, I never seem to be so old that I do not give over to the naïve childlike love of color, lots and LOTS of big color. Furthermore, I confess my sensibilities are tickled to the core by a wonderfully off-kilter element. Because I detest the banal, umbrella-label “whimsical” so much and will do just about anything to avoid its use, I have made up my own word, a word that captures the sense and feel of artwork such as this piece by Katie Runnels, rather than be reduced to the “eeeew” of whimsy: “Dr. Seuss-y.” So, for a moment please enjoy with me my selection for this week’s focus on mushrooms, Runnels’ artwork titled “Fancy Mushroom Diorama.” Madhatter love attack! I find myself thinking when face-to-face with the stripes, colors, layers and trippy subject matter. The mushroom alone definitely makes this a favorite of mine and worthy of a Dr.Seuss title. I mean, even my penchant for magical thinking is thrown into overdrive when contemplating mushrooms. How much more magical do you get than tiny little sculptures that suddenly appear after a hard rain? Than shapes that have the ability to kill or transport you into a hallucinogenic stratosphere you’ve never known? How cute to think about the medieval Irish lore of leprechauns using mushrooms as umbrellas, to imagine them leaping from various heights and floating, with red capped fungi coasting above them, to the ground. But since these particular fungi follow a rain, my practical other half steps in and questions what would be the use? Who needs an umbrella then, anyway? Look closely and you will see that artist Katie Runnels has employed several fascinating fragments into this diorama: note the vintage paper, fabric, trims and even regular old tape that has been painted and sculpted into fanciful fern fronds. With this piece, Runnels brings the mushroom out of its comfort zone- a dark, damp and mysterious cover and into a bright and bountiful new world.
Artist: Katie Runnels
Title: Fancy Mushroom Diorama (mixed media)