Hit Them with Your Best Shot
By Stacy Davies
When I heard that Angela Beloian was exhibiting at the Riverside Art Museum this summer, I had two thoughts: A) I was excited to see her new work after being introduced to her incredible mobile sculpture made from recycled paper swans at RAM’s 2007 group show, “Painting’s Edge” and, B) was this the same Angela Beloian who had gone to my high school and looked just like Pat Benatar?
Beloian might cringe at my adolescent memory of her from Poly high—she was a senior, I, a junior, and we didn’t know each other—but I remember seeing her around campus; she was one of our homecoming princesses in 1986, after all. I looked up her artist bio online and I dug out my yearbook, and sure enough, it was the same gal, though she actually looked a lot like Marie Osmond, too, which is a win-win for her either way. But on to her art . . .
Beloian, who relocated to Colorado eons ago, has a penchant for mass-media culture and delights in creating what she calls “hybrids of both the natural world and the machine made.” The result can be mass installations such as the swan piece, or, if you check her out her talk on Vimeo regarding her piece Tyra, you’ll witness a towering sculpture of 1,000 paper butterflies folded from pages of Victoria’s Secret catalogues and structured like a gown to address both our massive waste of resources and the epidemic marketing of the “princess” ideal from Disney films for little girls to lingerie lines for starving adult women.
In her current show at RAM, “Zoom,” Beloian presents her acrylic work in six large pieces on canvas and a host of smaller images on paper. Her style is dynamic, with abstract, amoeba-like forms and cells of vibrant color pushing up against and lazily draped across one another. Delineating the forms and often breaking them free are thick black lines that create fissures and frictions, and yet also serve as adhesive. This conflict, she notes, is something that is necessary in every relationship—as long as it doesn’t overwhelm it. Her palette of myriad abstractions and abrasions are distinct, however, and what makes them ultimately work is her uncanny ability for composition – she knows just how much form and imagery are enough, and there is never a feeling of happenstance or forced placement. In the studio, it is no doubt obsessed over, yet the patterns feel organic, loose and free, and this makes them inviting; even when the black lines urge the upset of that flow, their presence—that of “the other”—works in a delicate balance that mirrors nature, and is a necessary component to its endurance.
The works on paper merge Beloian’s bent for mass media with her acrylic abstractions in collages that feature pages torn from old Art in America magazines. In her artist’s statement, she says she chose this particular publication in order to explore the relationship between artists who have received recognition and her own anxieties surrounding perceived success. This is a familiar topic of rumination for every artist on the planet, of course, but looking at Beloian’s work, one feels she really has nothing to worry about. That’s easy for me to say. In fact, the RAM show might be a perfect example of how one can be a truly great creator and yet not always be dealt the proper hand. Beloian’s work, you see, is tucked away in the museum—along the walkway from the back entrance (which no one uses) to the foyer, upstairs along shadowed walls that lead to grander galleries with less grand exhibits, and into a tiny glass case that draws little attention as you pass it en route to a larger art space. Curious it is because Beloian’s extensive body of impressive work (all viewable on her website) could easily have filled up one of these larger galleries, and it really should have been given that break. Of course, “should haves” and “could haves” pave the twisty streets of artist’s dreams, and Beloian will no doubt continue to trek her way down them through our world of mass media and mediocrity, and on to higher ground. After all, Pat Benatar once sang, “I believe there comes a time when everything just falls in line,” and Marie Osmond, well, if she can make it, the odds can’t be that bad, right?
“Zoom” at the Riverside Art Museum, 3425 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, (951) 684-7111; www.riversideartmuseum.org. Open Mon.-Sat., 10AM-4PM. $2-$5. Thru Sept. 30.