The first exhibition in the Rowe Gallery this semester presents pieces from “The State Of Things” by artist Susan Brenner, who has received numerous awards and grants including a Pollock-Krasner grant and a Southern Arts Federation/National Endowment for the Arts Regional Award in Painting and Works on Paper. Brenner showcased her works at various locations such as Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions and Charlotte’s Mint Museum of Art. Brenner is also a Professor Emeritus at UNC Charlotte. Her most recent work is the public art on the soon-to-be-open LYNX Light Rail Blue Line extension.

The first impression I have of Brenner’s pieces is its intricateness in shapes and richness in colors. The elements within the frame are also diverse: TV, book pages, paper bags, wheels, chairs, grocery cart, bed frame and the like. Furthermore, each piece has its different theme hue. Some are yellow and blue, while others are red. At this point, I ask myself, “How did Brenner gather all these seemingly random items in our daily life and put them together on a piece of paper?”

“I begin with photographs I shoot at scrap metal yards,” explained Brenner in her statement, “The photographs are then put through a variety of processes along the way to becoming artworks.” In fact, what makes Brenner’s artworks distinct is her unique way of “using photography, digital imaging, drawing and installation to create her work.”

“My recent work represents my response to this sense chaos in the world,” stated Brenner, “They also represent my struggle to find balance between a desire to create order and beauty and a need to let go.” Knowing this is the essence of the exhibition, we can grasp more profoundly of Brenner’s work. On the canvas, there are indeed conflicts, disorder and chaos in the gigantic pile of items we produce and consume. Aren’t they the chaos of our life? Whether it is the daily hassles we go through or our thoughts on the very recent incidents, these are the things we experience and even suffer every day. Nevertheless, Brenner adds the spice of aesthetics into her work portraying messes. Even though trapped in the forms of paper bags or shopping carts, the pigments on the canvas deliberately match with each other.

Finding balance is the key to a lot of things in life. Once we discover the balance, epiphany and disenchantment will knock on the door. There is a sense of serenity in every piece of Brenner’s works. Although she utilized full complexity to illustrate disorder and confusion, Brenner is essentially calling us to find balance and let go. Often we’ve been taught and conditioned to be competitive, rushing everything just to get more tasks done. But keep in mind that our time is limited, and so is our energy. Pushing ourselves to be more productive is essential, yet we sometimes need to take time off just for ourselves. Let every inch of our bodies fully relax, so we can be revitalized to take on the next journey.

“The Stage Of Things” exhibition by Susan Brenner is available from Jan. 17 to Feb. 7 at the Rowe Gallery, which is open 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on weekdays.