Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

A Harmonious Transformation: Kristin Calabrese and Joshua Aster’s Honeymoon

Spaghetti by Kristin Calabrese

Someone immediately disagreed with my opinion of the Salt Lake Art Center’s latest exhibit Honeymoon. A group of us were enjoying a post gallery stroll meal and comparing notes on what we’d viewed during the evening and I said that Honeymoon, Micol Hebron’s first show as Senior Curator, is a satisfyingly successful exhibit. One of my dining companions was quick to say that while both artists Kristin Calabrese and Joshua Aster are clearly talented the show felt disjointed because while it is billed as “a harmonious marriage of opposites” there are very few similarities between the couple’s work.

This led me to wonder: without the exhibit title and the accompanying brochure would it be readily obvious that this is a show that celebrates two individuals while highlighting their “harmonious” similarities?

It’s true there is a stark contrast between the artists’ painting styles. Calabrese creates realistic images so true to life that it’s easy to imagine pulling wet noodles from the canvas of “Spaghetti.”|0| Aster sticks with abstract work in bold, vibrant colors. Despite this major difference there is a common ground where the two artists meet in their work and the boundaries of this territory range from obvious to quite subtle.
One of the more apparent overlaps comes in Calabrese’s “Stains” |1| and Aster’s “fillintheblank.”|2| In both pieces the artists are depicting a tight, clustered, repetitive floral pattern but both have remained true to their own aesthetic. “Stains” features a realistic wallpaper pattern in blues and greens that has been literally transformed into wallpaper at the Art Center. Overlapping the flowers, symbolic drips of paint streak downward, serving as a reminder that a flawed world lies outside the veneer of perfection. Aster’s “fillintheblank,” with its flowers that sprawl across the canvas in a kaleidoscope of yellow, pink, and orange, is a sunny contrast to his wife’s cooler view. They have tackled the same subject matter and painted it from different perspectives.

Stains by Kristin Calabrese


fillintheblanks by Joshua Aster

In some pieces the artists only appear to diverge from each other completely. In her memorable work “Lean” Calabrese depicts a woman leaning uncomfortably against the wall with crossed arms and hunched shoulders. It’s as if her subject is restrained by canvas and doesn’t want to touch the edges for fear that she might be burned. This theme is continued in the way the painting is displayed. The painting itself leans against the wall, jutting out into the room the way its subject would if she were there. The painting sits awkwardly below eye level so the viewer is looking down on the vulnerable subject; if she weren’t so terrified she might run.

Meanwhile Aster’s painting “lightleaks” is an energetic layering of red and purple with broad electric strokes of yellow and blue that fan out from a central point at the bottom of the painting. It’s such an explosive piece it’s surprising that some of the vibrant patterns don’t ignite and fill the room. Both artists have created pictures that are begging to leave the canvas, but for very different reasons. This similarity and others like it aren’t readily apparent until you’ve spent some time looking at the exhibit. The paintings reward patient observers with surprises, like hand-written messages buried in “Stains.”

Lean by Kristin Calabrese


Lightleaks by Joshua Aster

Between the obvious similarities and the subtle ones this exhibit could convey its message without the title and the accompanying brochure. With these interpretive materials that provide context for the show, however, viewing Honeymoon does become a richer experience. The understanding that the artists are a recently married couple adds an additional layer because it seems natural for newlyweds to be expressing themselves as individuals while learning to find a common ground. This kind of dialogue ultimately becomes the hallmark of a successful relationship; each person maintains an individual voice at the same time that a meaningful conversation is taking place. In Honeymoon the viewer becomes a witness to this intimate “harmonious” transformation.

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