Loss Leader

'Memento Mori,' a small but well-selected exhibit, gives a fresh look at a subject that's been done to death

Taking up a large chunk of the Mesa gallery space is 1/2, a towering wood-and-rope sculptural installation by Steven Rolf Kroeger of Flagstaff. The artist's deceased mother-in-law, whom Kroeger was never able to meet before her death from breast cancer, was inspiration for this work. The sheer size of the piece is overwhelming -- an apt representation for just how overwhelming cancer can be for both its victims and those left behind.

Kroeger's sculptural assemblage consists of a mammoth yet fluid breast and nipple constructed of pierced and cut-out plywood, flanked by a closed door displaying the fraction "1/2." The number is perhaps a veiled reference to a woman perceiving herself to be less than whole when a breast is removed. Despite Kroeger's choice of throwing in the terminally overused closed-door metaphor for death, his hulking sculptural treatment is itself a statement about the discomfort of dealing with life's ultimate end. Though clunky, it comes off as an innocently endearing male perspective on the mutilation of mastectomy, the hastily varnished, durable wood from which it has been constructed a far cry from vulnerable human flesh so easily prey to this insidious disease.

Toenail Reliquary by Becky Chader has nail clippings inside.
Toenail Reliquary by Becky Chader has nail clippings inside.

Details

Continues through Saturday, November 18. 480-644-2056
Mesa Contemporary Arts (formerly Galeria Mesa), located at 155 North Center, Mesa

Though its jumping-off point is a subject that has been, uh, beaten to death, the work in "Memento Mori" is a nice departure from all the formulaic treatments we've come to expect in exhibitions with death-related themes. "Memento Mori" is also a nice little reminder that it's the quality, not quantity, of art on display -- as well as the conceptual framework on which it has been structured -- that really matters in the end.

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