Connie and John Ernatt's sculpture and painting exhibition titled: "New Works" is an epic, colossal triumph of the first order that deserves our attendance, full attention, and appreciation.
This show has all but sold out and is what I believe to be the highest earning show of locally made art in Wichita history.
But the real story is in the level of total sophistication, quality, and keen presentation in this body of work, matched with a rare level of warmth that runs through it all like a thread.
Ms. Ernatt's bronze sculptures are a punch in the heart and soul. Reducing or, arguably elevating the portrait of homosapiens-as-chimpanzees, she exposes the underbelly of the human condition—love, violence, humor, sexuality, and sadness. We are there, in these works, prone to folly and bumbling in our escapades on the human stage.
In the work "Still Life," we view a bronzed chimp, lying dead in an open, pearl-lined eyeglass case casket, adorned with a floral bouquet of sea shells, all entombed in a leaded glass case. The bronze figure, rendered with a mother's loving hand, fills the viewer with sadness and the reality of the frailty of life itself. The work came as a result of Ms. Ernatt's sadness over recent losses within Wichita's art community.
Another piece titled "Understudy" presents 3 bronzed chimps holding a magnifying glass, a scalpel, and a probe, viewing an actual petrified frog. This is all under a leaded glass case, which itself features an embedded magnifying glass in which to view the spectacle. In looking through the glass, we view our own fascinations with death and issues beyond human control.
John Ernatt's paintings are a celebration of delicate, completely unusual color balance, and a thrilling understanding of line and mark-making. The large and medium-sized pieces on panel or paper, under museum-quality glass, are all presented in wonderful frames of Mr. Ernatt's making.
My favorite work, titled "Poster Sender,” is a piece inspired by the John Prine song "Angel from Montgomery." It features fields of greys, browns, honey hues, and pumpkin orange. The Ernatt line is evident in the lightly rendered, minimal horse standing majestically in the center of it all.
Another, called "Everlast Condor," lends a modernist feel, a nod to past artist greats, in an inspiring contemporary approach that Mr. Ernatt has mastered. The painting has a life of its own, with a deft line, delicate greys and blues, and a heartfelt delivery that whispers: "live with me.” Mr. Ernatt's art is completely unique and original. It is hard to detect any other artist's influence over him.
The 30 to 40 works in the exhibition coexist marvelously. The exhibition in Total is expertly lit and laid out; it has a living-room feel that only enhances the fine work.
Think Iris Dement singing "Let The Mystery Be" while on-stage at the Met.
We are lucky to have these two blazing talents in Wichita, and they are Wichita-proud. Embrace them, for they are ours. They are family.
"New Works" runs through the end of May, and it’s open Monday-Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Diver Studio on Commerce.