“Voyages Unforeseen” at Kibbee Gallery in Poncey-Highland is a juxtaposition of two Atlanta-based artists who have worked together before, Corrina Sephora Mensoff and Susan Ker-Seymer. In some instances, the two artists’ objectives and attitudes mesh, but occasionally they seem like strangers in a shared waiting room — coexisting but not connecting.
Mensoff is a talented metal worker and an artist with an abiding interest in boats, which she has crafted in every shape and form for decades, most often out of metal. In “Voyages Unforeseen,” those boats, which so often seem a personal, formal signature for Mensoff — as well as a symbol of travel and discovery — become politically loaded.
Here, her metal boat sculptures and watercolor boats are weighed down by figures packed in, shoulder to shoulder, symbolic cargo of the refugee crisis in which millions have taken dangerous, often deadly journeys over water to escape war and persecution. In Mensoff’s recent work, those boats are rendered in watercolor or forged from steel and copper, often underpinned by swirling curlicue waves, riding roiling seas. In other instances, as in “Uprooted Voyagers,” the boats bob on metal ladders that seem to represent some stabilizing hopeful anchor despite their precarious position.
Mensoff’s watercolors, in their appealing simplicity, are especially effective, showing her abilities in material other than metal, as graphic affirmations of these often vilified and overlooked people. Less successful are Mensoff’s explorations in fabric, as seen in the sculpture “Hope for a New World” of those boats and people.
Boats and their vulnerable cargo repeat in various media throughout the show, often facing off with Ker-Seymer’s colorful abstract paintings. With their repeated circular forms and cosmic titles, Ker-Seymer’s works conjure up the movement of the planets, the tides and a world viewed macroscopically.
In one of her most visually appealing pieces, “Aphelion And” and “Aphelion Also,” in acrylic and graphite on panel, two twinned works are rendered in the organic shades of sea and land. The pieces reference the distance of the Earth from the sun, and suggest a sort of bird’s-eye view of the planet. Ker-Seymer’s fields of blue and brown align with Mensoff’s own interest in the forces controlling her immigrants’ destinies.
Similarly compelling is Ker-Seymer’s “Generate” in ink, acrylic and graphite on panel, a lovely palimpsest of form and color onto which the artist has overlaid an ordering bright orange grid to offer a sense of containment and enclosure.
In their best moments, the artists in “Voyages Unforeseen” seem to be taking a similarly metaphysical tack, meditating on a vast cosmos that can offer both destruction and protection to hapless travelers. In other instances, the works can share an affinity for color but not much more and feel like family members at a holiday dinner table, linked in so many ways but not always speaking the same language.
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