A child is born.
A friend is lost or found. Out
of nowhere comes a sense of peace or foreboding.
The moment of revelation is also inevitably the moment of
tragedy. We are awakened by
It's been said that we never really forget
anything, and all our pasts lie deep within us somewhere waiting for a
stray sight or smell to bring them to the surface again.
But memory is more than looking back to a time that is no longer.
It is a looking out into another kind of time where everything
continues to grow and change with the life that is in it still.
Vanished faces and voices. The
people we loved. The people
who loved us. It is for
some clue to where we are going that we search through where we have
been. Perhaps we try to
find something that at the time we had somehow missed, perhaps an answer
to questions we hadn’t known how to see.
A "doubletake" suggests a delayed
reaction to a surprising situation.
In this particular context, however, it also entails recognition
and reinvestment of significance that might otherwise have been
overlooked or taken for granted. The
ten artists of Double Take simultaneously
challenge our notions of transcendence and our foothold on this earth.
Their varied works can be described as puzzling, startling,
disturbing, unbalancing, and spellbinding. Everything looks so familiar, yet its meaning eludes us or
crosses over into areas that are charged with the paradox of uncharted
territory. Most of these
artists are in their fifties; a few are coming off the backside of
middle age. They are risk
takers, venturesome in their attempts to forge a distinctive language
during years of relative isolation.
By focusing on artists who have been determined to follow their
own light, the show examines the urgency and raw passion, the unabashed
curiosity and searching quality that has taken them through the ebbs and
Their images tap into memories and emotions –
about darkness, strange places and the wonder of that which attracts and
frightens us for reasons unknown. As
such, they reveal the artists to have been vulnerably exposed to the
transformative events of an engaged human life.
The art becomes a spiritual endeavor which delves into the
essence of being. Each work
is made in such a way as to encourage closeup and distant viewing,
tactile and visual experience and both physical and emotional
involvement. From the
outset, the art lays bare basic links between the human body, human
existence and nature. Some
works investigate notions of identity and metamorphosis, a kind of
reassembling of the spirit, the mind, the body and the object itself. Others suggest a role for art in the world and a set of
problems for it to address, works that bring with them a sense of
contingency, of quirks and commotions of our daily lives.
All of the works, however, exude an overwhelming sense of
desperation or obsession; it's as if they had to be made according to a
deeply personal urge or interior force.
Of vital concern is not only the difference between stasis and
change, but a much deeper and older set of oppositions between the
private and the public, between the self and the world at large, between
hidden obsessions and our daily passage with one another.
And those oppositions seem to make less sense every day.
We rely on an inner compass to keep us on track,
even though the destination becomes increasingly difficult to
these artists endeavor to observe human foible and speculate on the role
that memory plays in underwriting our sense of choice and direction in
our lives. All in all, Double Take points up the translation of the seen into the unseen,
of the world into ourselves. The
show is also a statement about consciousness, about the way we transform
and internalize perception into being, into who we are. Confronting these works, we sense the recurrent longing for a
return to something more deeply rooted, to something seemingly earlier
and hence primal.
Significantly, the show represents an affirmation
of the belief that the world is filll of majesty and mystery and worthy
of scrutiny. The issue,
nevertheless, is one of how we pay attention to things in the world. Within Buddhist meditation there is a persistent focus on
cultivating one's capacity to be present with things as they are, to
cultivate an ability to see each thing, each being, each moment as
though for the first time and to recognize those various states of
consciousness. As life
speeds up and further complicates our experience we should value any
opportunity to be still, to let the mind rest, to allow seeing to take
place. The process of
looking at occurs all the time. But true seeing is rare.
It asks for the cultivation of intimate ways of being in the
world, for a set of standards and customs that give the heart the
emotional affinity it requires and the skin the brush with real things
it craves. To know things
in this way we have to hold them close, visit them in their flesh,
become familiar with their past.
Among the furniture and boxes of her late mother's
Wolff found the old biscuit tin that contained a precious button
collection. As a child, she
would pry open the tin, launching a burst of colorful buttons all over
the room. Out of her
extreme grief, Wolff has created the Button
Box Memories, a series of ink drawings that serves as a meditation
on her mother's passing and on death itself.
The death of someone close acquaints us with the mysteries of the
underworld, then sends us back into life, never to be the same again.
Utilizing a range of spiritual symbols –
crosses, fish, baskets, ladders, vessels, wrapped bodies, sailing
ships – Wolff constructs a compelling world, rich with primal
associations. For her, the
ocean is both a place – a mobile surface full of portents, clues and
meanings – as well as empty space.
The relevance of the imagery may be puzzling, but we recognize
Wolff’s assertion that the soul's transport has cosmic significance.
Indeed, the concept of "mapping" seems an
appropriate metaphor to this particular group of works for the way our
experience of the world is implicated in a complex web of partial
structures and open-ended systems.
Mapping refers to related modes of charting, diagramming, of
taking the measure of the world. Mapping
is taken to mean the possibility of restaging and giving life to
displaced and repressed histories.
But it also challenges operational definitions of reality,
suggesting that much can be gained by imagining an unbounded world in
which spiritual and emotional recognitions merge.
No mysteries are more profound and confusing than loss,
suffering, illness and death. Wolff's
ritualistic mode of expression suggests a distinct compulsiveness, a
fusion of edgy uncertainty with a firm certitude, and the need to grasp
and anchor the ephemeral. Wolff's
struggle isn’t merely to achieve a creative act through drawing;
rather hers is a genuine reflection of the innermost soul through fears,
terrors, loves and obsessions. It
is as if mark-making connects her to the very nerve of her universe by
becoming the conduit of her messages, her visions.
In our frantic, noisy, alienated culture we can
easily overlook the inestimable value of things close at hand.
Intimacy is not only the emotional closeness between people but
also a preference for a more immediate encounter with the things of
nature. What does it mean
to be part of all forms of life? That
there are traces of ourselves in plants, animals and minerals, tenacious
traces of what we once were and shall become?
Harrison's prismacolor drawings investigate the world rather
than represent it, reminding us of seasonal change, transformation and
the transcience of existence. Harrison
treats segments of landscape – lush blue grasses, monolithic pine
trees – as abstract elements to be tinkered with and manipulated,
exaggerated and condensed. The
palpable space these drawings create is a function of the time essential
to our perception of them. Images
read as sharp, geometric fields from a distance; they soften and lose
focus at closer range, making us conscious of nature as metaphor for the
internal journey we take in life. Harrison’s
high density mark-making results in a visual tension between the
particular and the whole. Although
the work is highly structured, it appears to be in a state of perpetual
vibration. Like the
landscape, ever in flux yet soothing in its permanence, Harrison’s
work invokes a continuous play of opposites: between inner and outer
worlds, between clarity and obscurity, between change and constancy.
Bennett's rigorous abstractions explore organic shape as
symbolic content in psychically-charged spatial contexts.
Her hotly colored, mixed media works on paper seem anxiously
suspended between spirituality and doubt, balance and chaos. It is difficult to find a quiet passage in the"tree
trunks;" rather there is constant turbulent flux.
Firey oranges and honey-toned auras bump up against green vegetal
forms and purple spiky cartilage. The
overwhelming content is one of ambiguity, mystery and the enigma of
equivocal forces. Bennett’s
trees are wholly caught up in the instability of shifting
references, in the intensity of acute perceptions, and in the complex
magic of cognition. As
such, they operate in a netherworld of multiplicity and simultaneity,
effecting a visual energy that grabs our eye and sustains our gaze.
We see them as living organisms that exist in our own
environment, and rely upon the same air, earth and water for survival.
They seemingly pulse with tension between matter and antimatter,
breathing and smoldering as if in ecstatic bursts of erotic energy.
To be sure, everything seems willed rather than calculated.
Her wild gestures unfurl areas of serpentine circuitry and sinew
that glow like cellular formation in the process of growing under a
microscope. They are part
of the flow of natural forces colliding, separating, splitting apart and
conte drawings, biomorphic forms mutate into autonomous organisms
that cluster alongside other organic forms or gently bump up against
dark membrane-like fields that are themselves both visceral and
sack-like shapes swing pendulously from whiplike tentacles resembling
umbilical cords or veins. Johnson’s
fiercely scrubbed, gestural line is of great beauty and intensity.
It broadens out into areas of velvety black, suggesting a
dialectic between fight and darkness, form and void, the material and
immaterial world. The
hybrid forms are like parts of a self pursuing the circuitous path of
intuition, and thereby seeking its own center of gravity, its own inner
and outer limitations. The
linear elements are applied and then refined; they swell into subtly
colored shapes, which are then pared back and coaxed into newly found
volumes. The vulnerability
and ambiguity of these clustered forms and their sexual suggestiveness
create a seductive atmospheric depth that draws us in.
Indeed, Johnson's relentless perfection of
technique, her unabashed sensuality and attention to process – to
gesture and traces of the hand – give her works a tactile presence,
while her enigmatic imagery reaches down to the primitive and atavistic.
By the same token, we perceive Johnson’s carved wood sculptures
that dangle from vines as both strong and vulnerable, tentative and
expansive. Every alignment,
every lyrical curve speaks of aesthetic decision.
This sense of deliberation is increased by her craftsmanly regard
for surfaces. In Strange
Clusters, the horn, spira and fan shapes connect as voluptuous
protrusions and ridges. The
forms huddle together for protection, touching one another at erotic
points and even falling alongside the sensuous indentations.
In Johnson’s work, the relationship between surface and depth,
outside and inside, the immediately visible and whatever lies beneath it
take concrete shape. Significantly,
her art casts these relationships in terms of the human body,
particularly where physical interaction and mental stimulation
momentarily converge. But
the spores, embryos, cocoons and protozoa have also been lodged like
tough shells deep in our souls. They
are of our inner world, shadowy forms that find their correspondences
outside in nature, in the cosmos where everything that emerges also has
Berman glides her oil paints onto canvas, allowing their
brushiness and weight to convey a sense of the material heft and
ripeness of pears, figs, plums and eggplants contained in glazed ceramic
bowls. She bathes the still
lifes in a golden light that passes over the fruits and vegetables much
as the evening shadows overtake the late afternoon sun.
In all of the paintings, patches of vibrant pigment read
simultaneously as light, form and material substance.
They seem both spartan and generous.
It's as if radiant energy has been collected between the modest
and disciplined brushstrokes. Each
gesture, each nuance is an episode in a dialogue with the canvas – a
dialogue in which the eye faces and takes in the visible facts of paint
and canvas and the spatial readings built into them.
As such, they are close to a figurative tradition – not
obviously in terms of subject or compositional hierarchies, but in terms
of spaces filled with forms.
The still life genre, of course, is a mode often
associated with women because of its closeness to the kitchen. Even so, Berman aims to perceive the poetry, the spirituality
and the mystery in all forms of relationships.
Looking at the artist's clusters of sectioned figs or
taut-skinned eggplants facing opposite directions is to acknowledge that
we are also like fruits living in tender bodies, strangers to our own
existence. Being human,
being in the world, is to be constantly making our place in language, in
consciousness, in imagination. To
that end, her still lifes are very strange and subtle works, full of
calm, like light circulating in water.
At times, the objects become a charged field of their own energy,
and when they meet, they give off brilliant sparks.
Behind Berman’s workday order of kitchen labor and food is an
eroticism that manifests itself not only in the caressing of objects,
the points at which they touch and graze each other, but more
importantly, in her disruption of the world of mundane objects, in her
making provisional all identities.
Accordingly, Berman’s still lifes have an elegiac quality.
The visceral, cut-open fig may suggest the theatrical nature of
relationships, the cruelty and selfishness of the human heart, the
inevitable blurring of love and pain. Although Berman depicts her fruits in all their fleshy
ripeness, we know they will quickly rot.
Bermarfs paintings remind us that the processes of birth, growth,
maturity, decay and death are part of the terms of an organic life
But growing up and old is not only a process rooted
in our biological existence; it is also an experience, an incalculable
series of events, moments and acts lived by an individual. This experience, this passage through the maze of inner life
composes our journey. At
its best, portraiture can capture a moment of life's passage, recording
a particular subject at a revealing time.
The tension in a portrait between the particular and the generic
often creates a kind of narrative in which we try to unravel the case
history of a subject's life, even comparing it with recollections of our
Orman's psychologically charged rendition of her grandmother and
double portrait of her deceased sister as a baby are at once tough and
emotional records of a genuine grappling with specific events that have
marked the artist's life. Pain Gone When Woke presents her grandmother as a young woman.
Her soft blue eyes, slight smile and waxlike complexion emit a
haunting presence. Collaged
to the portrait are sections from her grandmother's diary, entries which
record the days surrounding Orman's birth.
The beauty of memory lies in its capacity for
rendering detail, for paying homage to the senses and the richness of
our existence. But time
dilutes and corrodes until there is nothing left to tell.
Whatever is remembered is what becomes reality.
Admittedly, the portrait is a way to keep Orman’s grandmother
alive in memory, even as it blends issues of public and private, the
confrontational and the voyeuristic.
The compelling resonance of her art is conveyed in large part
through an evidence of hand that inflects both image and text with an
equivalent of tenderness and tact.
What Orman reveals in fractured but often potent doses are the
tenets by which society unconsciously defines itself, justifies its
actions, and molds our very identities. Orman’s grandmother still speaks and has a presence; we
hear her voice in the words and phrases of her diary.
As we read her words and closely examine her face, we engage her
personality and imagination. We
are present to her, as she presents herself to us.
art-making serves as a psychologically empowering act that brings
about a deeper understanding of human experience.
Her commitment to the precise rendering, the studied demarcation
of sections of the natural world and the man-made has produced
hauntingly beautiful watercolors of the mundane and unobtrusive.
Standing before her triptych of Wonderbread toasts, we gaze into
the slices as we look into mirrors, to see ourselves.
For women, in particular, mirror-gazing is both necessary as a
means of self-recognition and, with the passage of time, increasingly
painful, as the disjunction between what is seen and what is remembered
becomes more and more apparent.
Each slice of toast – white, light brown and
burnt – seemingly hovers on the paper as a minimal shape. Moving among the three, however, brings to mind a wealth of
associations: bread as the staple of life; the derogatory name-calling
"white bread;" or the confrontational "you’re
burnt toast is dry and crumbly, like shriveled skin.
And bread only lasts a few days.
When it becomes moldy, we simply dispose of it.
Yet Lundy's slices of toast are worlds in themselves, filled with
scarlike striations, craterlike holes, crisp ridges and fluid passages
of coppery-brown pigment. These
works have a dry, pale beauty and a trompe l'oeil trickiness that is
both dazzling and obsessive. Demanding
a scanned, allover read, they leave us a little off balance, perhaps a
little exposed. What we are
exposed to is universal: the vulnerability to outside blows of even the
most loving human bonds, the way transcience makes a ghost out of
everything that happens to us.
small ink and prisma drawings summon forth the randomness of life,
the uncertainty, even perversity of existence.
Nature is present and visible here, but still in hiding; it is
simultaneously close and distant, encompassing and eluding.
Cartoony landscapes depict the idyllic streams, lakes, islands
and wildlife surrounding the artist's summer home in Maine.
They're slice-of-life scenes with an optimism and sweetness that
conceal shadowy secrets and stirring psychological undercurrents.
There's the feeling that the banal house and postcard-perfect
nature scenes can turn into unfathomably dangerous places at a moment's
notice. A tranquil shore is
ominously lined with pink podlike shapes.
The bow of a boat emerges out of nowhere like some mystical
apparition. Houses teeter
and sway as if caught up in a seismic disturbance.
One abandoned house is ensnared by an electrifying pink force
field. Another is surrounded by mysterious orange tentacles.
We comfort ourselves by reliving memories of
protection. An entire past
may come to dwell in a house. Not
only our memories, but the things we have seemingly forgotten
are"housed." Our soul is an abode.
The old saying:"We bring our lairs with us" has many
variations. The house, like
fire and water, permits us to recall glimmers of daydreams that
illuminate the synthesis of immemorial and recollected.
Memories of the outside world will never have the same tonality
as those of home. The house
images are in us as much as we are in them.
Even so, Cosgrove shows that hurt, loss, darkness or death can
flatten a house in seconds. Her
strange, discomfiting narratives capture, in flashes and flickers, the
juncture of confusion and alienation, the portentous sense of time
Indeed, if death can strip away all surfaces
and we are fated to live in death’s shadow, then by what guidelines
are we to live? Death is
the great equalizer, uniting us across cultures.
A consciousness of the inevitability of death supposedly
separates us from the animals, while the decay of our bodies mocks our
desire for eternal life. Sharon
Kopriva's mummylike sculptures of church figures strike at the
depths of psychic discomfort. Her
gothic brutality, religio-erotic fetishism and instinctual use of
time-worn materials convey an unpleasant reminder of our own mortality. In the Soul Tickler, a
priest assembled from bone, fabric, found furniture parts, papier-mache
and paint sits at an upright piano.
The keyboard he plays is composed of tiny figures.
Within the "body" of the piano and directly in front of
the priest is a mystical portrayal of heaven and hell. Kopriva paints an underworld of snakes and mythic beasts.
Luckier souls, however, are depicted as moving upward to a dreamy
blue realm. Overall, the
tableau exudes a powerful theatricality that is rich with the kind of
metaphorical layering Kopriva has habitually extracted from her
materials and imagery. Evoking
messages of spiritual healing and cultural decay, the piece also aims to
keep visionary energy alive, to fulfill the soul's need for placing
itself in the vast scheme of things.
By ritualizing life through the intimate and the
familiar, Kopriva recovers an erased history and brings the necessary
spectacle of mourning to the public sphere.
The world she portrays both embraces and represses the past –
earthy, bodily, brutal; mythic, irrational and unsterile – the
identification is linked to the pagan force that wells up through the
cracks of Spanish Catholicism. This
dualism should itself be seen within the tradition that holds it as an
archetypal and ever-changing metaphor of good and evil, spiritual
redemption and damnation, knowledge and ignorance.
As such, the work constantly renews itself in our imagination.
Horror mingles with humor, the sacred with the profane, ideality
with kitsch. Significantly,
Kopriva’s multilayered work forces us to look to our own souls without
any spiritual props or lenses. By
doing so, we learn that faith comes not only from the spiritual life and
high revelations, it also comes as an emanation from the depths, an
utterly impersonal reality from the most personal place.
Where does the light go when a candle is
blown out? The childlike
question forces us to take notice of the metaphors that underlie our
understand existence to mean presence, and ceasing to exist as going
away. To recognize the
metaphor is to recognize how we think – that is, to notice the
conceptual framework of our conscious thought.
Our consciousness is our own, and we sense it as such.
It is experienced as a unique possession of individual human
beings. Where does the life
go when a body dies? Where
are we before birth? Perhaps
life is a continuum and does not begin or end at some arbitrary point.
Randolph's triptych Surrender
Rapt Liquefying asks us to be aware of our consciousness, our
uniqueness. Her paintings
are energized with narrative possibilities that are as confrontational
as they are ambiguous and open-ended. Nothing is certain, save for the subtle reality of the lived
body. Yet Randolph’s
enigmatic women seem to exist in another time and place, perhaps another
realm. Using the figure to
represent inner states of being, she reinvents accepted definitions of
self. As if timelessly suspended in strange dreamlike states, their
solid bodies and implied consciousness seem governed by intimate
memories and primal instincts.
Surrender, a young woman’s head and neck have been cropped just
below the throat line. She aggressively arches her neck, relinquishing this most
vulnerable body part to life. For
Rapt, the artist portrays an
older woman in an embryonic sack, a kind of diaphanous soul wrap that
may protect her on an astral journey.
Liquefying shows a middle age woman metamorphosing in water.
As she gracefully cups her hand in the precious liquid, the
ripples, or spirit lines, radiate protective circles around her body.
From this distanced realism, the women project an imposing,
emotionally expressive physicality.
Moreover, glowing sensuously in warm flesh tones, velvety blacks
and iridescent blues, the smooth even sheens constitute charged grounds
on which our fragile precariousness is played out.
We come from the unknown. We
appear on the earth, live here, feed off the earth, and eventually
return into the unknown. The oceans, of course, move in this rhythm; the tide comes
in, turns, and goes back out again.
Each of these women is fully
present to the sacred space within which the mystery unfolds.
Their experiences can be likened to the womb, a metaphor that
also connects them to the home in which they live, move and have their
being. They remind us that
we are a part of the millions of microorganisms reproducing and
decomposing in the soil and are like the water of the planet that is in
our bodies, the rivers and oceans.
By being fully present to the moment, we become open to the
future pattern, to the not yet, to the unborn.
Have Randolph’s women returned to the origins, become their
unborn selves? Or are they
in between life and death? Either
way, they are at home in the dark and the light, in suffering and in
joy. They are a part of the
stillness and silence that is behind all things.
At the core of Double
Take is a persistence to be deeply moved by the extraordinary
capacity for regeneration, the vital force within.
All of the works manifest an ecstatic feeling of personal wonder
at nature and the human body, from which is derived a sense of
spirituality independent of religious belief.
The ten artists do a doubletake in order to leave their marks on
the world's skin. They are
marks of passage: intense, tightly coiled thoughts of rapture and pain,
of rituals enacted and life lost, of time remembered and moments