Jennifer Moses’ Elbow Room: An Interview in Images with Linda Leslie Brown
Jennifer Moses’ quizzical, layered paintings are packed with physical and conceptual content. They also manage to pay homage, in ways both straightforward and sly, to a panoply of artists -some of whose work you may recognize below. Elbow Room, her show on view this month at Kingston, is a visual feast you won’t want to miss.
I met Jennifer for coffee recently to talk about her work, in an extension of an ongoing discussion we’ve carried on over the years. So, we sat around over at Nero the other morning talking about our art heroes and influences, of whom we have several in common.
Here’s one of Jennifer Moses’ works:
Jennifer Moses Bird on Wire 33×30 oil on panel
And one of my wall pieces
Linda Leslie Brown Nutthouse 2016 mixed media
We decided to conduct our discourse in images…
“First, she said, there’s…
…And don’t forget
Do you know this one?
We have to mention of course.”
And it seems both of us have a permanent Resident in our studios:
Well, that started a flow of images…
…as well as images of flow…
until I came out with
which started us both laughing. We could go on and on with this!
So I’ll leave it to you, Readers, to search out further references like these in Jennifer Moses’ paintings and collages at Kingston Gallery this November.
Sarah and I met at the gallery on the first day of her exhibition, Salvaged Garden (open July 1 – August 2, 2015) to discuss her work. Although the Center Gallery is not a particularly large space, her works made it seem so, with an installation and two large paintings looking sharp as all get-out.
SDG: Artists such as Rebecca Louise Law take flowers into a sculptural profusion that fills the exhibition space. Your profusion is rooted into abstract painting, even the installations. Tell us about your relationship with painting, and what it has meant to you to expand into installation.
SMB: Ultimately, I want to create an exhibition that has everything. There’s something alluring about that blank rectangle, and I am a painter first, but I also like to see the different ways that the forms I create translate into space. I am working on a few sculptures now in the studio, using similar materials, and look forward to showing them in the near future.
SDG: Your installations have received positive media attention in the past few months, including coverage by Cate McQuaid in the Boston Globe and in Artscope Magazine by Sarah Kinkade. Other than the evident quality and beauty of your work, do you think that the issues you deal with, or perhaps they way you work are having a moment in our cultural imagination?
SMB: I work with repurposed, recycled materials. I love them not just because of the environmental message they contain, but also because they look so cool. I am likely one of many artists out there asking, why put new crap in the world if we can use the old stuff?
I think that STUFF has even more power than ever now because of all of the digital matter we process every day. Actual things really speak to us, their physicality. I love seeing the combinations I can create, and I almost feel like I’m cheating when I put things I’m working on up on the wall-wire, cloth, and floral material-and they look so appealing, organic, and plastic.
SDG: I appreciate it when smart, driven artists like yourself openly engage motherhood in their work. It enables viewers to align motherhood with creativity and productivity outside of running a household. What kind of feedback have you received about works such as Ode to Pregnancy or Mommy Love Me, in conjunction with their titles?
SMB: Painting is like therapy for me, and whatever I’m thinking about makes its way into my work. I had two ridiculously dramatic pregnancies, and I am still working through the emotions. My youngest is just seven months old, and the power of the sensations and what a mess babies are is still very much a reality for me.
Many different emotions come up when people view this work, both positive and negative. Teens LOVED the painting “Ode to Pregnancy” when it was exhibited at the Danforth Art Museum. They were curious about the process, i.e. “what IS that, a painting or a sculpture? How did she make it bulge like that?” People have asked whether it depicts a miscarriage, and that becomes a touchy subject. I use my artistic process to work through the mess of life, and ultimately arrive at a form that I find really beautiful, even if not in the traditional sense. That is the point of my art: to capture that simultaneous beauty and ugliness; growth and decay.
SDG: As you work, do you make decisions in an organic or intuitive response to the materials, or do you plan how things will go in advance? Do you work in a sketchbook before or while working on a new piece?
SMB: I work on paintings differently than on installations. My paintings evolve as I work, often turning out very differently from how they began. I respond to the materials and the forms as I go, and I like that. I work on the floor a lot, and the paint moves around as I work.
This installation at Kingston was initially designed for a different space, and since then I have reworked it for other spaces. I begin by sketching the overall forms, and as I build it, it grows and changes within the limitations of the space. The organic materials grow and move, and I fix them with wire, but they still do their own thing and surprise me.
SDG: Which artists inspire you? Could you recommend anyone’s work we should have a look at?
SMB: I am in the second annual pop-up exhibition at Flock Gallery in Manchester, New Hampshire. The opening reception is Thursday, July 23 at 5:00pm – 8:00pm, and the exhibit runs July 23-28th.
I have a solo exhibition at the Danforth Art Museum in the main center space from March 6 to May 16, 2016. For that exhibition, I will reinstall an archway piece and create a site-specific piece for an alcove. I’ll have news about another group exhibition in the near future as well.
You can follow Sarah on twitter @sarahbrent and on her website: sarahartist.com.
Mary Bucci McCoy spent this past February as a resident at the Vermont Studio Center, and I recently caught up with her to hear about how the month went. The residency provides a largely open schedule, with optional visiting artist presentations, studio visits, and open studio participation. Other than that, residents have the all-clear to devote themselves to their work.
We had a strong group of paintings to discuss, as McCoy made progress on an ongoing series of works on panel and experimented with other grounds. She builds each panel herself, then sands them several times to create a porcelain-like surface.
A thick stack of canvas swatches stood on a work table during my visit, making McCoy’s interest in the details evident. The wide range of samples made both of us realize, in the course of our conversation, how painters and viewers alike may become complacent about the potential influence of surfaces. We remember many paintings for the colors, the quality and composition of the marks, but not always for the relationship between the marks and their grounds. McCoy tried many of the fabrics over the course of her residency. Each sample offered different grains and shades of “neutral,” where it became apparent that some beige colors are not so neutral in comparison to others. The results are striking, particularly Pull, made with acrylic and iridescent acrylic on linen. Its background shows the color of the linen through a transparent acrylic medium.
It may come as no surprise, considering her balanced attention to all materials involved, that McCoy sculpted before she painted. Trained as a ceramic artist, her studio is presently adjacent to the studio of her husband, David McCoy, who also works in ceramics. Her background, therefore, informs her present work. Her intuitive, process-based method creates imagery that viewers may identify as recognizable objects, although that is not her intention. I asked McCoy about frosted windows after observing the image at the heading of this blog post, and she said it may have been subconscious on her part, as February in Vermont certainly has its share of frost. She agreed that her surroundings find their way into her work, but not in an overt way.
The paint is liquiform when she begins to work on a piece. She selects each paint with care. “Color is like a space for me,” she says. Working flat, the compositions come about as the liquid paint gradually dries. The drying ushers in surprises, such as spindly threads of ochre rising up from areas of thick, lavender paint. McCoy’s acceptance of the unexpected is similar to putting an object into the kiln. During the firing period, blended glazes may shift in colors, and cracks may form where the clay seemed firm. She comes upon compositions through the process of manipulation and acceptance of the materials having their own say in the outcome of the finished piece. Accretion and the unescapable effects of gravity become themes of her current work.
The full-bodied materiality of the surfaces and the paints and McCoy’s focus and close relationship with the materials are essential parts of the character of each finished piece. Her efforts bring about singular imagery with luxurious finishes. Texture holds equal influence to shape and color, establishing intimacy between the art and the viewer. McCoy’s keen focus while making is at the heart of her work’s meaning. Her small-scale paintings cultivate, or perhaps invite, the rewards of paying attention.
Mary Lang’s recent photographs alert us to the world, or more precisely the world as perceived by the artist and mediated through the lens of her camera. She is bound to this world, these landscapes. We see as she does, places of great beauty, from a distance. They situate the viewer both in and out of the frame. They hold us and diminish us. That they are all digital prints (she notes her first such exhibition) is evident, but not essential to the way they are composed and presented. The images are idealized; a sense of yearning and a predominance of green are twinned throughout. In this moment in our culture of over-saturation of images, especially digital ones, Lang’s photographs invoke places out of time. The spaces are for the most part emptied out, even when there are figures or some evidence of a human presence. They alert us to stop and consider what we are seeing. They quietly say: Look. Look here. Look inward. See what’s there.
There will be a gallery talk on Saturday, November 29 at 4 pm. The exhibit runs through November 30. Don’t miss the show!
Image: Mary Lang, Clouds and mountains, Machu Picchu, Archival pigment print, 20×30 inches, 2013.
“You are one of the few artists I know who really live it, without any commercial concerns – Brava.” Comment by Jennifer Moses in exhibit guest book
Susan Alport’s exhibit There for the Taking is a performance. That is, she has asked the objects which make up the installation in the gallery, and which are in relationship to each other, to act. We see the evidence of her mind, what she is drawn to, what she has decided to present here. These relationships are relative, and can only be understood in this way.
She renders an imaginary studio for us, using and referencing these elements simultaneously. She lets us in on her vision and presents the objects in high relief by placing them in the gallery setting. We see the evidence of the studio through the objects placed on a wooden table: painted bottles, photographs of the painted bottles, yellowed newspaper articles, photographic images of her studio, which in turn become objects, a collection of pottery shards in a box, postcards, notes, receipts.
The installation reads, like the blown up statement with edits and notations which one encounters as one enters the space, as a record of her thinking. It does so best when seen from a single frontal point of view, as if it were one image. Neither a still-life nor a theatrical set, it exists as a text containing a subtext, and this viewer was transposed and transported. Brava.
Alport is joined in the Center Gallery by Eugene LaRochelle’s I Love You and by Elif Soyer’s New Work in the Member’s Gallery.
Last Saturday we had a wonderful (first ever) event in the new Second Saturday series organized by the Boston Art Dealers Association in conjunction with the current exhibit Ground Cover: Contemporary Abstraction between Figure andGround, curated by William Kaizen, Assistant Professor of Art History and Visual Studies, Northeastern University. The panel Abstraction and Contemporary Art included Kaizen in conversation with Peter Kalb, Associate Professor of Contemporary Art, Cynthia L. and Theodore S. Berenson Chair, Brandeis University and Martha Buskirk, Professor of Art History and Criticism, Montserrat College of Art. They had a terrific conversation and great feedback from the audience as well. This is my response to and understanding of both the talk and the exhibit itself.
Sometimes I see things differently. It can happen after I read something, hear a lecture or visit an exhibit, and I will be profoundly affected and pleased by this new understanding of the world around me. This is the case with Ground Cover, seeing the works in the exhibit with the particular lens of the relationship of ground to figure and the ways the artists express their relationship to the theme. They all make their work by hand, perhaps expressing our collective anxiety to an ever-increasing technological world; perhaps balking at the trend of many contemporary artists whose practice involves technology for the production of the work.
The artists chosen by Kaizen exemplify the exhibit’s theme of ground cover and they each articulate in a variety of ways this relationship of figure to ground. In his curatorial statement he says: “Dancing between thing and nothing, event and non-event, appearance and disappearance, the works in Ground Cover transmute ground into figure and figure into ground.” Each of the works asserts itself in relationship to figure/ground or ground/figure and also articulates the space of the gallery and in so doing reaffirms itself as an object. For each, the question of what is figure and what is ground is one that is answered or resolved by the process itself and the resulting object. This assumes that the paintings are objects and not just surfaces for material. In fact all the works hover in the liminal space between object and surface in varying degrees.
The artists in the exhibit are not ambivalent about making objects and raise several important questions. How does their work function in our ever-increasing technological world? Why is abstraction still relevant? Artists always have responded to their particular culture. Art is made in response to society and thereby becomes its window. The work in Ground Cover gives us many different ways to see.
Don’t miss this exhibit! Ground Cover: Contemporary Abstraction between Figure and Ground runs through September 28.
Photo credits: Will Holcroft, Installation view of Ground Cover exhibit, Mary Bucci McCoy, Attendees September 13 event
We are looking forward to the panel discussion Abstraction and Contemporary Art: Curator William Kaizen with Peter Kalb (author of “Art Since 1980: Charting the Contemporary”) and Martha Buskirk (author of “Creative Enterprise: Contemporary Art between Museum and Marketplace”) on Saturday, September 13, 4–5 pm. This is the first event in the Second Saturday series organized by the Boston Art Dealers Association and is in conjunction with the current exhibit Ground Cover. Hope to see you there!
Image: Julie Graham, Multistory, Plaster, wood, paintings on panel, 69 x 10 x 9 inches, 2012.