ELBOW ROOM CHAT

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:

-1.jpgJennifer Moses  Bird on Wire 33×30 oil on panel

And one of my wall pieces

nutt-house
Linda Leslie Brown Nutthouse 2016 mixed media

We decided to conduct our discourse in images…

“First, she said, there’s…

440px-gorky-the-liver

…And don’t forget

matteo-di-giovanni

Do you know this one?Sassetta_-_The_blessed_Ranieri_frees_the_poors_from_a_jail_Florence_-_Louvre.jpg

We have to mention  picasso_nudeinanarmchair1929  of course.”

And it seems both of us have a permanent Resident in our studios:

guston-studiophilipgustonweb1975lg

Well, that started a flow of images…murray2450

th   the-weeping-woman

richard_tuttle_the_triumph_of_night_320x240

larger-copy

…as well as images of flow…

101000-coping

until I came out with

4

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.

See you at Elbow Room!

-LLB

Innovative Processes, Converging Time and Space: Q&A with Wendy Seller

Long Shot, (from the Metaphor series), 20 x 19 inches, archival pigment print, 2015.

Long Shot, (from the Metaphor series), 20 x 19 inches, archival pigment print, 2015.

Wendy Seller has forged her own unique blend of painting, collage, and digital media to create work that, as she describes, “overlaps concepts of time and space.” She paints on photographic prints, re-photographs them, and creates complex digital collages. Her series Metaphors (figures), gives puzzle-like complexity to the faces of historically-clad figures. Their refracted faces seem to come alive with the relevance of both their own era and that of the 21st century.

Shana Dumont Garr: In your artist statement, you mention finding a means to overlap concepts of time and space. This is an ambitious goal that I think you do accomplish. Where does that vision come from? Was there a particular moment in your life that sparked your curiosity, or has it been with you as long as you can remember?

Wendy Seller: I have always held a firm belief that I could achieve anything if I set my mind to it. In my studio process, it often becomes necessary for me to advance my technical and conceptual abilities and establish new strategies for problem solving. I creatively thrive when presented with difficult obstacles.

My current process involves traditional methods of painting using gouache, an opaque water-based paint that is similar to watercolor. Gouache provides greater flexibility in my use of color and texture, and can be manipulated to assume the properties of oils. I want my images to take on the quality of “painterly paintings”, as a means of personalizing my work and tricking the viewer’s eye. My pictures are made up of many fragmented parts taken from photographs documenting Ireland, appropriations from art history, ongoing research, scanned nature forms, and microscopic collections. My works as combined parts might be described as “collage” — for lack of a better word — although my images involve multiple levels that I enhance through digital manipulation.

SDG: Your process integrates traditional painting and digital media collage. How long did it take for you to develop that process?

Installation view, L-R, two works from Wendy's

Installation view, Free Association, Kingston Gallery, August 2015. L-R, two works from Wendy’s “Spaces/Places” series and three works from her “Metaphor” series. Photo credit: Will Howcroft.

My experience with digital media began unexpectedly in 2009, when I went looking for more adaptive tools for teaching my Design courses at the Rhode Island School of Design, and enrolled in a Photoshop class. However, the prospect of incorporating anything “digitally based” into my OWN studio practice seemed unthinkable. One day, while doing my “homework” for this course, I experienced a truly eureka moment. I recognized that a direct link between “digital layering” and the traditional layering I had used in my work as a painter. From that point forward, my approach to creating meaningful works changed forever. The process I continue to explore involves documentation and research, experimentation and reflection. I purposely disguise — but also intentionally reveal — the working methods that guide me on this journey.

Installation view, Kingston Gallery, works from Wendy's

Installation view, Kingston Gallery, Free Association, 2015. Four works from Seller’s “Metaphor” series.

In my process of making, I fracture photographic, appropriated, and scanned elements as if they were pieces in an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. I sort through my large collection of visual fragments and rearrange the parts while looking to construct a greater whole. I am interested in the concept of connections, how one visual element might link with another to create a new image or how a found texture from nature might enhance one of my series of SPACES/PLACES landscapes. I also look for connections relative to time. In my METAPHORS series, I find links between women as they are represented through historical paintings and compare them to the role of women today. During my experience of conceptualizing, there is a pendulum swing between my painting wall and my computer that steer me toward a deepening of my thoughts or ideas through visual means.

My paintings exist in a liminal world, teetering on the fragile edge between truth and fiction, personal matters and universal contexts, subliminal psychological and intellectual layering. I actively search for new studio tools and experimental methods, using both hand-on materials and digital manipulation.

SDG: Your works seem perfect for storytelling, and would work well alongside the written word. Do you ever invent narratives for the images you create?

WS: Actually I don’t. I leave this to my viewers. By using the written word — which is not my strength — I fear I will constrict the possibilities for creative interpretation. However, I often play with words while I am conceptualizing a visual piece and hope that in time I can to bring words and images together.

SDG: Which artists inspire you? Are more of them from the past, or could you share a couple of contemporary artists whose work we should look at?

WS: There have been many facets to my own education that brought me to the work I create today. Although I worked with three-dimensionality for much of my early career, I have been most enlightened through several two-dimensional artists who had the skills and vision to trick the eye and spark the imagination. Among them are Rene Magritte, Remedios Varo, and Alfredo Castaneda. They were all masters at creating the “illusion of three-dimensionality” on a flat surface, and were able to bring qualities found in magic to our world of dark and light reality.

Installation view, Free Association, L-R works by Wendy Seller, Meghan Chase, and Wendy Seller.

Installation view, Free Association, L-R works by Wendy Seller, Meghan Chase, and Wendy Seller. Photo credit: Will Howcroft.

Wendy Seller exhibits her work widely, most recently at Kingston Gallery and in “The Enhanced Eye: Painters Using Photography,” at Catherine Hammond Gallery in Cork, Ireland. Other exhibitions include a solo exhibition at Bannister Gallery, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI, and group exhibitions at the Griffin Museum of Photography, Winthrop, MA, Danforth Museum of Art, Framingham, MA, and the New Arts Center, Newton, MA. Seller taught at the Rhode Island School of Design from 1990 to 2014 and was awarded the John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching. Among other honors, she has received multiple residencies at the Ballinglen Foundation for the Arts in Ballyvaughan, Ireland. Learn more on her website, wendyseller.com.

Wood-Grey Horizons: New Collages by Barbara Moody

Barbara Moody, Microburst, collage on paper, mounted on panel,  30x44 inches.

Barbara Moody, Demolition, acrylic and collage on paper, mounted on panel, 30 x 44 inches, 2015.

Barbara Moody’s smart new series of collages are on view at Kingston Gallery through August 2. The landscapes offer a complex revision of the suburbs, using photographs she took in various locations of Boston’s North Shore, where she lives and works. An overall pattern, quilt-like, emerges, with rich patches of texture and color, such as that of brick and rusted chain. At first the works seem like mixed media, but with the exception of acrylic, the swathes of color are all from photos. Moody cuts them in complex patterns, at times abstracting the original so it appears unfamiliar. The pieces are rejoined so that they arch, buckle, and ripple into spaces that do not recede and settings that do not impart a sense of order.

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Dwell, acrylic and collage on paper, mounted on panel, 12 x 12 inches, 2015.

The collages rarely offer a space to “walk” through, but there is a hallway in Dwell, one of the smaller pieces. Moody captured buildings in the process of being destroyed or returning to nature. She uses these images to consider the vulnerability in residential environments betrayed by rough edges such as crumbling roof tiles, chipping paint, and rust. There are things we purposely ignore in order to retain a sense of stability, but, viewing these images, we continually shift from one form to the next, to a restless effect. Enter at Own Risk #2 is one of the darkest pieces in terms of mood if not color, with piles upon piles of ruin in turquoise, yellow, and white.

The palette, including the whites and coastal grey of worn wood, gives hints of its setting of Boston’s North Shore. She placed the images of the wood, lightened, dried out and cracked by the salty seaside air, as the sky on most of the pieces. As we focus on the horizon of the landscapes, then, we see things that are found on the ground.

Enter at Own Risk #2, collage on paper, mounted on panel, 22 x 30 inches, 2015.

Enter at Own Risk #2, collage on paper, mounted on panel, 22 x 30 inches, 2015.

The collages conjure a specific setting of suburban, coastal Massachusetts, but they also relate to disturbing stories in the news, such as the recent earthquakes in Nepal and the drought in California. The culture humans built is jumbled up as a result of the forces of the earth, a theme that relates to Moody’s earlier series of paintings. The different media provides a change in composition, as the collages fill the grid of the picture plane in contrast to the more atmospheric feel of the paintings. Both series comment on the fragility of life. The opposite of Instagram filtering, they intensify and compress the ravages of time on our built world to comment on the damage inflicted by nature.

Installation view, Arcadia, Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts, photos by Eirik Johson.

Eirik Johnson, photographs, installation view. Photo by Melissa Blackall Photography at Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts, Arcadia, July 10 – September 20, 2015.

Not all art should make you feel comfortable, and often the best art awakens you in some way. Humans are just as much a part of nature as the trees, complicating the victim/culprit dialectic. This idea came up at a gallery talk by Steve Locke, who curated the current exhibition, Arcadia: Thoughts on the Contemporary Pastoral, located nearby at Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts. We were looking at photographs by Eirik Johnson, who photographed details of trees that people carved words into. The tree bark entirely fills each frame. Many of the words are evidently old, and the surface of the bark has since healed and obscured the language. One tree says “we were here,” and the ghostly letters manage to come across as both predictable and prescient. Our knee-jerk reaction to carving letters in trees is that is disrespectful, but in the scheme of things, and as captured by Johnson, they seem more like an ongoing and ancient conversation. Likewise, in Moody’s collages, the unease is apparent, but a specific perpetrator is not.

Partial demolition, paper collage mounted on panel, 20 x 30 inches, 2015.

Partial Demolition, collage on paper, mounted on panel, 22 1/4 x 30 inches, 2015.