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.
Barbara Moody is a resident artist at the Vermont Studio Center this month. She kindly sent photos of her studio and the drawings and paintings in progress. Like much of her work, these pieces possess rhythmic compositions that make the imagery seem to float, despite the elaborate compositions.
Those of you who visited Kingston Gallery this month may recall Moody’s large biomorphic, abstract piece in I Know Just What You’re Saying. It is the first piece you see when you walk in the door, and when you visit the exhibition page of our website: kingstongallery.com. My favorite part of it are the scratches into the surface of the varied colors.
Have a look, and take note that Moody’s next solo exhibition at Kingston will take place in April 2017. Stay tuned for other opportunities to see her work in Greater Boston and beyond.
I recently climbed the wide staircases of Waltham Mills to visit Joan Baldwin‘s second-floor corner studio. The former mill has tall ceilings and lots of light streaming in from big windows. Viewed on a sunny midday, the oil paintings were radiant. Evidence of past series, such as huge, vivid foliage scenes and surreal depictions of chairs leaned near corners and against walls, offering an appealing, low-key way to take in her work.
Baldwin’s Members’ Gallery show opening at Kingston Gallery on June 3, 2015 will feature framed works, but her previous Kingston exhibition transformed the Center Gallery with an installation where, like her current pieces, painted vistas set the scene. For the installation she cocooned dolls in sheer fabric, so hints of their round eyes and bald heads shone through, and hung them, with painted white sticks, from the ceiling. A curiosity about divergences between human life transitions and those of insects and other animals persists through her years of art-making.
Joan has been focusing on a mid-size series of what she calls terrariums, as they contain nature in three dimensions, and in some cases, the sculptural collage elements press right up to the interior of the Plexiglas. The diorama-like format incorporates her speciality, details of nature, rendered with spot-on accuracy, as the background. Next, she collages nests and cocoons onto the foliage and tangled networks of brush using items that by context aren’t immediately recognizable, such as beads and lightweight, lacy fibers. The collage elements complete the habitats where the lives of insects and birds emerge.
The terrariums seem to usher in new life, and so we could also refer to them as incubators. Areas with the cocoons and nests are at times frothy and slimy, and yet still beautiful. The materials that compose what in reality would be foam or young new wings are decorative in their original purposes of barrettes and other hair accessories. In past works, Baldwin has also collaged with hair from wigs. She says some people are at first repelled by the visual complexity that studs the foliage. Like much thought-provoking visual art, the works ask more questions than they can answer. Some questions may get under our skin, such as “Does it depict birth or death?” and “Is it forming or falling apart?” Rather than distancing or idealizing the life of small creatures, these works hone in on it.
Baldwin’s imagery is from photos she has taken of the wildlife on Pleasant Bay in Cape Cod, where she has a home. She explores, takes photographs, and then returns to the photos to paint from a combination of memory and her own vision. More than anything else, the photographs inspire her incubators. Rather than seeking photographic accuracy, she applies her own instinct of how to make clear, compelling scenes from spots that in lived experience may have been overlooked. Particularly adept at conjuring eye-catching foliage in oil, she balances bright and dark area–often enhancing the lightness–to depict the weedy, leafy paths by the salt water marshes. The effect is airy and lush, making the Cape Cod settings seem tropical.
Previously in her career, Baldwin illustrated furniture. She lived in North Carolina, near the immense furniture markets of High Point, where her editorial illustration work made a good living. Over time, Baldwin was not satisfied with direct furniture painting, and her couches and ottomans became more surreal. The furniture she painted was tiny for a time, scaled for dolls or ornamentation. In other canvases, a couch may stretch out, morphing into a hand, or stand in a wooded scene, nearly transparent, taking on the appearance the forest itself, foretelling her future artistic direction that is based in surreal meditations on natural processes.
Julie S. Graham’s exhibition, If it’s not one thing…, up through March 29 at Kingston Gallery, demonstrates her consistent approach to making formally-driven work that is informed by the aesthetics of forlorn, overlooked settings. Vernacular architecture is a recurrent source of inspiration for Graham, who asks how happenstance may drive or deliver the decorative, and examines the visual effects of neglected spaces.
In the gallery we see a variation on themes in abstraction, including the square format, with a large, impressive grid of works on square paper, larger mixed-media paintings, and photographs of her own paintings taken with a phone camera and filtered with Hipstamatic lenses into square prints. There are also variations on rough edges, seen in the edges of the paper, the borders of the photographs, and in how Graham alters the square shape of many canvases by extending edges with reclaimed pieces of architectural moldings or strips of canvas. She begins many of her mixed media paintings with a guiding structure–again referencing built spaces–such as a grid of spray painted circles, onto which she builds an elaborate surface with paint, spackle, and plaster.
Graham recreates the effect of juxtapositions that evolve out of necessity, such as errant color combinations on abutting apartment buildings, or a pile of tools tangled against a fence for lack of a toolshed. Her background in design developed her keen ability to aesthetically resolve things that do not necessarily belong together, yet share spaces with each other. The exhibition delivers an array of ways that colors, textures, and shapes that may ordinarily lack harmony become, through composing, cropping, and painting, finished works of art.
One of my favorite superpowers of visual art is how it can make sense of the confusing, annoying, frightening, or oddball things we all encounter in life. In my formative years as a student, Jeff Koons’ ceramic sculptures of pigs, puppies, and pop icons made my grandmother’s living room a setting I could no longer discredit as simply old-fashioned. Robert Rauschenberg’s flattened cardboard boxes and socks stuck onto canvases made even alleyway rubbish seem to have the potential for a new, stylish life. Whether driven by social critique, theory, or design, visual art contains worlds where content and imagery can follow a higher logic than they seem to in real time.
This March at Kingston Gallery, solo exhibitions by Julie Graham and Joetta Maue integrate familiar material, including their own art work, to push their respective practices in new directions and transform their chosen media. Graham’s work is in the Main and Center Galleries, and Maue’s work is in the Member’s Gallery. Although the two artists’ exhibitions have different subject matter and influences, the similarities are worthy of noting.
Julie Graham‘s exhibition, If it’s not one thing… shows photographs with her paintings for the first time.As an artist, her driving impulse is to seek and resolve the unexpected. Graham often incorporates found objects and materials that are associated with architecture, including spackle and plaster. The resulting surfaces are complex and reminiscent of remote places, eras, and moods. Her painting Chevron is hung on an adjacent wall from a square-format photograph Chevron: Redux. The photograph captures a detail of the painting. The filtered, cropped image, seen apart from the painting, could be part of a road sign; the dried paint texture could be years of wear from exposure to weather. The close proximity to the painting and resulting change in scale form a drama between the two works, but each piece also thrives independently. They do not need each other, but one riffs on the other. Graham’s process references our post-digital world, where we often see artwork first online or via Instagram feeds.
Joette Maue begins with familiar, personal aspects of her domestic life to inspire her new body of work. Her embroidery, photographs, and drawings take in the disarray of parenthood: toys left in a jumble, laundry that is always in process but never done, and houseplants that may or may not have been sufficiently watered. Primarily working in fibers, Maue’s exhibition in transition… incorporates other media, featuring three large drawings and a grid of eight photographs arranged as four diptychs. Maue drew her own crocheted fibers by projecting and enlarging her subject to make still-life details of the threads. She makes something new by examining something else she made, as Graham does with her photographs hanging on a nearby wall. The drawings enabled Maue to change up her studio time and pace of production at a time when her personal life was recalibrating. The photographs are grounding and meditative views of domestic spaces that provide a setting for her textile piece, wash dry fold repeat, which echoes the rhythms of care that accompany motherhood.