In Danger of Existence
curatorial statement: John Marcucci, Ph.D.
The earliest expression of human art, besides body art, depicted animals. We might infer from these hunters and gatherers that animals were important for their survival, the development of their cultural technology, and totemic spiritual values. The value of animals continued through the Neolithic age of world civilizations that coexisted with a diversity of people who continued to hunt and gather, or migrate with their livestock herds. However, during the early period of the industrial revolution, with the rise of imperialistic empires, we saw the rapid extinction of wild animals.
Interestingly, Queen Victoria’s patronage of the artist, Sir Edwin Landseer, tacitly fostered a more humane treatment of animals, particularly stopping the use of dogs as beasts of burden. Landseer’s portrait of a Newfoundland type dog is exemplary: “A Distinguished Member of Humane Society”, 1838. It was through his painting of dogs infused with emotion and dignity that attitudes started to change.
McKinney brings this perspective of social change through art by her exhibition, In Danger of Existence. In a contemporary sense, she is contributing to those artists who have promoted relational art (Pierre Huyghe following Nicholas Bourriaud) and social practice art (Suzanne Lacy, Theaster Gates). Using the ritual context and symbols of an altar and votive offering, she engages the viewer’s participation for reflection, meditation, ritual, and deed. The experience is open and flows according to how each viewer approaches the work. McKinney offers the opportunity without rhetoric. The installation creates a sense that something spiritual is happening. Mandalas surround the space. On each side of the altar four, head-shot portraits of a grizzly bear, a grey wolf, a red fox, and a black bear meet the gaze of the viewer. It is this tacit connection with wild animals facing rapid extinction, particularly vertebrates, that is the central focus of this installation. Although one might enjoy one piece of artwork over another, it soon becomes apparent that the artwork is the totality of all the elements and relationships of interaction and social discourse.
Indeed, McKinney’s craftwork transcends the commodification of objects by making them hand-made and personal, such as the dyed altar cloth, quilted collage topper, the sculpture of a fused skull in lucite, the painted vertebrae and bones found in wild locations. Likewise, her portraits of the animals were chosen because of her personal experience of encountering them in the wild. She presents them, not as an inventory of the threatened, but as a relational experience set within a mandala universe of interconnectivity.
Brenda McKinney “Reflection and Contemplation” (detail)
Visions of Lough Swilly: Lake of Shadows
curatorial statement: John Marcucci, Ph.D.
It is often held in the natural sciences how complexity can be expressed by clear and simple equations, such as Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence, E=mc2.
Our visual world ranges from the microscopic to cosmic panoramas in the 4th dimension. Within these contexts artists decide many questions. For Saul Waranch his daily process of sketching is his fundamental context for making decisions in how and why he perceives his surroundings. He maintains this viewpoint in his oeuvre. His process of drawing focuses on his intimate world, such as still life’s, landscapes, and figurative representations.
A foot injury curtailed him from walks, and so his experiences of Lough Swilly became intimate–the surrounding hills and ocean viewed from his house located on the west coast of the fjord.
In the exhibition we are not viewing his drawings (They may be viewed by special arrangements with the gallery), rather we are viewing his forty paintings done upon his return to his studio.
Waranch uses a color field approach and keeps his brush marks bold and raw. He is making clear and simple equations! But, I cannot use the word “abstraction”, because these works are not free from representational qualities. The feature held in common among all these works is the horizon.
In many of these works in oil on birch wood panels or canvas, Waranch reinforces the sense of the horizon by his gesture of a graphite line. Indeed, the palette expresses the very lush greens of Ireland, but he infuses the paintings with brilliant yellows, oranges, reds, pinks, purples, browns and blues. Although he was on the water’s edge, only three large oil paintings give a sense of water,and yet it feels more like space due to his technique of using thin washes with pronounced movement of his brush.
In all of these works, Waranch produced an ever changing horizon. He adds another variable to the equation for us to share–how do we set our eyes on the horizon–how do we intimately connect ourselves to the “bigger picture”, the landscape of hope and dreams for the future.
The Tragic Sense of Self
A solo exibition of new sculptures, April 6 – 29, 2017
Curatorial statement: John Marcucci, Ph.D.
Jill Nonnemacher has broken the mold! Her previous sculptures were made from clay and then molded into plaster. Using these media of clay into plaster, she explored the human form in an abstract expressionistic manner. In this sense, these new works continue with more variations beyond the figurative into more abstracted shapes. Nonnemacher expands her range of sculptural expression in the use of plaster, burlap, string, wire and oxides for most of these works.
Of the twenty-seven works, six are recognizable as human faces: Look Within and U Will Find, I Woke Up One Day…This Is How I Felt, Face to Face, I Am Only Me, Eye Minded, and Rotted and Rooted. The largest of these faced based sculptures, Rotted and Rooted, creates the emblematic notion of the exhibition which extends beyond the visage of a face and into other exterior and interior spaces that reflect The Tragic Sense of Self.
Out of the Dark Into the Blue, and the fired stoneware piece, Depth of Breath are more anthropomorphic with art historical references that range from The Aphrodite of Milos, also known as the Venus de Milo for Out of the Dark Into the Blue to Willem de Kooning in Depth of Breath and the six forementioned sculptures depicting faces.
The Tragic Sense of Self is very prominent in Out of the Dark Into the Blue because it is headless, and where the neck would be there are strings emerging and they flow down the gowned torso. Nonnemacher’s use of her media of plaster, burlap, string and wire has given these sculptures raw and rough surfaces holes and crevices, and textures of seemingly ephemeral fibers that speak to a fragility within contexts of hard and rough surfaces. However, it is her use of color oxides that expand the experience of these sculptures. In Out of the Dark Into the Blue, the blue color of the body feels as if all of life has ebbed away, almost frozen into position as her garment slips from her torso, with the strings the color of dried blood.
The other seventeen sculptures are more amorphous with open dynamic spaces as in Matter, Dancing with My Soul, Twisted Sister, Pandora’s Box, Humble Warrior, One With Myself, and the Wanderer Series (nos. 1-12). Matter, the most densely composed one in this group is a wall piece that defies the state of gravity–a mass of earth colors in greens and browns with rough surfaces, holes and crevices. The other works seem to dance and fly into expanded states of consciousness, as if they are memories becoming tangled or twisted, or coming from the undulating depths of molten emotions in terms of primordial oceanic discoveries.
Nonnemacher’s reference to Greek tragedy in Pandora’ s Box calls attention to the first, mortal woman who was formed out of clay by the gods. In the Greek myth, Zeus gives her a jar as a wedding present which when opened released the evil spirits, forever a plague to mankind.
The Wanderer Series brings the exhibition full circle by realizing a hopefulness that still remains in Pandora’s box. These pieces taken as individuals are whimsical fragments emerging from the wall. Viewed together they playfully interact for the viewer.
Jill Nonnemacher Pandora’s Box, 2016
plaster, burlap, string, wire, oxides
19 x 13 x 10 inches, installed on a wall.
Cindy J. Holmes
Thus Spake Derrida March 9 – April 1, 2017
Curatorial Statement: John Marcucci, Ph.D.
Cindy J. Holmes Virtual Real
acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 inches (photography by Cindy J. Holmes)
In each painting there is a central form, discernible as a human figure by reference to the shapes of head, torso, arm, hand or leg. They are all portraits of human. Some of them have an eye, a mouth, or a nose, but otherwise those anthropomorphic references to a face are sometimes hidden by position or color. Some of these faces boldly peer out at the viewer.
Diptych: A Divided Land (Scape) February 9 – March 4, 2017
Curatorial Statement: John Marcucci, Ph.D.
Gisa Elwazir Protecting the Land
decalcomania, gouache, ink on paper, 35 1/2 x 48 inches (photography by Michelle Elwazir)
Gisa Elwazir is at her most complex expression of her leitmotif, organic abstraction. This is her fourth solo exhibition of new paintings in this collection. Haley-Henman is honored to be the premier venue of her new works that continually receive annual awards in juried competitions.
At the foundation of these works is her medium of decalcomania, whereby she makes a texture of paint applied to the paper, like putting on a decal. It is from this texture that the artist begins her creative process. Decalcomania begins the rich layering of saturated colors, stippled transparencies of color, and the unfolding of spaces and forms.
For this exhibition, the viewer encounters the majority of works as diptychs in which the artist intentionally keeps a space between the two contiguous panels. When a viewer approaches Gisa Elwazir’s paintings, there is an overall sense that something is happening. The visual sense is assaulted with color interwoven by dynamic patterns of action. These paintings are not static abstractions, nor are they static land (scapes).
As the viewer gets closer to the work, there is an increased visual experience of seeing stunning detail, with occasional plays of figurative and landscape references where the inner worlds of imagination come to life, and where the viewer can give their own meaning to the artist’s suggestions.
These paintings are landscapes of the mind. There is a wonderful sense of uniqueness within the resonance of her works in organic abstraction. Patterns and shapes occurring in each painting keep the flow between the works united as a group, yet all the while keeping each work a unique individual, an oblique reference to fractals.
Indeed, it is the essence of the natural world’s repeating fractal shapes that gives energy to Gisa Elwazir’s creative exploration. For example, some fractal features of nature from micro to macro are seen in the shapes of leaves, trees, mountain ranges and rivers, among so many others. The relationship of fractal generation related to the medium of creating texture by decalcomania is intriguing, and is further enhanced by viewing the entire collection. However, in this series, the diptych space allows the eye to pause and recognize the evolving patterns in a work with two separated panels.
In her painting, I Believe in Globalization, she presents for this viewer, a phantasmagorical image of shifting horizontal and vertical abstract compositions in multiple layers with overlays of circular worlds that might appear as the cross-section of bone and its marrow. While in Nature’s Reclaiming, fractal complexity mirrors patterns of growth and decay.
The Divided Land, presents the most apparent “landscape”. This diptych presents a harmony of terraced gardens of diverse patterns, colors and shapes. Yet again, this landscape is not static, it is moving in fractal patterns toward a horizon as far as the eye can see. While in The Galleries in the Palace, an architectural landscape presents human figures placed within a spiral, domed space with floating landscapes, shafts of light and swirling circular forms.
A Little Happiness is a single panel of rich African colors with fenestrations of white spaces that allow the viewer to glimpse into a suspended reality of what we are seeing. The painting emanates a strong exotic feeling with electric energy and color. In the diptych, A Promise for Togetherness, Elwazir continues this exotic mix of African references in a surreal illusion of a veiled human skull emanating from the pattern of leaves and branches that keep expanding in dimensions from the foreground to the background, as if they are growing toward you.
If one only viewed one side of the diptych, Bird Watch, the jewel-like leitmotifs would confirm nature’s glory in leaf patterns and branches. We also see Gisa Elwazir’s frequent use of geometric patterns and black ravens. It is in the center of the divided panels that the ravens take flight off the unattached orb, as if a spore or pod had been released into the world. Similarly, In a Distant Country, a flight of ravens are in the distant horizon of swirling patterns that appear to have been morphed from the black gossamer ribbons. While the white gossamer ribbons bring the viewer to landscape vignettes of villages by the lake with people in boats. A small flock of cranes gives an allusion to longevity.
Protecting the Land might represent the culmination of these works in the exhibition titled, Diptych: A Divided Land (Scape).
Curatorial Statement by John Marcucci, Ph.D.
Heather Levy Neuroplasticity: a reflection on what could have been, in which there is always another side to the story
The only direction I offered to Levy was we prepared for her second solo exhibition was not to feel any limitations. Visiting her studio I had the wonderful experience of seeing her works in person and appreciate the nuance of her mark and texture in creating bold images and worlds of fantasy. In addition to the paintings, I encouraged her to bring a video work into the show.
Levy prepared for her solo exhibition by visits to the gallery and conceptually trying out different installment possibilities. The result is an immersive installation. Paintings, sculptures and video are designed to enhance the experience of your neural pathways.
The heart of the installation is twelve paintings that are suspended in space at eye level. Each of these paintings is a twin that presents “another side to the story”. These pairs are joined together, back to back, and form the center of the installation as six pairs of paintings. In Levy’s installation, the center pairs can only be viewed one side at a time. To view the other side, a viewer must walk around to the back of the painting to see “the other side of the story”.
The gallery space is immediately immersive by Levy’s use of a sculptural neural pathway of linked wire circles. The wired pathways on the windows have floating colored gels. As the wired neural pathway extends around the parameter of the space, there are wired insects and splashes of colorful forms made from pipe cleaners. The links explode into color when traversing a space between two walls where Levy has installed her video projecting into a corner with an acute angle. This space becomes sculptural in the way it separates her kaleidoscopic images into mirrored images. Riots of colorful hula-hoops form the sculptural base of this part of the installation.
In addition to the wired neural pathway, there are wired sculptural flowers, and three pairs of paintings, which are further highlighted by her painted installation of vines in an inset wall that displays the larger butterfly pair of paintings.
The space of 320 square feet provides an intimate experience that promotes an interaction of the viewer with the art. The sculptural neural pathway is delicate in the sense of how it plays on being real and yet a shadow, allowing the space to expand.
Levy has created an immersive installation that provides an opportunity to experience the context of her process that experiments with how the brain can change in ways of making and changing neural pathways. This neuroplasticity is part of our human experience from the time we are born to the time of our death. Voltaire’s Candide is one of her many sources of inspiration. Just as we can view the world optimistically though color gels and a kaleidoscope of pattern and color, wishing the “best of all possible worlds”, Levy’s Neuroplasticity, shows the other side and the need to be flexible and resilient by “cultivating our garden” of experiences.
Curatorial Statement by John Marcucci, Ph.D
February 3, 2016
Jill Nonnemacher: Modeling the Subconcious
Given the space of 320 sq. ft. and a desire to maximize the viewing of Jill Nonnemacher’s sculptures, I encouraged her to create a performance art that would enhance the art experience for viewers. The result of her endeavor in this regard is Experience the Transcendent.
To expand her work in relief sculpture, I encouraged her to create an installation work that would feature in a larger dimension her four styles of relief sculptures. The result of her endeavor in this regard is I AM.
Experience the Transcendent breaks all the rules of art viewing. The normal code of conduct is Do Not Touch The Art, Do Not Get Too Close. Usually, there are barriers set up to delineate the space and how close one can approach a painting or sculpture, with guards making sure you obey the rules. Often, exhibited sculpture is not even given the three dimensional space needed to view all sides.
The interaction created for the performance art is Touch and Feel The Sculptures. Facilitators encourage the viewer to share their feelings and experiences, but they also respect the internal, private experience with silence. They encourage the viewer to express themselves regarding their art experience by making a mark on the wall. Thus, breaking another normal code of conduct: Do Not Write or Mark The Wall.
The Viewers perform together with the facilitators. The facilitators give permission to break the norms of art viewing. The movement of hands and bodies in the viewing becomes a form of kinetic sculpture, as well as the movements and gestures to make marks on the walls.
The transcendent aspect of this performance art is to have an experience that goes beyond viewing sculpture as an object, but rather as an experience that allows the art to leave with the viewer.
Curatorial Statement by John Marcucci, Ph.D.
Retrospective, Yemen 1988-1993
This retrospective exhibition is significant in many ways. First of all, it calls our attention to the current war in Yemen, with the killing of women and children, and how that war is connected to us all as the wars in the Middle East spread around the globe as a world war.
Gisa Elwazir’s insightful vision juxtaposes psychological dimensions and cultural symbols within a surreal matrix of figures, places and things. These works are complex compositions with layered dynamics. Her process for the paintings begins with an intaglio (burnt incision) plate that is printed on paper and then painted in gouache. The embossed lines of the print are part of the layered and complex compositions: hawks becoming the structural elements of faces; eyes peeking from architectural forms; hands and birds as symbols of privacy and freedom; and bodies becoming a beast.
Gisa Elwazir: The Human Beast
The rich, saturated colors of her paintings bring to life the narrative of Yemeni experiences, such as women’s roles, the virile power of men, the birth of twins, social control, and dreams for the future.
After exploring these works, we come to the second significant aspect of this exhibition, the opening of a cross-cultural dialogue, or more broadly speaking, the relationship between the Occident and the Orient. These paintings provide us an opportunity to approach the dialogue in a personal way. These paintings are human experiences of people’s faces, eyes, hands, and bodies. They are not ideologues. They are surreal aesthetic expressions of a time, a place and a way of life that allows us the opportunity to feel and see contrasts and comparisons.
The third significant aspect of Gisa Elwazir’s works is how she captures significant cultural symbols. In many respects, these symbols are the keys to unlock the unknown, the different, the cultural dissonance that we feel in a strange and unknown world. Her brilliant compositions intertwine symbols with people and places. In this sense, her work is in the genre and level of other surreal artists such as Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, and Giorgio de Chirico.