Thursday, September 16, 2010

REVIEW: Jude Bond at 215 College Gallery in Burlington

By Janet Van Fleet

Jude Bond is an artist with a cohesive, evolving body of work, a woman in full possession of her creative powers. Over the course of her career, her primary materials have been women’s garments, domestic implements, and photographs that reference the notions of time and change.

In her current exhibit at 215 College Gallery (September 10 - October 3), entitled A Gathering of Skirts, she offers, in the front room of the gallery, three mixed media sculptures from her 2007 series Tomatoes (previously exhibited in a show at Flynndog), with petticoats flouncing on inverted tomato cages, their three arms each brandishing antique kitchen utensils.

In the larger room at the gallery, Bond exhibits new work from 2010. Two of the walls present digitally-altered photographs in sepia tones overlaid by organza printed with the same image, both layers machine-stitched together. The stitching becomes a prominent part of the piece, often appearing in a series of parallel vertical lines that emphasize the subjects’ skirts or bodices, but occasionally (as in the second image in the horizontally-mounted series Stitch/Threads, above, depicting two contemporary aerialists called “Ambidextrous”) in flights of loop-the-loop fancy.

The ends of the threads hang down in long tresses, like Spanish moss or root hairs. In the series Stitch/Sisters, mounted as three rows of five columns, the dangling threads of the upper rows fall in a wonderfully tangled, ragged mass, sometimes obscuring the faces of the rows beneath. In each of these fifteen pieces, the upper organza photograph is slightly larger than the underlying paper print, and is also somewhat offset, creating a sense of blurring, multiples, or a slippage of time. All but one of the images are pairs of girls or women, apparently sisters, including one Japanese pair, sitting for a formal portrait in native costume. A subtle charm is introduced by slight differences in the sepia tone among the images – some yellower, some pinker, some browner – as though to suggest that sisters (also humans, different ages, different generations) are both alike and distinct.

The mysteries of time, change, and duality that are evoked in the Stitch series become explicit in three Time Travel/Spirit Photography pieces (left). The artist dressed up in antique white dresses, had her niece photograph her, then digitally added herself to old photographs. The effect is magical, suggesting that time travel really is possible: we actually might go back and participate in our great-grandparents’ Sunday picnic, or maybe they could join us for dinner some night.

The remaining piece in the inner gallery, The Girlfriends (right), is a significant departure from the photo-based work surrounding it, with nine cloth dolls mounted on a storage shelf backed by four cheesecloth panels dyed with walnuts, tea, and blueberries.

With its three-dimensionality and food-references, The Girlfriends has more in common with the Tomatoes in the front room, though the thin, sometimes nervous lines of the inked dolls' faces call to mind the wiggly threads in the Stitch pieces. Each of the dolls has her skirt hitched up on one side with a jewel-and-chain device that is (the artist said) half of a sweater guard, meant to suggest a Victorian skirt-lifter. The raised skirts reveal canning jars filled with groups of small items such as buttons, gloves, and stones.

With her canning jars, dated photographs, and old clothing, Jude Bond demonstrates a preservationist’s impulse to store, archive, and keep the past alive. But her willingness to cut, sew, and modify history’s hand-me-downs makes Art, and statements about the being and experience of women that is altogether contemporary.