Tuesday, September 29, 2009

CURATOR'S ESSAY: Marina Pacilio at Julian Scott Memorial Gallery in Johnson

by Leila Bandar, Gallery Director

Marina Pacilio’s bigger-than-human-scale paintings completely fill the Julian Scott Memorial Gallery space. Ten luminous, large, un-stretched canvases awaken new perspectives on the figure, form, water, and light. Each call to the viewer in a different way with vivid depictions of brightness – sun in water, brightness in summer air, glow-bugs, and light – even winter in January. Silently, like a landscape behind glass, they offer value to those who look.

Underwater scenes wrap nude self-portraits with deep, sea-green-hues, turquoise-blue, and yellowy-white sunlight that curls around hips, thighs, hands, and torso. In a painting of Pacilio’s mother, orange-red hues shine with yellow to make nurturing energy. As her mother’s elbow bends toward a blazing warmth, green-moths flit, like memories, overhead. On the opposite side of the same wall, a photo-realistic glimpse of Marina’s grandmother, surrounded by a dream-like/maroon-dark abyss, looks up to a cosmos of stars and fireflies. Winter scenes reveal close-ups of dry brittle grasses in a phthalo and cobalt-blue chill. And finally, we come to big and small jellyfish within the largest canvas. Here, Pacilio creates depth in a vast ocean with a tiny figure – a tenth of full-scale.

In the realms of her canvas, Pacilio creates atmospheres from washes of oil and acrylic paint. These layers “unify both the spontaneous and the intentional aspects of [her] paintings” (Pacilio). In this exceptional culmination of three years spent in Johnson State College’s low-residency through the Vermont Studio Center, Pacilio reveals ambiguities that are both uniquely human, and also compassionate. Her elegant paintings create space and mood; they preserve a moment and reflect time, dedication, and skill.

“Many of these paintings reference my dreams and reveries," Pacilio says in her Artist Statement. "These fantasies of mine often have unusual juxtapositions between seemingly incongruent images. I painted myself nude to show the vulnerability and exposure I feel by putting these images on display. I reference water and submersion in many of the paintings; underwater I am cocooned and safe, surrounded by silent solitude.”

Marina Pacilio completes her M.F.A. this winter. The work will be on view at the Julian Scott Memorial Gallery at Johnson State College from Sept 21 – Oct 2, 2009.