Tuesday, October 26, 2010

REVIEW: Jane Pincus at Studio Place Arts, Barre

By Janet Van Fleet

Tell me a Story, seventeen mixed media (acrylic/collage) works by Jane Pincus, is on exhibit in the Third Floor Gallery at Studio Place Arts in Barre from October 6 - November 6, 2010.

Much of the punch of these works – and certainly one of the pleasures of seeing them all together – is Pincus’s rich, jewel-tone palette: chartreuse, turquoise, magenta, gold. The impression of jewels is augmented by her frequent use of diagonal lines and loosely gridded spaces, which suggest facets (a word having both physical and interpretive meanings that is highly appropriate in describing this work).

Pincus deals with big topics – life and death, pain and joy, inside and outside. For example, Singing Martin into the Next World (2008) features a central figure whose blue face of death is attached to a body with serenely folded hands; his leg bones are shown as in an x-ray, but with celestial gold on red (vs. black on white). In the lower left of the composition, figures are singing and weeping (cantamos, lloramos; we’re singing and crying). The refrain of the song is inscribed at Martin’s head and feet: No me lloras, no. No me lloras, no. Por que si lloras, me muero. En cambio, si tu me cantas, Yo siempre vivo y nunca muero. Don’t cry for me, no don’t cry for me, Because if you cry, I die, Instead if you sing for me, I will always live and never die.)

The work is mostly from the last three years, and there are motifs that have appeared frequently in Pincus’s work. Many pieces contain cut-away views of houses – Windows (2005), The House’s Dream (2008), Coming Home to Roost (2009), Entering (2010), City Dreaming Women (2003) and Open House. Another, related motif is furniture and other domestic appointments – things such as beds, chairs, tables, cups, and lights that just fit the human body, things that are always part of the stage-set of our dreams and narratives. Sometimes women are sitting in the chairs. In My Mother’s Box, her mother (a strong, focused presence) sits at a table on which are displayed necklaces, rings, papers, and an address book. A photo of her mother’s younger self relaxing in a hammock ornaments the lampshade on a side table.

One of the constraints I have observed as I’ve looked at collage work over the years is the size limitation created by cut-out collage elements. When you cut something out of a magazine or photo print, it imposes a particular scale, and the other elements of the composition have to work with that. Pincus often dances gracefully around this issue (in large works that are up to 36" on a side) by completely painting over the collaged elements, and also by creating compositions (whole houses, large landscapes) whose scale easily accommodates the delicate collaged pieces.

But in one of the most compelling pieces (hung in a prominent position), Barbara and Jane have Lunch at the Edge of the Universe (2010), a huge 8" collaged Jupiter dominates the composition. Other planets, stars and nebulae (in many different sizes, as makes sense in a universe where things are separated by light years) are scattered about the picture plane, drawing the eye around in a spinning motion. It’s a long time before attention is drawn to the friends mentioned in the title, upside down in the upper lefthand corner! The artist says in a statement,

That’s just it. We were eating sandwiches in the corner of Barbara’s porch, and talking about how vast the universe is. And just how many universes and galaxies are out there, out here, anyway? During the month of September I worked on this painting, little by little, paying most attention for weeks to the women and the porch. Then, three days ago, I turned it upside down. We didn’t fall off the earth. Here we are, hanging, calm, with the universe sounding all around.

Jane Pincus is an artist who knows where she’s going and how to get there. When you’re on your way to see her exhibit, you might want to schedule a bit of extra time to check out the other two shows at Studio Place Arts – the Tenth Annual Stone Show in the Main Gallery and Little Stories by Axel Stohlberg on the second floor.

Images: Detail: Singing Martin into the Next World, acrylic/collage, 2008 Barbara and Jane Have Lunch at the Edge of the Universe, acrylic/collage, 2010