Hoorah for Art and Artists!
Yet another wonderful evening filled with probing questions and immeasurable talent thanks to the hard work of artists Jay Morganstern, Jean Tansey, and Alex Canelos. Both the audience and those showing work beamed with engagement and inquiry so if you’d like to hear more, keep reading!
Jay’s work is engaging, theatrical and wonderfully surreal. His curious creations led viewers to think deeply not only about the bizarre collection of items curated before them, but about the mysterious man behind the ideas. These works provide feelings of a moment trapped in time, a sliver of eternity encapsulated in glass, never to be disturbed. I immediately felt a sense of the works being old, treasured items one would find in a personal library. I was fascinated by the strange pairings of objects and the precarious nature in which they were displayed within the box as each piece seemed to be flirting with the gentle nature of balance.
Every single artwork was saturated with information that required careful consideration and a great amount of time to truly digest what exactly was in each one. Many careful layers have been assembled as the composition extends forward, allowing for literal and conceptual depth that allows the mind to wander. I found Jay’s work to be reminiscent of early 20th century surrealist Joseph Cornell, someone who similarly acquired a vast and peculiar archive of objects from flee markets and the like to be used in unconventional ways. When taken out of their original contexts and placed into seemingly nonsensical arrangements, the items the artist collects take on new meanings and become wondrous. They are allowed to exist beyond the confines of what we expect them to be and take on entirely new meanings, such as the small sheep statuette in conjunction with a shoe mold and pulley systems. This strange composition combines themes of organic versus mechanic, balance in the universe and raises questions of belonging. The image created before us does not anchor us to one place or idea, but makes us question what we are looking at and why, while allowing us space to come up with answers of our own. Jay appears to have acquired a collection that represents decades of inquisitive searching and creates unique realms to house a lifetime of experiences.
Jean Tansey’s work is extremely expressive and rooted in bringing attention to the causes she’s passionate about. A recurring aesthetic theme is her use of large, quick marks fearlessly decorating the composition, adding life and drama to the moments she is portraying. In one of her pieces, Jean paints figures as they rush to escape flood waters, a scene becoming more and more familiar to people as climate change wreaks havoc upon coastal communities. The figures become blurred as we try to distinguish between rushing water and wet skin, giving the illusion of people trying not to get swept away. This truly showcases the artist’s ability to balance the importance of foreground and background since all the information she chooses to include compliments each other greatly. Her ability to give proportionate emotional value to both of these spaces alludes to the importance of context and background in life, in the issues we face and how being well-informed with the nuance helps us to accurately assess what is going on. Another intense painting portrays a Moroccan woman known as a ‘mule’ who is tasked with carrying good across the Moroccan border because the law states that luggage is not to be taxed but other goods have steep costs for importing and exporting. These women endure back-breaking labor as they haul massive amount of belongings across borders.
Jean’s expert understanding of composition adds to the clear heaviness of the load on her back, with the giant pile cropped by the edges of the canvas alluding to the crushing weight of it all. As a viewer, you feel for this person and the imagery demands your full attention as if it were speaking to you. The viewer is faces with a multitude of contrary emotions, does this show hope or horror? Apocalypse or opportunity? We are constantly flipping between different reads of the emotional imagery before us and realizing that the truth lies somewhere in the middle of it all. It was a great pleasure to discuss the complexity of the subject matter with someone so clearly passionate about the problems facing ordinary people in the world.
Alex Canelos had a show stopping painting that made the crowd really scratch their heads. In this piece portraying three figures curiously placed in a landscape, the longer you looked at the painting, the more unfolded. I instantly was unsettled by the lack of expression on the faces of the people who were existing yet not interacting with one another. The rightmost female held her arms in a way that to me seemed to reference dancing, yet her body language and face didn’t seem to be enjoying a dance.
This made me think that perhaps she didn’t want to dance, but felt some kind of external pressure to do something that didn’t truly bring her joy even if it was ‘supposed to’ which is an extremely relatable feeling for me. One figure was clothed, another nude, and the final had apparition-like transparency as he faded into the mountains. Two of the figures were leaning against a tree that seemed to fade through time and existence as the leaves gradually became more autumnal as the eye traveled across the canvas. This made a few viewers wonder if the figures felt out of place because they were all versions of one person represented from different moments in time all at the same place. This interpretation truly excited me because only in art media can we combine past, present and future versions of the same human in one plane.
I would love to be able to time travel but since I can’t, Alex’s painting gave me the closest thing to it as I could experience a multitude of existence by looking at his painting. Alex enjoyed the variance in interpretations and expressed the importance of collaboration in his art practice. I respect his decision to allow this painting to exist not only with his own vision, but with the help of the students he cares a great deal for. In my life, my most revered mentors have been those who passionately taught me and Alex’s devotion to teaching and art is clear in his paintings. He leaves us with questions that do not have answers and this is sometimes more important because it allows us to ponder the possibilities for ourselves instead of spelling it out for us. A thought-provoking body of work by a kind and generous teacher was the perfect conclusion to a wonderful night of creative conversations!
A big thank you to all those who attend our meetings to indulge in a truly wonderful community of artists. This program has allowed for many intelligent and talented people to share space, experience, and art. Marcy Bernstein has done a great job facilitating this event and I look forward to what this ongoing segment has in store for the future!