"Antidotes and Such"
Through March 24, 2016
at Monroe Community College
More than twenty-five modestly sized works of art have come to roost at the Mercer Gallery at Monroe Community College in their suburban campus. I went over on a snowy Thursday afternoon to listen to a gallery talk by the featured artist Jill Gussow, in her one-woman show, and I caught the tail end of her speech as she was saying something about the title of her show ( "Antidotes and Such" ).
At first glance this exhibition is filled with color and vitality on a small scale: bird images, and faces abound and their are a few icons - like a wonderful carrot ( above ) that reveals its inner workings to the viewer. The word talisman comes to mind - these artworks are like charms; they have powers meant to turn the tide of emotion into something you can admire, and in that way deflect bad karma. As Jill Gussow said in her remarks, she wants to create things that resonate with her audience even if it is on a very intimate scale.
Jill Gussow at her opening of "Antidotes and Such"
Jill Gussow and I go way back to our college days where we shared a studio at The Cooper Union in New York City, and I have had the pleasure of watching her work evolve and she has never lost her wit or humor, which is also in evidence in the large scale public art she has created in and around town.
Jill Gussow works with fabric and thread
At The Mercer Gallery her materials seem to be mostly fabric and thread, and the direct approach she used for this art is sewing or as she says: "It is a practical way of bringing things together". She mentions that "sewing is like drawing", and it is very direct - we can see the results even if we can not follow the process as with some art.
Jill Gussow mentions to me that the artwork in this new show has accumulated over the past twelve years so it is a series and an evolution. Many of the works are deliberately face-like, and others near pure abstraction, but retain a joyful eye for color and texture ( see above ). There are comparisons one might make to works by Lucas Samaras that she mentioned in her gallery talk, but the real similarities are with folk arts, and other works with needle and thread that have been made in the past 100 years or so.
Jill Gussow at MCC
Going back to the title of the show "Antidotes and Such", Jill remarked to me that many of the works on view are really two parts, the main figure at top, and an pendant which represents the antidote.
So it is possible to read the images like a kind of puzzle - take a look at the dramatic situation on top and then imagine a solution or a cure for that effect. For me these works have a correlation to folk arts and tribal arts where our attention is put on an object that has strong suggestive powers and could be part of a ceremony or a ritual - in other words these works of art take us on a path that the ancestors took. I found the show very engaging, and refreshing, so go see it!
Jill Gussow at the Mercer Gallery