Saturday, July 9, 2011

Of Vice and Virtue: The Moral Universe of Marcy Axelband

On view through July 30th at Anderson Creative Gallery is a 13 piece solo show by Marcy Axelband conceived and executed around a single theme and meant to function as one unit. However, each piece in the show could also stand alone on its own as part of a larger group show with no central theme. Such a quality lends credibility to the quality of work. 

I get the whole good vs evil, positive vs negative, thing and her posted statement set the table for viewing the show, but not being a fan of theme shows, I preferred to look at the pieces individually as just paintings, not statements. My colleblog (a morphing of colleague and blogger) delves succinctly and knowledgably into the spiritual aspects of Marcy’s intent, but alas, I am not so deep. I prefer to enjoy the surfaces I see and the contents of their creation.  I came away satisfied in that regard.

For every learned viewer of art in our area, there are probably three times as many lookers who pass through for a few moments on the way to see horses, drink beer, buy a T-shirt or use a  restroom. I suspect many of the latter don’t bother to read posted statements so fortunately the pieces in this show also have a one or two word title in addition to the statement/title which provides further insight into Marcy’s thought processes and motivations behind each work.   I read all the postings first, and then did a few passes GP style to see how the images and the single titles worked together.

If one knows Marcy and her work environment, the show will contain many references to how the arts district has become part of who she is. If one does not know her, the works are big, bold, brash, and in many cases raw. Those who know her will see influences of others in her framing choices, in the depth of color found in “Zeal” and in the presentation of “Sloth”. 

The large posted statement informs the viewer that the depicted vice or virtue is more than just image, it is also color choices and references to content associated with each with the painter and person woven as one within them. To me, that is the enjoyable part, finding the elements of art and design as they relate to the concept, begin able to pull a thread and follow its path through a piece. So let’s go exploring…..

“Temperance/Moderation” is about minimizing things, so too does the unsaturated color pallet reflect this idea. A weak mint green, low contrast greys, whites and flesh tones, and smaller format all contribute to this virtue. My contrast, next in line is “Zeal” depicted as an exuberant African American guitar player on a wonderfully rendered harlequin background. I should probably say it right now, though I can appreciate the figures, I was most taken with the shapes, the colors, the abstracted areas and the images that were not of people, but of surfaces, textures and forms. She has an underappreciated talent in the ability to render such luscious and visceral elements that are just as revealing of her thought processes as are human forms.  I took five pages of notes while viewing the show, writing thoughts and comments about each piece, however over and over as I read them now, my little boxes and stars are next to words describing the backgrounds or the interior rendering of the figures, not so much of the figures themselves except for two, “Wrath” and “Envy”, the latter of which is sold and I can see why. The former, “Wrath” reads to me like a POW from WW2, the communist or Nazi red, with the greenish figure and his Eastern European features. My own person experiences figure into this interpretation for sure, but the piece spoke to me and that is what counts.

Some of my starred and boxed words are “richness”, “elegance”, and “robust”.  The mille fleur feeling of “Generosity” which has the image of a face behind its forms if one stands back and allows the underlying tonalities to take over is probably one of my favorites. So too is “Greed” with its incredibly deep layering of materials within a limited pallet of yellows, not an easy thing to do by any means.  Conceiving and creating this body of work must have been both draining and liberating for Marcy as she explored inside herself and then how she fits into the world outside. I think a phrase from her overall statement is an excellent way to explain this process…..when one feels they are “in life” and not just a part of it, then those are “shellac-able moments”.  So Ms. Marcy, you are probably feeling very shiny right now because these Vices and Virtues have confirmed that you are “in” your life, not looking at it anymore.

1 comment:

  1. Very fine review from my 'colleblog'. Great word (does it rhyme with polywog?) Your last sentence is wonderful, catching the energy that makes Marcy's work so gripping.