By Tom Wachunas
“All our interior world is reality, and that, perhaps, more so than our apparent world.” –Marc Chagall-
EXHIBITION: Crowds with No Names, recent paintings by Beth Nash at Translations Gallery, 331 Cleveland Avenue NW, downtown Canton, THROUGH SEPTEMBER 29. Gallery viewing hours are Wed. – Sat., Noon to 5 p.m.
Most viewers who are ‘serious’ about engaging a work of art in a gallery setting already know that sincere, focused observing can be its own reward. Then again, a little creative incentive on the part of the artist and/or curator can go far in making the process more inviting. So in this exhibition, there’s a playful twist on viewer participation.
As all of Beth Nash’s recent works here are as yet untitled, we the viewers are asked to leave our signed suggestions on post-it notes next to the pieces (supplies provided). At the end of the exhibit, Nash will select her favorite titles and winners are to be rewarded with a 15% discount on their next art purchase from the gallery.
Titling these intriguing works would necessitate some creative processing on our part, arguably not unlike Nash’s own. She writes in her statement for the show that her paintings (figurative and representational in nature) begin abstractly enough, with no preconceived design. Her free-flowing marks and gestures grow into underlying structures of defined planes and shapes as she lets the picture ‘tell’ her where it wants to go. Similarly, I think that extrapolating ‘meaning’ or names from her visions would necessarily require from us a certain degree of improvisation or free association with the images – a kind of listening to their content so that their stories can emerge on their own terms.
Those stories are decidedly enigmatic, often suggesting a kinship with the iconography of Marc Chagall’s populated landscapes, alternately folky and surreal. Nash’s smooth-surfaced paintings in liquid acrylics, as well as her more stark charcoal and gesso drawings on dark tan wood panels, display a consistently energetic spontaneity of drawing. They deftly capture what might be moments on the verge of disappearing, like retrieving fleeting memories of dreams. Portrayed here is a mixed gathering of people in suspended animation, caught up in their own remembering, or magical dances, or ambiguous social interactions.
And then there’s the matter of color. More than simply opaque pigments resting on the surface, Nash’s luminous colors appear to rise from deep within, built up in glazes that let light through, as in stained glass. The effect is one of intensely spiritual dimensionality, transforming her figures into specters moving through a rainbow reverie.