Monday, September 2, 2013
by Tom Wachunas
“The painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through.”
EXHIBIT: Out of Impulse, work by Betsy Cavalier, at The Little Art Gallery THROUGH SEPTEMBER 29, located in the North Canton Public Library, 185 N. Main Street, North Canton
My first encounter with the work of Betsy Cavalier was in April of this year during the Impossible Gardens group show at Translations Art Gallery. On that occasion, I wrote of her installation, “… Betsy Cavalier’s delightfully sprawling concoction of clustered bulbous forms - made from stuffed panty hose, weather balloon latex, insulating foam and found objects – is an appreciation of the garden as a multiplicity of interconnected organic systems.”
This time around, her 3D installation piece, Out of Impulse, displays the same spirit of ‘delightfully sprawling concoction’ along with a similarly wild inventory of material ingredients (including my personal favorite, “…Random Dusty Handmade Fuzz balls…”). Central to Cavalier’s aesthetic is the consideration of a concept in science called interconnectivity. In her statement for this show, she summarizes the concept as describing the individual components of a given system being dependent upon and interacting with each other.
Generously spilling out from walls and ceiling into the gallery space, Out of Impulse is an intensely tactile assemblage of variably scaled protuberances. Some are sensuous and rotund, often suggesting birthing more of their kind. Others are bundles of smaller spheroids, trussed up into tight groups, and still others are hung in rows, contained in transparent “skins” distended into long connecting strings. Viewing the installation is an altogether immersive experience, not unlike walking through a massive 3D schematic of internal anatomies or cellular/ molecular structures – micro gone macro.
The same spirit of mapping out complex organic and/or mechanical networks coming together and pulling apart is very much at work in Cavalier’s equally tactile paintings. Her visual language is much more effectively articulated on her ambitious large canvases than with the eight small paintings in the gallery’s glass showcase. Those are, while pleasantly decorative (maybe studies for the larger projects?), far less compelling by comparison. In this particular mode of painting, more is more and bigger is better.
It is indeed the scale of the large abstract paintings that allows Cavalier to generate truly magnetic micro/macrocosms. I was drawn inexorably into their layered thrall. Combining oil paint, latex or acrylic paints and ink, along with enamel and spray, the paintings seethe with visual tensions and textures both visceral and atmospheric. Here are fluid, improvisatory syntheses of painted shapes and marks, large and small, which are poured or flung with abandon, as well as drawn with purpose. They simultaneously explode outward, as if exhaling an underlying force, and congeal, progressively inhaling my attentions to the more detailed embellishments that lay deeper inside the picture plane.
Cavalier’s visual systems or networks of richly varied (and at times colliding) motifs on the same plane read nonetheless as fertile, symbiotic and otherwise unified entities. One network gives rise to, or hosts another. While her conceptual motivation might well have spawned heady encounters with murky gravitas, it is her unabashedly neon palette that thrusts her paintings into an electrifying conviviality and even pure joy as they celebrate fecundity itself.
PHOTOS, courtesy Little Art Gallery curator Elizabeth Blakemore, from top: Out of Impulse; Interconnectivity II; The Spreading of Something; My Experiment