By Tom Wachunas
EXHIBIT: Recent Paintings by Danielle Mysliwiec, Main Hall Gallery, Kent State University at Stark, 6000 Frank Avenue NW, North Canton, THROUGH NOVEMBER 30 / Gallery Hours Monday – Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to noon www.daniellemysliwiec.com
A major element of Minimalist art that remains unsatisfying to me is its overt disconnect from emotional resonance - its formal attempt to subvert associative narrative. If it’s fair to say that the idea behind “less is more” is somehow Minimalism’s rallying cry (as I believe it is), the answer to “more what?” is elusive. More beautiful, more meaningful, more “true” than…?
OK, so I’ll get off my high-handed venting in short enough order. Still, I think it important to point out that there is a kind of Minimalism at work in these recent (2013) paintings by Danielle Mysliwiec but not, thankfully, in any off-putting way. Yes, these are highly distilled, abstract configurations of simple geometric shapes, rendered with a restricted palette, several of them on monochromatic fields of silver leaf. Even the gallery space itself exudes austerity, with just eight small (13” x 9”) paintings thinly dispersed across its white expanse.
But this diminutive manifestation of ‘less-is-more’ is nonetheless alluring and visceral in its intimacy. At once sculptural and pictorial, these works are fascinating miniature portals to possible metaphors or allegories. A literary analogy seems appropriate here. Mysliwiec’s abstractions are clearly too finessed to be called wildly expressionistic. They’re not like, say, a sprawling epic adventure novel with lots of colorful characters. Instead, their refined structures suggest the lyrical brevity of sonnets, or even haiku. Painted poems.
In some of the pieces, such as After and Vigil, Mysliwiec explores the tenuous relationship between the human activity of creating and maintaining precise structures or systems, and the ephemeral intrusions of accident and/or unexpected change that can counteract their orderliness. Whenever she employs the silvery grounds, the pieces acquire a ghostly, oscillating presence. Their reflective surfaces appear to physically shift (or breathe?) relative to the viewer’s movement and position in space – perhaps an homage to the changeability of life itself.
The shapes (forms in relief, actually) are comprised of painstakingly applied paint extrusions in repeated patterns. It’s an organized impasto so minute in scale and stringy in character that they have all the look of woven textile swatches. Mysliwiec’s technique is essentially that of a baker, using a piping bag and tip to apply frosting. Knowing that helps to bring some added conceptual dimensionality and mystical charm to these works. The meticulous weaving effect of the paint is a loving nod to the discipline of fine traditional crafts.
In that context, to some extent, “domestic woman’s work” comes to mind. Call it icing on a hardy cake – a sweetness of remarkable substance.
PHOTOS (from top), courtesy www.daniellemysliwiec.com : Aguayo (oil on wood panel); After (acrylic, metal leaf, tape on wood panel); Mild Winter (oil, metal leaf on wood panel); Ships Passing (oil, metal leaf on wood panel); Vigil (oil on wood panel)