By Tom Wachunas
“…I work in a wide range of images, sometimes recognizable and sometimes abstract. The world between the two is where most of my work resides. Narratives weave loosely through this process and… images coalesce and collapse almost simultaneously.” – Randi Reiss McCormack
“… incorporating fiber-based materials and techniques into a painterly vocabulary and dazzlingly beautiful objects, Reiss-McCormack enlivens and enriches the art world’s most exalted medium, and imbues it with hospitality, domestic tradition, diversity, and accessibility.” - Cara Ober, May 2022
EXHIBIT: Magical Thinking / work by Randi Reiss-McCormack on view THROUGH SEPTEBER 22, 2023 / at The Lemmon Visiting Artist Gallery, in the Fine Arts Building at Kent State University at Stark, 6000 FRANK AVENUE NW, NORTH CANTON, OH / Gallery hours Monday – Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
During and after looking at this mesmerizing exhibit of 14 abstract works by Baltimore-based painter and fiber artist, Randi Reiss McCormack, a thought kept returning like a chant, embedding itself in my memory. It is this: The picture wants what the picture wants.
Think of the initial gestures of placing formal elements (lines, shapes, colors, textures) on a surface as a realization of the artist’s will to voice a message, feeling, or story with a particular visual vocabulary. Yet as time progresses, the distinctive grammar of the curious creature we call abstract art is such that another agency can often enter the process of picture-making, spontaneously investing the vocabulary with new nouns, verbs, objects. This agency is the most ineffable of motivators. The closest term that comes to mind in describing it is intuition. Something other than pre-learned or overt consciousness.
You might also call it magic, or enchantment. It has a will of its own, even a desire, to be heard. It can push, pull, compel, or constrain, as if conversing with the artist’s hand. The picture wants what the picture wants, and seemingly instructs the artist.
In responding to this uncanny coalescence of wills, Randi Reiss McCormack is equal parts bold, resourceful speaker and responsive listener. She expands the parameters of painting beyond actions of the brush with an array of impressive skills that include fiber techniques such as rug tufting, needlepoint, embroidery and punch needle. Spinning yarns, weaving tales… and sew it goes indeed.
Her resulting imagery is an elaborate, practically sculptural balancing of dualities at once earthbound and ethereal. The entire exhibit is a sumptuous tactile metaphor, or allegorical suggestion of forces and forms inspired by nature, all in constant, simultaneous states of becoming and dispersing. Here is a gripping confluence and an alluring dialogue between matter and spirit in flux.
The enticing bravura of Randi Reiss-McCormack’s artistry is wonderful to behold. And be held, as in… touched. And so I confess to tasting the forbidden fruit of art show etiquette by letting not only my eyes but also my fingers gently saunter over the luscious and intricate diversity of these touchable terrains. I simply couldn’t resist. I feel only a little guilty. After all, Reiss- McCormack started it. She made me do it. She’s something of a shaman, you know. A magician.