Am i Alone by Beej nierengarten-Smith on display at Gallery 72
The current exhibit Human I Nature at Gallery 72, personal, exotic and complex, is a must-see for art aficionados seeking a distinct woman’s point of view in three parts.
Seasoned artists Minna Resnick, New York, and Beej Nierengarten-Smith, Santa Fe, are both involved with processes involved with lithographic printing. A counterpoint medium to the hung work is offered by local ceramic artist Liz Vercruysse, who has created a novel investigation of wood-fired porcelain clay forms.
Omaha collectors have long enjoyed seeing Minna Resnick’s work at Gallery 72 when it was located on Leavenworth Street. The work in this exhibit has moved from her earlier concern with women’s internal life to a more layered focus on how women accommodate themselves to the evolution of their roles in the changing cultural environment.
The work here is more complex—perhaps as a commentary on the increasing complexity of most women’s lives. Text is integral to the work, as are the additions of hand- drawn images, which add considerably to the appropriated images. Always technically proficient, Resnick’s work consistently offers us spot-on insights into woman-thought, filling our need for meaning and content in the rapidly changing social landscape we now inhabit.
Her current focus is on the evolution of women’s roles over generations. She has continued the layering of hand-drawn and printed compositions, along with a carefully calibrated use of verbiage to undergird our understanding of the images. The work entitled “there’s not a word of truth in it”, a personal favorite, is indicative of Resnick’s ongoing content-driven oeuvre and intelligence.
Born in New York City, Minna Resnick has maintained a studio in Ithaca, New York, since 1987, after having lived abroad and on both Coasts, as well as Colorado. She has prints and drawings in over 50 collections, and organized printmaking symposiums in China in 2007 and 2009.
In the manner of a sociologist, Beej Nierengarten-Smith has traveled extensively—-Peru, Japan, Brazil, Viet Nam, Cambodia, and India. The resulting theme of her print work has become a study of how women are perceived in traditional cultures.
Gathering a multitude of visual examples of the various cultures’ motifs and symbols, Beej first builds up a repertory of images with photolithography plates, a process that allows her to select among the images to combine them in a choice of ways. The appropriated images range widely, from tattoos to clothing design, symbol animals and printed documents.
She can then combine the chosen images with hand-drawn women’s bodies, often in provocative and elegant poses in an unending possibility of ways. Rather than printing editions of a design, as is typical of most printmakers, Smith’s process is to make unique prints by combining and layering one image at a time.
Combined with the hand-drawn women, these “BodyScapes” are richly detailed, as well as elegant. Smith may also add historic lettering as well as hand-drawing and non-printmaking techniques to personalize and individualize each work.
Previous to her present artistic output, Smith earned a Master’s Degree in museum education and art history and spent many years teaching. She earned a doctoral degree at Southern Illinois University in aesthetic education in 1980. Beej is returning to Omaha after an earlier residency at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in 2007.
Liz Vercruysse nicely rounds out this exhibit with three-dimensional ceramic work. The work in this show seems a more simplified abstract investigation. All of the work is an experiment in wood-fired porcelain. The subtle and complex coloration and amorphic shapes of the pieces seem to promise a welcome addition to many a contemporary home.
The color of the various glazes is well worth studying—quite rich and subtle. Liz describes the work in this exhibit as “fun and funky”, and still in her long-explored seed pod, botanically inspired theme. She hand-builds the pieces with three sides, but no preplanned idea of where the piece will go—instead simply allowing the piece develop as it is wont to do.
But this viewer sees a great deal more in the pieces. Each is realized in just the right use of simple decoration and elegant movement, as if there could be no other possible approach. Here is a craftsman who has practiced her work for a long enough time that it may seem sleight of hand, but the nuanced finish, the subtle curve of each work indicate a true professional.
Vercruysse maintains a successful ceramic studio north of Omaha, and has shown her work throughout the city, with J. Doe in 2001, the “O” project, and several years at Leahy Mall and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art.
This is a fine show—done by long-time pros that have a lot to say to us.
For further information and/or an appointment, the gallery website is:www.Gallery72.com. Phone: 402-496-4797.