Unspeakable visions

Posted: August 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

Wretched World I, by Jennifer Nuttall Ash.

In Time
Arts Center Gallery
320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY

Through September 24

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – I don’t need to be coy about it. There are three square pieces roughly three feet a side in the Arts Center Gallery illustrating a thinly veiled allegory that might prompt some hard questions.

Jennifer Nuttall Ash states the story of the Triargimmi, the Noitargimmi and the Equus. Here, she explains the strong Noitargimmi are overpowering the intelligent Triargimmi and the Equus which have an affinity for the latter. The Noitargimmi form their powerful bodies into mighty trees, wrapping up the Triargimmi and the Equus, forcing them into chains or pens, sometimes spearing the Equus.

A “wretched” little world, indeed — and an Orwellian one. This is underscored by the fact that both the “N” and the “T” appear to be children – as the artist points out in her prospectus.

The occasion of the series is border control and immigration and in the American Southwest — a longstanding issue. This is likened here to the round-up of wild horses, the Mustangs, in the West.

Nuttall Ash’s prospectus hints that she has basically split one species into two. Perhaps one will think of light and dark sides of human nature, the old duality of good and evil. A moral tale if that is what you see. One can extend this to cover a broad range of human activities. One might even see that society favors the victimizer.

If you’re far removed from the border or the West you might not see these issues directly but you can see local parallels if you so choose. The point is not to line up on “sides” but to address the problems.

Detail: Jennifer Nuttall Ash, Wretched World III.


The occasion of this artwork … taken together with Nuttall Ash’s accompanying allegorical statement … makes me think of such “human” activities such as horseracing. I don’t have to list the cruelties involved in that sport, beginning with the rape of the mare, continuing with the destruction of thousands of “unraceworthy” foals annually and on and on …

Think otherwise? I was just reading in the news about the history of the great racemare Safely Kept, the result of a breeding to the stallion Horatius only after a first mare sent by the same farm refused to submit, risking injury to both stallion and mare. Nor do I have to describe the kinds of intentions involved in betting: 1) For money; 2) To “prove” one’s self correct (an idiotic and solipsistic game); and 3) Pure escape from reality.

Foolish pleasure, indeed. I’ve found little ways to justify it myself … none are particularly noble, believe me. But I don’t wish to go on and on about it as it really has nothing to do with the exhibit, other than to say the sport also represents the brutal victimizer over the enslaved victim and also involves horses.

More fully, Nuttall Ash’s pieces illustrate bestial nature overtaking the gentler soul, resulting in carnage (including self-destruction) across the whole of society. It seems at times that society favors the Noitargimmi. It certainly has appeared so since the bank bailouts. Oh but that didn’t happen in the “wretched little world” she created … only in our own.

Consider the classic French film, La Règle du Jeu (Rules of the Game). Same sort of theme, actually, if the “occasion” is quite different.

As far as the construction of the pieces – that’s something. Nuttall Ash used tape in varying shades to give the pieces almost the appearance of wood. The line quality – and they’re done with simple, almost child-like lines – suggest etching. There are even a few cross-hatched areas as further reference. The black and tan gives these pieces a remarkable warm and woodsy glow. It’s quite remarkable what she’s done, technically speaking.

Now let’s look at the work of Warren Holzman … some very Freudian pieces.

These are relatively small (six inches or so in length) sculptures. Though they’re made of steel, they are painted and stressed to resemble old lead toys … the kind that were still poisoning kids in the 1930s. Oh yeah.

To further underscore the “old toy” effect, some of them look like they’ve been designed to rest on four wheels have only three … a wheel has come off, in other words. And the “damage” appears to have happened a long time ago, as there is “wear” where a wheel, etc., would have covered the surface.

Junior, by Warren Holzman.


Relics, in other words.

Now while some appear to be sea vessels which could simply transport, others have the appearance of military tanks. Since they are antiqued, so to speak, I’d suggest that the artist is suggesting that the warlike is not in man’s nature – but it is implanted in childhood. Childhood play is fantasy … and fantasy shapes desire. And desire drives the present … the mundane. The world.

Now some of us think that time is a bit of an illusion … and therefore the fantasies are still there. They might have become misshapen or damaged – as the worn, rounded, lopsided, imperfect or “soft” lines of Holzman’s sculptures suggest – and they might be suppressed, but they are still there. What are they doing to us?

The work of Tyson Skross is also quite Freudian … and a bit mysterious. He toys with the idea of a “core being … a true self hidden away somewhere in mystery.”

These are “living room” sized paintings, roughly four feet at the widest dimension, combining traditional and contemporary (drips, airbrush, etc.) techniques.

This is pretty academic but let’s have a go anyway. Suppose there was someone … walking around … who was a virtual window to everything that could be observed or recorded. Who lived in a glass boat or at least went around in a glass bottom boat. Would you see a “core” being? No more than you’d see vanilla pudding!

I don’t think you’d see very much at all beyond a kind of fiction, really because observation would change the observed … often. The observer effect. Basic science.

As to what the “core being” is … mid-week last I was observing an art student at work copying a painting. For the education. And he had playfully changed a small area, defined by a circle, to a square. Not a huge change, mind you. Those who saw the copy might not have noticed. They might have sort of gone on seeing the circle when it had, in fact, become a square. Or they would think that it had always been a square, something like that.

Sometimes it appears that the individual is going around in circles when, in fact, it is only the world outside that is going around in circles. And that, I think, is also very pertinent to the idea of a core being. Which, mind you, is just an idea.

I think there’s probably a great historical example … look it up if you’re in the mood … that’s an illustration in modern art of circles changing into squares. This is a metaphor the kind of activity in which a creative human being might engage. Not static at all. And yes, I believe that this “core being” … the unseen experience of an individual, which is the flow of communication over time … suggests just such activity.

The idea of a core being is somewhat abstract … as it implies something beyond what can easily be observed or recorded anyway. It’s a poetic idea.

Some might ask, isn’t that the sort of thing that truly separates human beings from the animal kingdom? That’s an old sort of question and, I believe, a purely Western sort of question. I don’t think it reflects Native American philosophy nor Hindu philosophy nor … as far as I can see … anything other than Western philosophy. Perhaps it isn’t even relevant any more.

Why did I bring it up, then? Well, I’ll tell you why. I purport … and this is the right word since I claim neither expertise nor specialized education in these matters …the representations of animals in Eastern and Native American art ALSO present the idea of “core beings.”

The Eastern and Native American representations, however, are much more identifiable with the idea of spirit flow than the Western representation … in Skross’s most striking example, the upright black building with Greek Revival motif. Skross hints at this “flow,” however: He does provide the shimmering path (sidewalk, if you prefer).

Slush, by Tyson Skross


What these ideas say to me is … the “core being” does not exist apart from other beings at all. The “mystery” as depicted in the form of a building by Skross represents an assemblage consisting of the remains of lost connections or “moments,” of experiences, with other individuals and nature … that have sort of become fused.

It is rather enjoyable to contemplate the idea of a “core” being as a way of pertinent to one’s own life. If I sort of re-run the past six months or so … maybe aided by listening to some associated music … I would say that my “being” consists of reflections … largely of moments shared in communication with others, however limited or restricted that communication may be.

Now that’s a little bit dangerous … one must be careful of static reflection, therefore … I would say one should simply glance at the reflections acknowledge them, let them go … otherwise how could there be new reflections?
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