by D. Dominick Lombardi
I am always impressed by how a spirited art gallery exhibition can enliven the most dismal of days. Even with many of the nearby stores shuttered on one particular block of Nostrand Avenue, Say, sea at happylucky no. 1 gallery easily brightens my chilly and overcast Sunday afternoon.
Say, sea, is one-person exhibition comprised of recent works by Elise P. Church that reveal a most curious way of reconstructing the missing mementos of a past life. Having often moved back and forth between homes in coastal Massachusetts and Bermuda in her youth, Church lost or misplaced all of her early photographs and souvenirs. To replace them, Church continually scours the Internet to acquire similar photographs to the ones that have vanished. Overall, the images would have to be of or referencing the sea or seaside living, as all of her childhood homes were at or near the sea. In addition, to make them more relevant to her particular past, all would be dated from the 1960s and 70s to correspond to her era. Then there is the title of the exhibition, which comes from a poem by Emily Dickinson titled Part Three: Love, XI, with the last two lines reading: “Say, sea,” “Take me!”
It is sometimes good to know the background and intent of an artist or exhibition, but it is not integral to the success of this show. Walking through the exhibition and not knowing the background information, you can sense that this work is about a person dealing with loss, especially since many of the paintings and photographs are fragments or contain small to large portions of the composition cut away and removed. The painting techniques used by the artist, which come off looking like watercolors overall, are executed on fragments of fabric and sheets of paper giving the exhibition a feeling of weightlessness or buoyancy, which in turn suggests movement or transference.
As stated in the exhibition essay, Church begins her work with an acquired photograph. In her large pieces, these become the aforementioned paintings that read so well as memories softened by time and hardened by loss. The small snapshots, on the other hand, are cut into, reduced and overlapped photographs that result in alluring little abstractions. Despite their size, the results are quite potent as each leaves us with just enough information to pique one’s interest. With each of these intimate works, which have cryptic titles and recent dates, Church brings us to her experiences as a child, her feelings, her memories of sights, sounds and smells coupled with the texture of discovery, and the newness of things when a young mind is filling up with impressions and perceptions that spawn a lifetime of learning.
happyluck no. 1 gallery is located at 734 Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn. They are open Tuesday to Sunday from 1 to 7pm. Say,sea, runs through November 25th.