Cellular Visions: Jodi Colella, Kay Hartung, Julie Martini & Erica Mason

23 April – 24 June 2011

cellular cel•lu•lar (sěl'yə-lər) 
Of, relating to, or resembling a cell. Consisting of, composed of, or containing a cell or cells.

Kay Harting, Macrovision 3
Kay Hartung, Macrovision 3, pastel
(click on images to enlarge)

At the core of our being, cells are tiny structures of which everything is comprised. These four artists, working with either the structure of the cell or cellular structure, have created works that bristle with life and ask deep questions of themselves and the viewer.

Erica Mason, Cellscape A
Erica Mason, Cellscape A, ink on paper

With an undergraduate degree in biology, Erica Mason has long created ink on paper works that are comprised of thousands of tiny marks. Many of these intricate drawings are drawn directly from slides. You might need a microscope to find the flaws. Yet such are they that it seems the entire universe is echoed in the complexity and beauty of a single cell. She writes:

My new work draws on my background as a former student of Biology..., and is an exploration of scale via the study of cellular structures. One can imagine they are both looking at a landscape from above the earth, or a microscopic cosmos. These works are extremely detailed, and for me the process of creating these works is as important as the finished piece.

Kay Hartung, Microblast in Wax
Kay Hartung, Microblast in Wax

Kay Hartung was originally inspired by the surprising beauty she saw in an electron microscope photograph of a cancer cell. The incongruence between the deadly cell and its oddly fascinating appearance led to a series of richly colored pastel paintings. The large, ciliated cells in her pastel paintings aren’t meant to be specific or anatomically correct, yet they convey the energy and plasticity of these elemental building blocks of life. More recently she has begun to work in encaustic, the process of painting with colored wax. The tiny panels in Microcell 1-9 are bristling and lively, layered with mesh and tiny glass balls. Kay has also created our first site-specific installation. On the wall opposite the circulation desk and down the corridor leading into the gallery, she has taped over 100 of her pastel cells, resulting in a wall that teems with life and vitality.

Working with wire and screen, Jodi Colella’s piece (see below) has an ephemeral quality lent partially by the delicate tracery of shadows it casts. Slick, perhaps like an oil slick, but I think rather of a primordial stew of single celled creatures moving around, responding to light and movement, of light moving through layers of water.

Julie Martini, Natural Selection 1-6
Julie Martini, Natural Selection 1-6,
acrylic and collage on paper

Julie Martini works with marbled paper. In a statement on her website she writes:

I present an invented “scientific” view of the world, as fantastical as the reality: teeming with cells, microscopic life forms, and the millions of structures that make up the inside of the body. Through my work, I hope to pose the following questions: Has science brought us closer to understanding the nature of life? Is it possible to glimpse the soul through the physical? Is science the new religion?

Marbling paper is a technique in which paint is floated on top of water or a size medium. Using rakes or sticks or even combs, you can make patterns in the paint. Once the desired pattern is achieved, you carefully lay a piece of paper on top of the paint to adhere it to the paper. Nineteenth and early twentieth century hardcover books often have marbled end papers. In Natural Selection 1-6, there are 6 circles of marbled paper in grey and neutral tones, yet there are incursions of crimsons streaks, reminiscent of blood. They add a frisson of violence that acknowledges “Nature, red in tooth and claw.

These four artists have created work inspired by one of the basic building blocks of life. Like Erica Mason, they ask us to look at life from an unusual perspective, to see the cosmos in the architecture of the cell. Like Kay Hartung, they also ask us to see the wonder in life forms as alien and intimate as cancer cells. By widening our perspective and broadening our vision, they each in their own way add to the dialogue of art and life.

Deborah Santoro, Curator

Jodi Colella, Slick
Jodi Colella, Slick, aluminum and brass screen, copper wire

All are welcome to a reception with the artists on: Tuesday, May 17, from 6:30-8:00 pm. This event is free and open to the public.

This exhibit is supported by the Groton Public Library Endowment Trust and the Groton Trust Funds’ Lecture Fund.