ELEMENTAL | Marking Time
Descanso Gardens Sturt Haaga Gallery
by Genie Davis
On view through December 3rd
Marking Time is a beautiful installment in the Elemental series, one that continues the evocative, subtly imagined link between the gallery’s art and the gardens in which the gallery is located.
Time is wonderfully suited to explore at Descanso. Visiting the gardens themselves, one can lose track of it, wandering in a ferny glen, or through a grove of trees. Curator John David O’Brien has brought together a lyrical, even meditative group of artists: Nancy Baker Cahill, Jim Campbell, Russell Crotty, Megan Geckler, Peter Greco, Kate Johnson, Nancy Kyes, Kristi Lippire, Sandeep Mukherjee, Alan Nakagawa, Joan Perlman, Pat Pickett, Joan Tanner, Samira Yamin, and Jody Zellen.
Each artist has managed to capture the shifting eloquence of time, some with works that reference the time used in creating them, some with delicate pieces that seem to foreshadow the impermanence of our own time here, some that revel in the life of a garden, the shifting of landscape, the eternal, unstoppable motion in which we are caught.
Viewers are encouraged to take long looks at the work here, to study the rhythms that the shapes, colors, and vistas invoke. There is a double-edged sword: as we are visually and emotionally encouraged to contemplate, to study the mystery of time, we are in and of ourselves passing that time. In short, the exhibition engages viewers in a kind of performance art: we are participating in the elemental experience of time.
Each of the works has a visceral, almost tactile quality as if the artists were rendering a physical manifestation for time, otherwise so intangible. Megan Geckler’s “Believe in Things You Say” is a multi-hued neon rainbow, ribbons of color forming an “X” in the front window of the gallery, shivering and shimmering. Alan Nakagawa’s “Mudsling” is lush and green, a fecund, swampy pond that is in beautiful transition. Leaves fall, grasses clump, decay leads to birth and back again. It is the untouchable, gently pulsing heart of nature. Joan Perlman bases her work on footage taken in Iceland, shaping images that vibrate with life even beneath the surface of ice. The artist weaves images of transformation in the shifting yet resilient landscape of nature. Her often translucent images glow and seem to move with the tiniest of blink of perception.
The metallic blues and orange of Sandeep Mukherjee’s “Gravity Folds II” evokes molten lava, or the universe itself twisting and unfolding. We are in a place that is deep, within our consciousness, within our world. Whether spewed from the core of the earth or twisting within space, change comes.
Samira Yamin gives us geometric snowflakes, a magazine reshaped into something more profound than words or realistic images, a kaleidoscopic look at something far more interconnected. Joan Tanner’s work “The Memorist Refutes” is delicate, lace-like construct that is blessed with color, the intricate lines and patterns like the synapses of the brain, a mysterious map, an eternally altering territory.
Each of the artists gives viewers something to think about — what time does beside tick away. Perhaps age is irrelevant, perhaps days and nights are all just small dots in a whirling circle of seasons, whether the seasons are those in the blooms that rise, fade, and wither, only to bloom again at Descanso Gardens, or are the seasons of our souls.
Descanso Gardens is located at 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge; gallery hours are 10-4 daily.