Art review: 'Erin Treacy: Dismantled and Reclaimed' at Box Heart Gallery
On display at Box Heart Gallery, “Dismantled and Reclaimed” features new works made from old paintings by New York City artist Erin Treacy.
With this new work, Treacy creates sculptural paper assemblages through the deconstruction of her past landscape paintings — some created 10 years ago.
The paintings and assemblages in this exhibit, 26 in all, are whimsical and embrace movement, multiplicity and dense compositions as metaphors for life.
This artwork continues Treacy's investigation into how our relationships to time and physical place can be depicted through abstractions of nature, especially how these visuals can serve as “triggers” for our relationships with experiences.
“I am interested in how layers of memories and emotions can be presented through symbols from nature,” Treacy says. “When I make artwork, I think about my personal experiences and where the similarities and differences lay in very different time periods and places. One thought leads to the next and the next and the next, and I work to combine all these into one composition, so there is a lot going on and many paths one can take.”
This associative reflection through the building process is what Treacy hopes the viewer can get a glimmer of when visiting the exhibit.
Taking pieces of dismantled “successful” paintings, recycled “failed” paintings and trimmings of existing paintings, Treacy created 17 assemblages infused with an exuberant palette, textural surfaces and whimsical gestures.
With the paper assemblages, Treacy starts by cutting up old paintings.
“I often choose paintings that I believe have served their time and that are ready to move on to something new,” she says. “I think about the places I was physically and mentally when I made the paintings and let those memories inform the new assemblage.”
To that end, Treacy cuts out shapes from the paintings and starts to make piles to choose from. When she starts adhering the pieces together, she cuts and trims as she goes to create a composition that has visual movement and plays with balance.
For example, with “Protective,” Treacy was working with pieces of several paintings that were created in response to a trip to Mali in West Africa in 2006.
“As I assembled all the pieces, rather than thinking about the open expanses of the desert as I had done in the painting, I was thinking about the heaviness of the heat, and my memories of the experiences turned more to masks and mud houses,” she says. “I thought about all the ways we protect ourselves from physical and emotional danger.”
“Room With a View, Our Garden” was created with remnants of paintings that were created after the Mali trip, but it includes pieces of a painting that was inspired from coastal trips to Maine.
“I really liked the idea of combining ideas of desert and ocean into one piece of art and how these seemingly very different landscapes still had similarities in textures and patterns in nature,” she says. “As I built this composition, I thought about how we can find similarities and commonalities in most of life's contrasts.”
“At the Top” was about transitions, as many of her works often are. These transitions are never super direct, and the divergent paths are what make it most interesting.
Although the assemblages signify an exciting new direction for the artist, Treacy hasn't abandoned the traditional two-dimensional format of her abstract paintings.
In “Downlight Patch,” a charcoal and acrylic abstraction on panel, Treacy was working through concepts of falling and breaking through and how that physical movement of letting go and exertion often leaves impressions on your environment. For example, holes in a wall, indentations on a floor or mattress, or a collapsed ceiling.
“Like most of my work, I let these tangible elements of the world that we experience serve as a metaphor for our emotional and cognitive relationships we experience in life,” she says. “These are my starting points, and then I work out the formal elements of patterns and lines and color through intuition and layering so that there are, ideally, multiple access points for the viewer to enter the painting and then wander through it, finding different things each time.”
“Southfork” was motivated by a combination of experiences on the east end of Long Island, N.Y., and time spent in Belgium, where mushrooms she found on her walks intrigued her.
“I was interested in how beauty can be found in unexpected places and situations,” Treacy says. “I was naturally drawn to the way fungus looks and found it quite beautiful, the color and patterns, and how its form of movement is to spread and grow.”
Treacy says she became interested in how fungus can be symbiotic in some instances as well as parasitic. “These relationships seemed to serve as excellent visuals for relationships we have with one another,” she says.
The remaining works are just as compelling, allowing the viewer to draw their own connections between relationships and the natural world.
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected].