Earth as a Map of Time
Michelle Stuart is known for a rich and diverse practice, including site-specific earth works, frottage, drawings, paintings, sculpture and photographs, all centered on a lifelong interest in man’s relationship to the natural world. The main gallery highlights the artist’s works on paper from the 1970’s in which the landscape and paper support combine to create an image and a record of the site in which they were made. A rubbing is made of the earth’s surface on muslin backed handmade paper. Richly colored earth is then added to the surface, merging performative frottage gestures with organic material. Stuart’s ledger series is an important part of this exhibition. Evoking tablets or pages from pre-digital or even prehistoric times, Stuart’s ledgers suggest the texts of ancient scribes or perhaps wordless depictions of the terrain. These and other binary works predominate the show, inviting the viewer to “read” as Jenni Sorkin writes, “the intricate deposits that haunt each page…. Stuart’s ledgers map the sensory experience of the artist, a dynamic rendering that links individual placemaking with the sensory experience of the viewer, enmeshed in the brilliant pigments staining the cloth-like pages, a diffuse memory of the sites themselves, like a lantern slide gone dark.” Two larger iconic scrolls also punctuate the exhibition, their complex surfaces reflecting the topographical nuances of the site. In #12 Shandaken Veil, 1974, for example, a cloud of graphite frottage reveals the subtleties and textures of the land. In the second gallery, Stuart has created a new photographic medium described as lumigrams. An avid collector of botanical specimens, Stuart’s lumigrams are a cabinet of curiosities of luminous flowers and leaves. Repeated images of tulips, roses, hydrangeas, etc., recall historical botanical scientific renderings. Fascinated by the tragedy of extinction (and occasionally incorporating the word in these works), Stuart muses on memory, the passage of time and the mortality of nature.