The sweet anxiety in the worlds of Jennifer Zwick

Seattle-based artist Jennifer Zwick has a new installation, “I’m Pretty Sure This is Exactly Right,” up until June 28th, that has quietly infiltrated a public street space with a window into a private realm — that of the divided human consciousness.  This piece is a part of the Storefronts Seattle program that seeks to “revitalize neighborhoods” by putting art and art experiences into empty storefronts, keeping the vibrant neighborhood culture alive while businesses try to heal from this recession.   To me this is a perfect fit for her work, a tiny peek into a flip-flopped world where art helps out business, and the divide between multiple states of being is not really as clear as it may first appear.  Though primarily known for her photographs, this little constructed world — of a dark jungle scene on top and a domestic interior mirrored and suspended below — reflects much of what I feel when I see most of her work.

It’s like almost being able to touch the slightly off-kilter images of nature she presents, but still keeping us confined behind glass.  The anxiety it makes me feel is like a subtle itch, but then her anxiety slides up beside and takes the hand of my anxiety and we all skip off together with hell in our hand-basket.  I’m sucked in because I know the ship is going down, but her work lets me know it might just all be okay with one tiny flip of perspective.  I did a free-association cherry pick of her work I felt drawn to, and when looking at the pieces all together like tea-leaves I found my own concerns reflected back, that of the anxious human standing on the threshold between wanting to vanish into nature and wanting to be a part of polite society, of losing self but also wanting to.  Our big brain and vulnerable bodies give us the ability to compartmentalize and separate ourselves from even our own bodies and desires, in order to survive.

the-explorers

The Explorers

Hanging

Hanging

But it is these compartments that Zwick teases apart with a self-deprecating tomfoolery until the divide only seems like a shadow of the same thing.  It will (never) get better, unless and especially if you break through and dive into the other side of yourself, outside of yourself.  The installation is at 409 Maynard Avenue South (the lower space, looking onto Maynard Ave), in Seattle, Wa. until June 28th.

Hello 2

Hello 2

What Might Go Wrong: 37.  Miss All Opportunities

What Might Go Wrong: 37. Miss All Opportunities

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Wyly’s dandelions

I’ve been meaning to post about this  for a while now, my friend Wyly Astley’s installation from the Arts and Nature Festival a few years ago.  Wyly and I just spent a few weeks together, as she is from time to time a studio assistant for me when I manage to scrape together some funding.  She is a very present person, quiet sometimes and always bright, not as one might use the word to mean “smart” but like something glowing.  She, as an artist, person, mother, really reminds me of this installation of brilliant blue dandelions that were subtly sprinkled about the grounds of Camp Long during the festival.

This work was so straightforward. Simple and direct, about a beautiful healing plant so often viewed with disdain for silly reasons,  and it also filled me with a glee that I kinda stifled because I’m a dumb adult.  But the children didn’t stifle and loved and raced about the park finding the flowers.  She once did a temporary art installation for children at a school, where outside the window of their classroom a colorful grove of fabric mushrooms grew overnight.  These same mushrooms popped up in my yard on the morning of my son’s birthday, and he has never stopped talking about it.  It created a particular path in his mind about how he saw the world, and what kind of magic was possible.  I have been from time to time been asked to make art for children (by adults) and it is hard, nerve wracking…but Wyly does it effortlessly, because she is present and knows how to listen to the natural intellect of the child.  I admire her.  I also shared this installation with my high school class at Centrum on environmental installation, and those young artists particularly were drawn to this piece because it’s just craft felt but some how transcends itself.  We talked a lot about how and why this can happen with art…I’m still not sure I get it, but Wyly seems to.  She’ll be doing another installation at this years Arts and Nature Festival, which I eagerly await.

Wyly also makes lovely things for children to wear that you can find here at her Etsy shop.

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