Friday, March 8, 2013

Gretchen's World: Jennifer Kosharek's PODs Installation @ DFAC

The space.

It's a 40 minute drive from St. Petersburg to the Dunedin Fine Art Center (DFAC). Traffic is heavy and so is my car, loaded with tools, ladders dolls and components for Jennifer Kosharek's Gretchen's World installation at the "Contain It" show. The artist is in a borrowed unrestored  classic El Camino SS loaded with wood cut-outs, frames, paint, and much more.

Weeks earlier I had volunteered to help hang this installation. Now we were standing in front of the PODs box, an 8x12 ft. container/storage space. The light inside is ethereal, weightless, diffuse, thanks to the milky white translucent roof. We walk around the space. The walls are steel, just as described, and we came prepared for that, with tape, lots of tape, industrial magnets, and plenty of stainless steel bailing wire.

Jennifer has prepared rolls of paper with various painted designs/patterns. She knows the order in which they go, and unrolls them, pinning them to the wall with the remarkably strong quarter-sized industrial markets, lining them up, then taping them to the walls. We soon settle into a working rhythm, beginning to transform the box. Two wooden panels with writing on them are next.

They were designed to go by the entrance, but they don't work there. Jennifer paces, stares intently into the space, engaged in a silent dialogue with the evolving work. She moves the panels toward the back. We stare at them, visually taking in how the space is reconfigured by this. Adjustments, minor changes, we talk and Jennifer goes in and out of the art trance-state, working intuitively and relying on a lifetime of experience. She sounds worried at times, but throughout there is a palpable confidence in her actions.

Forms weeks earlier.
The cut-outs come into the space and are lined up against the paper-covered walls. They look like visitors trying to make themselves at home. For weeks Kosharek has been envisioning all this, cutting and painting these component forms. Some are on lightweight thin wood, others on plywood. We are in natural light, but there's no sun to keep track of, and we work hard. Time is strangely suspended. It is like assembling a DuChamp readymade in a large closet. We are both doing the physical work, but Jennifer is imagining, positioning, testing, recombining, adapting, creating Gretchen's World in this rectangular space.

Some of the plywood panels are to be hung, and I put holes in them with a hammer and nail, through which bailing wire is threaded, then hung from the braces on the wall of the steel 'rafters'. Jennifer works efficiently and quite hard, pausing only to reflect and make decisions. I am fascinated by the experience. Some of the elements are grouped together, becoming sub-spaces and modules unto themselves, though in this box, everything is relational.

The effect of being surrounded by so many strong, varied, colorful organic forms is at first overwhelming, then intensely intoxicating. Hours have gone by of nearly non-stop hard work, but I am, if anything, energized. At one point, I go out to a hardware store for screw-in eyelets, and it is almost a shock to be outside after being immersed in Gretchen's world.I want to return to it.

 I am observing, paying close attention to the process, but it proves elusive as the space fills up and gains a cohesive quality. The artist is in a visual mode, the space and her own forms are almost whispering, telling her where they want to go. Groupings emerge. Two sets of curtains are hung. Jennifer's own black and white organic pattern kitchen curtains at the door, parted, then a length of fabric with circular patterns about 3-4 feet in. When one stands outside, one is seeing two levels of curtains. The inside remains a mystery until one walks in.

A cushy chair comes in going at the back wall. We get the 3-D dolls out of my car. They were hand-sewn by the artist and stuffed with poly-fill. They are reminiscent of Russian Nestling Dolls in form, but have been transformed into a signature recurring form in the artist's work. Their sparse but intense expressions and outgoing colors are raising the pitch inside the box. We hear people outside and emerge, talking with neighboring artists for a few minutes and helping one hot glue a carboard arch across the top of his PODs.

The space and its dazzling contents are coming together. The experience of the viewers and artist's concept and vision is clear. This is above all, a living space. As one progresses from the entrance, zig-zagging through the curtains, the profane world is left behind, colors and patterns envelop and visually caress the viewer on the way to the sanctum. In this familiar yet otherworldly space, the families of dolls, cut-outs and other figures are iconic and anything but passive or hermetic. They view the viewer, with a look of urgency, asking who are you, and for you to extend this humane space, to go out and do what you can.

Lights are hung, Jennifer goes out back and spray paints two items different colors, adds a few accents, moves the floor around, adds a length of fabric, and we are done. Over six and a half hours of work have gone by in the blink of an eye. I reluctantly back out and load tools, ladders, etc back in the car. As I help close the doors to the box, I take a last glimpse of the completed installation, and am filled with a sense of accomplishment and admiration by this close-up experience with Jennifer Kosharek's creative process.

Congratulations to the artist for a strong installation and thanks for lunch.

---  Luis

Eve N Odd Gallery is on the 600 block of Central Avenue St. Pete, in the Crislip Arcade, which is in the middle of the block, on the N. Side of Central Ave.

This work and nine others can be seen on Friday, March 8th, from 6-9 PM where admission is $5, and Saturday, March 9th, from 10 AM to 2 PM. Admission is free Saturday. I will be there the entire time, so please come out and say hello. There is an accompanying 'zine by the artist made specially for this installation. All at the DFAC, at 1143 Michigan Ave, Dunedin. Phone: 727-298-DFAC.

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  1. I saw the show today and it was a great experience! Jennifer's work is stunning; and Luis, you captured the love in your prose above.

  2. We were so sorry to have missed this, but are incredibly thankful that you posted such a detailed review! Thank you for sharing and for all the wonderful photos! :-)