And The Flame Stitches That Empty Chasm Shut
Melissa Herrington:: New Work:: Gallery DeNovo, Sun Valley:: July 3-31, 2013
OPENING RECEPTION JULY 5, 2013
“Come to the edge.” It’s too high. “Come to the edge.” We might fall.
“COME TO THE EDGE.” And they came. And she pushed them. And they flew.”
"The unexpected surprises of a journey are what transforms and Herrington's new works were inspired by just that. Walking towards a fire is counter-intuitive, yet that’s what a climb towards a live volcano entails. Ash is dirty and fire burns you, to walk towards fire requires the suspension of logic.
To get closer to fire requires fearlessness, to walk through it faith then to reach the other side covered in ash yet feel cleansed, unscathed and hopeful seems impossible. And then a new day dawns, and it now seems that anything is possible."
-Emily Baer, Los Angeles writer
And The Flame Stitches That Empty Chasm Shut
Melissa Herrington, New Work:: Gallery DeNovo
By Sharon Feder
Her penciled stitches are deliberate and declarative. They led her to create the tracks and they lead us to find our own way. With earthy aureate glows, Melissa Herrington reveals a first sunrise after seeking the flame at its most fierce moment – at the core of the volcano. The struggle is subtly portrayed on the canvas, revealing the freedom that comes from tracking closure.
And The Flame Stitches That Empty Chasm Shut, invites us to witness her culminating travels to Mount Stromboli, Sicily and to create our own map to transformation. The beauty in these pieces is not restrained. They are subverted by erasures of solid fields of mostly tan or off white hues.
This exhibition could be considered ordinary, yet with Herrington’s unveiling it captures an essence: not everyone confronts the flame, to do so brings the closure we undoubtedly seek. The stitches nestled along weave through the haze of blurred color and suspended images serve as the guide – both hidden and prevalent.
Herrington paints suggestively. These paintings are process. Objects and images are never too explicit, which increase their capacity to evoke a wide range of associations and recollections. This exemplifies the freedom with which Herrington works, never restricted to a single reference.
Fusing meanings and delicate drawings. Spilling muted tones, marks that are at times methodical in their irregularity. Each nestles among intricately rendered lines with delicate strands wrapping bodies and colors floating across the surface. Appearing that left unintentionally by a trace. These elements create a sense of a landscape:: a map:: a stain:: a ley line:: chronicling a journey.
and began right there on the earthen floor a still- volcano- life- that flickered in the night I-XVIII, (18x24 mixed media on panel, 2013) 18 individual works, together gives us a lens into this journey. Each piece can be viewed as a solo work of conversion. It recalls that together we form movement and yet movement is composed of our individual paths. The strength and foundation of Herrington’s work is rooted in the sketches she created throughout this project. These drawings, the exact size of a train ticket issued by ItaliaRail become the bond between her journey and this exhibit.
by an auroral stain the heat braced without burning (72x60 mixed media on canvas, 2013), typifies Herrington’s fusion of sizable rich and translucent stains of bold assured hues, among them persimmon and freckled mustard to delicate graphite marks. There lies the seemingly unconscious optimism of using tracks and unfolding color to conclude a poignant chapter of life. Billows covering the marks could signify the settled ash that was once fire. And as the ash covers the ground, thus paves the way for new tracks.
It is not a coincidence that as Herrington draws us through her journey of closing the chasm, this is also the final exhibit for Gallery DeNovo. The idea of going through a self-evaluation of the psyche evokes Emily Dickinson’s poems of Sicilian volcanoes. The volcano symbolizes a way of expressing a fiery inwardness that yearns for resolution. Herrington borrows and deconstructs fragments of these verses and subtly tucks them into her titles as footnotes for the viewer.
A still—Volcano—Life— That flickered in the night— When it was dark enough to do Without erasing sight—
Adding to the intensity of Dickinson’s language, her use of dashes in these poems, create an artistic effect. We see dashes in Herrington’s tracks. The potency of the stitch leading to tracks coupled with the beauty and serenity of the stains, like Dickinson’s poems, Herrington’s paintings become tools. Here lies the landscape for Gallery DeNovo to find its track to the empty chasm shut.
Melissa Herrington is a girl on a journey who tells a story. Gallery DeNovo exhibition reveals a travelogue for the soul.
It’s not what’s on the canvas that makes Melissa Herrington’s new exhibition, “And The Flame Stitches That Empty Chasm Shut,” at Gallery DeNovo in Ketchum a visual feast for the imagination, it’s Herrington’s keen sense of self she shares through sketches, stitches and large explosions of discovery that attract a viewer to the 28-pieces that cover the gallery walls. Although the paintings may varying in size, they are all bounded together revealing a spiritual trip-tick inspired by Herrington’s trip to Italy last summer, which included a residency at a monastery outside of Florence and a volcanic exploration of Mount Stromboli.
“I knew I wanted to keep a sketchbook unbounded,” she said. “I also knew I wanted map-like drawings.”
Living in a 13th century monastery outside of Florence, Herrington was an artist-in-residency at the time and was surrounded by priests who came from all over the world to summer at the monastery.
“They told stories of other worlds,” she said. “It was different. Residencies have always been a strong way for me to formulate my practice as an artist with new experiences.”
When she left Tuscany, Herrington’s journey throughout Italy led her to Sicily where she climbed Mount Stromboli, an active volcano, which was her most cathartic experience inspiring her Gallery DeNovo show through emotional breakthroughs and the beauty that is inherent to Italy.
“It affected me,” she said. “I came down the backside of the volcano in the night and could night see a thing and the ash was so thick at times, I had to have faith to make it through.”
Herrington has always been a guide to her art creating cards and stories that thread her paintings together as well as connecting her exhibition through graphite drawings of etchings and stitches or markers on the paintings and the walls. Her travels through Italy inspired her to make maps the size of train tickets, which document her journey and also reveal and introduce a viewer to the larger pieces in her exhibition similar to a portal.
“They inform,” she said. “Its an entrance to the next step of an abstracted work that is not totally abstracted.”
Her use of space is additive not negative, which is the larger theme of her Gallery DeNovo exhibition. Herrington’s mixed media process reveals more exposure for the foundations of her paintings rather than what is not there or inferred as missing.
“I’m exposing what was on the base,” Herrington explains. “There are many layers with all the graphite on the surfaces. The graphite marks keep the works more bounded.”
Almost appearing as gems, the oblong and organic round shapes that are consistent throughout the exhibition have rich-deep, vibrant color with meditative properties that are alluring and sensual. Whether the connection of Herrington’s graphite marks is a spider web, tree root, train track or a stitch, they’re all connected to one another.
“The graphite is so important to me,” she said. “Using the pencil goes way back to my making simple drawings and drawing on the walls. It all intersects. It’s as if you are on a journey and not knowing what will cross your path.”
Even bits of electric orange and green colors pop up on a few Herrington’s paintings as homage to Stromboli or perhaps an awakening to Herrington’s newfound path of existence. Even after ten years of exhibitions at DeNovo, Herrington’s sense of femininity continues to reign through the sophisticated paintings in “And The Flame Stitches That Empty Chasm Shut.” Her abstracted work and the idea of identity and the feminist language are still very much alive. Herrington’s signature ghosted female forms and feminine objects are present throughout the show.
“It will take many years to reflect,” she said. “And the work is always about a girl on a journey.”