Published: Jul 31, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jul 31, 2012 05:27 PM
HILLSBOROUGH - A new two-person exhibition at the Eno Gallery in Hillsborough spotlights Jacob Cooley’s sublimely placid landscape paintings along with strong figurative clay sculptures by Donna Polseno.
More than landscapes, Cooley’s paintings are meditations on a tranquil inner space. Their light glows in the moments just before dawn or dusk with a breath suspended in expectation of change.
Sometimes it is the muted, magical violet light that pervades a scene just before a coming storm. One cannot hear the actual chirps of crickets or the splashes of frogs within these nearly monochromatic colors, but that life is surely there.
A few paintings flatten some colors and diminish the depth, yet they subtly reveal delicate glazes of peach or violet. There are also tree silhouettes that rustle with a controlled agitation.
Cooley, who is contending with a major health crisis, says that these paintings “act as a refuge for me from an overwhelmingly turbulent life. And most importantly, they celebrate the profound abundance and joy of being alive.”
All the paintings speak to our innermost states as well as our outer appreciation of luminous scenic beauty.
Cooley earned his MFA in painting from UNC, and his work is exhibited in numerous national and international collections, including The Kenan Institute for the Arts; the U.S. Embassy in Podgorica, Montenegro, and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke.
Polseno’s elegant, strong and self-assured women bear literal vessels on their heads or carried in their arms. The sculptures are formed from earth – clay with no glaze on their bodies.
Color and pattern appear on pots the women carry and on some of the bases, but the goddess-like bodies remain untreated clay, though fully incised with self-patterns like barely visible tribal tattoos.
Two of Polseno’s works reflect the “self” divided: “Seeing My Other Side” is a right-left mirroring of a haughty servant woman’s thoughts revealed by almost imperceptible changes at the corners of her mouth, and “Calm Chaos” is a front-to-back split. The negative space between the offset body parts invokes our own calm chaotic splits.
“Irretrievable Loss” depicts woman thrown nearly off-balance by life’s exigencies yet who solidly maintains her ground. Anyone who has experienced irretrievable loss can feel the blows and the struggle to retain stability.
Polseno received her masters’ degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and her BFA from Kansas City Art Institute. She has twice been granted fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and has taught at internationally esteemed schools including the Penland School of Crafts; Alfred University; the American Museum of Contemporary Crafts; and the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute in China. Polseno’s art resides in the permanent collections of many museums and institutions including The American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, Calif.; the Kansas City Art Institute; the Mint Museum in Charlotte; and the St. Louis Museum of Art.
The works of Cooley and Polseno examine varying attributes of inner strength and freely share their creators’ common human experience. The Cooley-Polseno exhibition runs through August 26 at the Eno Gallery, 100 Churton St., Hillsborough.
For more information, see enogallery.net
Adrienne Garnett is an art critic, artist and art educator in Raleigh and New York