The “trace” is a notion that straddles two worlds. It can be a thing in this world, a tiny amount or residue of something; or drawing around an object’s physical boundaries as a template. In the imagination, it can also be a symbolic representation of the ways in which things and people may be both present and absent to our experience. The paintings, sculptures and performance works of the six artists curated by Montserrat College of Art Gallery director Nathan Lewis under the umbrella “Trace Matter” focus on the leaving of a mark in the physical world, yet many more senses and mechanisms of “trace” can be found in them.
In different ways, the trace implies and perhaps reassures us that there is a history, a before and an after. Jenna Pirello self-consciously manipulates her paint on small wood panels to reflect and preserve the history of her decisions in the behavior of her material. One panel lying in the floor churns with swooshes and swirls of wet-on-wet paint. It’s shimmed by her paint-slopped wooden stirrers, which extend the boundary of the painted object in space and time.
Another wall-mounted panel relies on the drying of successive applications of ultramarine, ochre, terra cotta and yellow paint. Pirello builds up and sands down areas into a tutti-frutti of lumps and plateaus, among whose abstract patterns, textures and rhythms one may find traces of other meanings.
Scott Nedrelow creates images with inkjet pigments and airbrush on large expanses of high-quality printer paper. His barely inflected surfaces challenge our capacity to distinguish internal transitions. In the spirit of minimalist sculptor Anne Truitt, whose slight slippages of hand-painted hues are easily confused with actual shadows, Nedrelow, in his own way, refuses to give over the power of seeing and recording gradations of light to a machine. He leaves the trace of his hand to preserve the human measure of his aesthetic choices.
Sculptor Meredith Morten, the former Professor of Sculpture and Foundation and department chair at Montserrat College of Art, had received a Fulbright grant two years ago to study Bronze-Age artifacts at the University of Vienna. (What is “Foundation?” one well might ask.) She planned to transform these forms three-dimensionally at a ceramic facility in Hungary.
Just before her departure, she seriously fractured her foot. This disappointment spurred a novel response carrying her from hard three-dimensional ceramic form to soft embroidery on cloth. Unable to walk easily, let alone stand to work with clay, Morten frequented museums and fell in love with Vienna’s world-renowned collections of ancient textiles.
She recalled building sculpture and installations with fiber her MFA years at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Discovering common folk-art and women’s crafts to be unacknowledged in the museums, she searched for vintage lace doilies in Vienna and Budapest flea markets. She then sat down and embroidered in her lap images from the object of her original fascination.