Employing the Negative Energy

Maggie Nowinski: Somaflora Specimen – Friend or Foe I, 2023, Pen and ink and gouache on heavyweight Stonehenge paper, 28 x 42 i

Exquisite Variants: Maggie Nowinski and Alicia Renadette

Overlap gallery, Newport, RI

Exquisite Variants: Maggie Nowinski and Alicia Renadette, the current exhibition at Overlap gallery, features intricate collaged drawings, mixed media sculptures and paintings. Installed in a variety of configurations and formats, everything here suggests the peripheral representations one stores as secondary memory, the kind of imagery that might be spawned by subconscious prompts throughout the five senses. Within all this, there appears to be an overwhelming focus on the tactile quality of this mentally stored minutiae, details that keep all the visual effects fluid and stimulating without being too definitive or easily recognizable.

This series of works began during COVID when studio time for visual artists was unencumbered by social gatherings, work, or just plain "things to do." Spanning over two years of detailed combinations of divergent imagery, materials and intentions, the approach of Nowinski and Renadette is very much like the 1925 Surrealist parlor game, Exquisite Corpse, where artists added strange, unrelated drawings on the same piece of paper, and always in sequential order. In this instance, with Exquisite Variants, there is more of a back and forth between the two artists who find common ground in an aesthetic that speaks of the inner-worldly. Overall, the imagery is tinged with Surrealist undertones that combine biomorphic forms, indications of technology, manufacturing debris and unlikely transitions all enhanced by a very wild and wily palette.

Alicia Renadette: Communion, 2022-2023, Easter Bunny suit, Grandmother’s tablecloth, artificial flowers, craft felt, Easter gras

What I find most intriguing about this exhibition is the way the exhibition ebbs and flows visually and viscerally through the use of certain repetitive details found in both the two and three dimensional objects. Exquisite Realm: Scanning the Substrata (2023) covers the largest wall of the gallery, driven by seemingly endless, individual, collaged ink drawings and mixed media sculptures that set in motion an evolving, multiplying, expanding organism. A potent structure of energetic expression built upon meditative mark-making and inward searching.

Maggie Nowinski & Alicia Renadette: Scanning the Substrata (detail), 2023, Mixed media installation

In the worst times of the COVID pandemic, there was an overall fog of life, of not knowing how bad it would get, if you were its next victim, or if there would ever be light at the end of the tunnel. So it is not so surprising that anxiety levels would increase throughout the globe under such overwhelming stress. For whatever reason, artists have an innate ability to employ that negative energy into their work by channeling the flow of lines, shapes and colors from the subconscious, enabling them to represent the illusive space between survival and dread.

Exquisite Variants: Maggie Nowinski and Alicia Renadette ends September 10th. For more information visit the gallery's website https://www.overlapnewport.com/

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