Look Here! Art, Artists, Etc.
We can assure a response after you visit the ALICE F. AND HARRIS K. WESTON ART GALLERY (650 Walnut St., Downtown) for a natural response by local artist NANCY FLETCHER CASSELL. Her ink paintings depict a personal, and matchless, view of the growth, death and regeneration of nature, particularly trees and earth. Cassell paints almost entirely in black and white, yet the simplicity of that choice doesn’t detract from the riotous energy present in every piece. A frenzy of activity exists in each work: Her nature is explosive, leaving us teetering on anxiety and wondering why. The skill and detail of her pieces is immediately arresting, and closer inspection finds each stroke overlapped and stacked upon numerous times. The effect is a controlled hysteria of images that mesmerizes. Coupled cozily with the paintings, Cassell has added an installation of poetry and journal entries from various artists, charting other’s responses to nature. Allow yourself to respond. Through June 12….
City Beat, Thursday, May 6, 2004
Pure Painters Painting
Nancy Fletcher Cassell and Dana Saulnier at The Weston Gallery
by Ruth K. Meyer, Artwhirled@iRhine.com
It is well known that The Weston Gallery at the Aronoff Center offers regional artists the best showcase for their works. During their current round of exhibitions, ending June 12, your destination should be the two great painting shows on the lower (main gallery) level. Pairing Nancy Fletcher Cassell and Dana Saulnier resulted in two solo shows that are distinctive in style but complementary in quality. This exhibition is truly work of major sophistication in our own backyard. This is the best that Painting has to offer.
In the other gallery spaces there’s a totally different kind of engagement. Nancy Fletcher Cassell’s work is monochromatic, mostly black and white with touches of ochre. Here it is not the single work that stands out, but rather the ensemble that has been created in one gallery where the work is installed lake a frieze that runs around three sides of the room.
Cassell calls the work naturemind: it is a series of 36 sumi ink, gouache and conté paintings on board. Unglazed, the works are vertical panels and have been mounted edge to edge. Exposing the fragile paper surfaces in a public gallery seems like a courageous act of trust, and it is a gift to the viewer who can see Cassell’s mark making with unfettered clarity.
Cassell’s work is joyous. After a few moments sitting on the gallery bench and swiveling about, I found myself sitting in a watery landscape looking into pools and staring at plants that grow along side of streams. Ripples, reflections and vortices of moving water occur variously in each panel so that eventually you think you can hear it, the sound of the water. Spiky ferns and grasses rear up out of this water and rattle in a wind. Stay long enough and the room becomes soaked with all this nature chatter. Your own nature mind wakes up and stretches.
Just outside the room of drawings Cassell has assembled a group of texts contributed by writers as a way of linking writing and painting about nature and one’s experience of the natural world. Cassell herself quotes from a Chinese art historian of the ninth century who said, “Writing and painting have different names but a common body.” Such a statement is frequently cited when Asian calligraphy is the presumed source or inspiration for the work. But Cassell lays down a different ancestry for her work, the Abstract Expressionists, Gorky, deKooning, Pollock, Guston.
I would like to know more about her Asian sources for I saw many in these spirited evocations of the literati masters of China and those in Japan who followed and imitated them. Of course what makes the circle complete is that the Abstract Expressionists were themselves fascinated by Asian art and art theories that became more available to them in the mid-20th century.
…in the past Cassell taught at the College of Mt. St. Joseph and continues to contribute to the development of the visual arts in this region through an active exhibition career.