Nancy Wisti Grayson August 29th - September 19th
When visiting Nancy Wisti Grayson’s Mementos: Paths that Cross, one is immediately struck with wanderlust. Travel and her memories of these travels are gifts that the artist shares with us as we navigate this series of paintings and wall sculptures installed at Material Exhibitions. Since we are currently bereft of doing so otherwise, it is an offering to step inside these concatenations of historically important paintings and allegories. Framed as fragments, the viewer can easily piece together familiar and canonized artworks, while being diverted with snippets of works that echo material configurations rather than seemingly dismantled references. It is almost as if we are meant to re-navigate our understanding of this exhibition space with the artists’ evocations rather than by historical allusions. While most of these original paintings exist in important museums throughout the world, the artist offers the viewer new connections which entice us to make new connections. Chronology, hierarchy, and symbolism are dissolved in this exhibition where works are placed around the viewer.
Famed fashion impresario Dianna Vreeland once exclaimed “The eye has to travel,” and Wisti Grayson certainly does this in Mementos. Arranged within clusters, spread out, or layered, these delightful works are situated at varying heights within Material Exhibition’s space. Some even gingerly resting on the floor echo a cinematic space that parallels this history yet allows for new narratives to take place. This cinematic space is further evidenced in the way in which Wisti Grayson renders her works. Individually, they hearken pieces broken off while collectively, we are meant to connect; yet this artist trusts the viewer to make their own conclusions. By giving us familiarity, we are left to then venture on our own. Granted, these themes are quite serious, ranging from Goya’s references to the devil in Witches’ Sabbath, or the wrath of the Franco-Prussian War, which was echoed in War by Henri Rousseau, yet the artist does not hold us vigilant to the referent. Even through the somber and serious natures of these mentions, the artist brings her own nostalgic leanings, even humorous ones.
Sentimentality is often a pejorative, but here it is both guide and confidant. Elvis, Howard Finster, and even Henri Rousseau are cajoled in a small black silhouetted bird entitled Howard, Henri and Elvis at Three Are All Angels To Me, inviting us to alleviate the serious nature of many of these references and just laugh. Befit with overalls and spread wings, this humorous and uplifting work cautions us not to be too certain of the serious tone, demonic references, and art historical cannon that surround us. Rather, we are comforted, entertained, and bemused by these mementos. Wisti Grayson gives the viewer a much needed respite with Mementos, and we are equally as better off for having made the journey.
Salina Art Center
Wisti Grayson's sculptural paintings act as found mementos that reference art historical memories or reminiscences of place. The images act as a somewhat askew anchor to familiarity. Using the tropes of the artifact, ruin and souvenir, a sense of nostalgia, humor and fragmentation of memory is expressed through abstracted narratives.
The sculptural paintings and wall objects presented in Nancy Wisti Grayson’s solo exhibition: Mementos: Paths that Cross, specifically reference paintings (see footnote below ***) which have surfaced over and over again in Nancy’s memory and experience.
These references are not connected through any traditional art historical category but re-emerge in themes and imagery which are instead connected through the singular body and are housed together in Wisti Grayson’s experience and mind. Wisti Grayson draws on her deep and emotional memory to bring together this fragmented collection of work. During the many months of isolation and pandemic, Nancy traveled to different times and places that exist in the painterly aspects, the stories conveyed, or the evocation of specific emotions that she is deeply familiar with and finds as a place of comfort, recognition and home. The memory is a slippery vehicle, as the objects are incomplete, veiled, transformed and transferred into a relic of contemporary contemplation that eludes and alludes to Wisti Grayson’s magical practice.
-Jean Alexander Frater
*** Henri Rousseau, War
Francisco de Goya, Saturn Devouring His Son
Fight with Cudgels
A Pilgrimage to San Isidro
The Straw Manikin
Diego Velazquez, Las Meninas
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