By Jerstin Crosby
With all the art related goings-on’s in downtown Durham last weekend I hope you made it in to see the Stacy-Lynn Waddell installation, water/ weight, at Branch Gallery. With the piece, When They Ask Be Sure To Tell Them (2008), she created large-scale dollops of collaged and then scorched muslin, which hang loosely off the wall. These tear drops pull double duty working within Waddell’s fictional narrative of a girl trapped on the bottom of the ocean while referencing historical painting on canvas, a tradition that began in proximity to water, when Venetian ship sails became part of the history of art. Speaking about her fictional character Waddell writes, “The tears she cries explain a little about how she winds up in this awful fix and what she does to survive”. Phrases like “I Never Mind The Little Things”, “I Knew It All Along”, and “I Am Not The Enemy”, were burned out leaving the letters vacant within these brief, introverted and cryptic self reflections.
In the wall-sized work titled, Make Me A Sanctuary (2008), we see a vast ocean depicted with overlays of collaged fabric. This mass of water, with the wrinkled and layered muslin surface balances between worn sheets and the grand spectacle when J.M.W. Turner paints a thrashing sea. Waddell writes, “Water has been added to the mix. It’s another element (as in earth, wind, and…) and an epic force of nature that also destroys yet transforms. Both fire and water are classical themes whether related to the natural realm or metaphors linked to the human condition. Katrina (and so many other floods) really got me thinking about all this”. Near the top of the composition, Waddell gives us a horizon line, a burnt sky, and a vessel. This ship could be her rescue, or the boat she fell or was thrown off of in the first place. It balances part of the composite surface in which a lump of gold tassel hangs well off the wall. What the tassel represents is up for interpretation. I thought of it as a flare-gun shot up to signal to the ship. Waddell suggests it could be a coconut at the top of a tree, a sack of fresh water, or a gonad. In all, the narrative structure asks more questions than it answers, in a productive way, and begs viewers in to make their own conclusions. Whatever the conclusions are, the title of the show water/weight, implicates the oppressive force of water and the destructive nature of nature. Weather conditions or the human condition.
By Jerstin Crosby