reflections and reviews
Review of: Smashing the Invisible
The World is in the Work
by Kerry Morgan
Director of Gallery and Exhibition Programs
Minneapolis College of Art & Design
The monochrome paintings of Mary Simon-Casati are something to behold. The modulated black or white surfaces beckon the viewer to step in for a closer look. And still, her wave-like undulations and ripples of paint cannot be experienced from just one angle; they change dramatically when viewed from different positions and in different lighting conditions. This act—of perceiving, of seeing, and not really knowing what you are looking at—conjoins the senses with the intellect. Like the artist, we are wrestling with the unknown.
It started with the human body: some ribs, that became thinner and thinner, then cast in glass so as to be translucent, almost not visible, and finally, forms suspended in space, transmuted. In the process of deconstructing this supportive cage that protects heart and breath, Simon-Casati starting wondering where energy went when the body was gone. For answers to this fundamental question she turned to physics, first in books and articles, and then to setting up conversations with astrophysicists. What has evolved over many months of discussions and ponderings are works of the imagination, black and white gestural expanses that are visual distillations of the knowledge that “energy changes shape and force, but never goes away,” and that “the air is filled with things that we cannot see.” 1
Making visible the invisible is what both artists and physicists do. Achieved by different processes and often for different ends, nonetheless they similarly ask how we know the world. They are speculators. What exactly is color, shape, space, volume, and light? For these are the means by which artists have long flirted with the limits of representation. And they are part and parcel of the lexicon of the physicist.
Far from some art for art’s sake experimentation, or utopian or dystopian exploration, Simon-Casati uses the communicative properties of abstraction to bring us viscerally closer to the problem of knowing what we do not know, and contemplating the nothingness that is everything.
1 Conversation with the artist, 11 August 2017.
Review of Memento Mori: Cartography of Grief
Grief-Be-Gone, One Stroke at a Time
By Gregory J. Scott
Minnesota Monthly –On Line
November 27, 2012
What does your grief look like? Is it stiff and bloodless, muzzled beneath a funeral suit and dark shades? Or is it lavishly grotesque, a daggers-to-the-eyes orgy of regret?
Too often, we expect mourning to be one or the other. We crave the cathartic release; we marvel at the stalwart courage. And when it comes to art inspired by grief—or art made as a grieving process unto itself—we similarly crave a signaling or some recognizable, obvious emotion, even if (especially if?) it’s an ugly or dysfunctional one. Death sucks. It should rattle to the core.
So Kudos to Minneapolis artist Mary Simon-Casati. In a solo show opening Friday, November 30, at Traffic Zone Center for Visual Arts, she works through the death of her mother in a way that is gorgeously ordinary calmingly repetitive, and satisfyingly sane. “Memento Mori” is an exhibition of mark-making. When her mother died, Simon-Casati found herself reaching for the paintbrush—not to vent or to furiously create, but to absently and hypnotically trail a solitary brush stroke over a scape of paper. She did this over and over. These markings-loose jabs of black acrylic, vaguely reminiscent of language or primitive maps-forms the basis of her exhibition.
“Often the expression of grief comes out in a repetitive activity, one we know very well, and perhaps do every day, “Simon-Casati recently told Minnesota Women’s Press. “Years ago, my grandmother lived in Ipswich, South Dakota. Following her husband’s death, she sat in her rocking chair and crocheted edges on handkerchiefs. She made hundred s of hankies.”
Far from Rorschach blots, Simon-Casati’s marks don’t feel like abstract vacuums waiting for us to fill them with association. They stand on their own as markers of time, artifacts of moments that piled up while waiting for something to pass.
Images & content © Mary Simon-Casati 2017. All rights reserved.