Midnight skies and stars that coalesce into halos and brilliantly colored contrails of the Milky Way inhabit the universe of Vanessa Marsh art. Her forthcoming exhibition at Dolby Chadwick Gallery titled Falling shows a selection of her works in which nature and the universe combine in images full of charismatic and sublime energy. Marsh focuses on cosmological and geologic time, creating otherworldly landscapes that entice with their light and color, shining through a deep night.
The recent series of Vanessa Marsh’s works exhibited at the Falling exhibition show hand-drawn trees, black silhouettes of cave openings, nebulae, power lines and water towers, and other man-made features. The mountainous terrain often progressively recedes into the lighter forms in the distance, apparently giving in to the black vastness of the cosmos, punctuated by stars.
Some of the valleys and peaks shown in her artworks are taken from the photographs of Ansel Adams, combined and collaged to create imaginary mountain ranges. The works were made through a combination of painting and photographic techniques, bringing together drawing, painting and darkroom technique to create photograms.
Marsh’s creative process starts with making a painting on clear mylar with transparent inks. As her paintings work as traditional negatives, she chooses colors that are the opposite of the desired effect. The process involves a lot of guesswork and experimentation, as certain effects are achieved by chance. The light from an enlarger that passes through the inks reacts with them, changing the colors into their complementaries. At the same time, specks of black color block the light from reaching the paper, leaving what appear to be white stars.
Our understanding of cosmos is intrinsically linked to our understanding of light, asserts Marsh. The light coming from deep space reflects the past in itself, as many of the stars we see may not exist anymore. For Marsh, the stars are also the links to the ancient ways of living, and navigating the world. “It seems inherently human to be fascinated and influenced by the cosmos”, concludes the artist. She leaves us with the fascinating and enticing images of deep space intertwined with earthly objects, or the images of the nebulae themselves, which let her explore more explosive forms.
Often circumscribed by the silhouettes of cave openings, the images of cosmos are linked with the spaces where first art was created many millennia ago. Caves are “the birthplace of artistic urges” and they communicate with the world in a way that is beyond our understanding. Marked by darkness and the unknown, but also being seen as shelters, the caves link us to prehistory, and mystery of creation. The depths of outer space correspond to them in mysteriousness and the symbolism of origin. The cosmos possess beauty, but also provokes apprehension about the unknown depths, creating a sublime effect.
Born in Seattle, Washington, in 1978, Vanessa Marsh earned her BA from Washington Universtiy, and later completed an MFA from California College of Arts. She has exhibited her work in many museums and Galleries in the United States, including Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, Richard L. Nelson Gallery, and the SFO Museum. Marsh is inspired by artists such as James Casebere and Thomas Demand, the photographers who work with constructed landscapes, and painters such as Fred Tomaselli, and Hudson River School.
The exhibition Falling of Vanessa Mars’s artworks at Dolby Chadwick Gallery runs from April 6th until April 29th, 2017.
Featured images: Trees 3, detail, Arches 2, detail, Nebula 26, detail, Cave 4, detail. All images courtesy of Dolby Chadwick Gallery.
San Francisco, United States of America