Kathy Goodell: (c) Green: Oculus

by Donald Goddard


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Twenty glass lenses of various sizes (originally from enlargers, telescopes, and other optic devices), meticulously and rustically encased in blackened copper frames, singly or doubly, hang in the space from thin wires facing a wall grid of drawings. (The arrangement is for this space. Other installations have had, for instance, two walls of drawings, and a different hanging of the lenses.) It is the space of the unconscious, subaqueous, where one swims as near a coral reef.

As in Goodell`s other work, the sculptures (lenses) are physically in the way.


Green Oculus
© Kathy Goodell
(c) Green: Oculus, 2000.
Glass lenses and copper,
mixed media on paper.

One bumps into them (fulfilling Ad Reinhardt`s definition of sculpture), or tries not to, especially her earlier pieces that involve delicate layers of glass plates. But these lenses are impervious.

They are worn and used. It is their realm. Like her other works, they insist on their presence, but like fish they are active parts of their environment, meant to shape, to deflect, to be seen through. In fact, we are such animals, though we pretend to be something else. Though it is not, oculus might also be octopus, an animal with highly developed eyes and brain.


Drawing from Amphimixus
© Kathy Goodell
Drawing from the "Amphimixus" series, 1999.
Mixed media on paper,
23" x 17".


Amphimixus series
© Kathy Goodell
Drawing from the "Amphimixus" series, 1999.
Mixed media on paper,
23" x 17".

What is to be seen, of course, is everything in the vicinity. This includes the trees and cars through the window, the two walls with nothing on them, other people, and the drawings. The lenses see the way we see—randomly, inattentively, sporadically, imperfectly— focused and unfocused—voraciously. Most particularly they, and we, see the drawings, which represent what is written, the beginnings of life, as an act of the artist. The paper is clay-coated, like the clay of creation, and Goodell`s first marks are often in olive oil, discoloring and nurturing. Fingerprints and other marks are followed then by overlays of film on which have been printed images of shells, architectural forms, magnetic fields, skeletons, human body parts, earlier sculptures of Goodell`s, and other formally exquisite structures. Some images have been further eviscerated or filled out with computer manipulations. In several drawings, Sigmund Freud`s diagram for his theory of the unconscious appears. What is unformed becomes formed, and then, possibly, determined, if we only knew how to look at these images through the lenses. Goodell does everything she can to signify the images as potentially or mathematically three-dimensional. The colors are, to a large degree, primary—red, yellow, and blue. In a sense, the artist is exploring the sources of her own work, and her own being. There is no resolution, any more than there is between the seer and the seen; each has characteristics of the other (the drawings are called "Amphimixis," defined as the mingling of germ cells in sexual reproduction) but remains of its own making.

Donald Goddard © 2000


The work was exhibited at the Willoughby Sharp Gallery, 558 Broome Street, New York NY 10013.

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