Sara Pearce's Expecting to Fly at 5th Street Gallery

March 18th, 2012  |  Published in March 2012

© The Grand Tour: They Were High In the Alps When Adele Took the Opportunity To Bolt mixed-media collage by Sara Pearce antique Charles Dana Gibson illustration (The Gibson Book, Vol. 2, Scribner's Sons, 1906) and map; recycled book page proof, Italian wrapping paper, travel guide and sewing pattern; colored pencil; watercolor; marker; ink. 7.5" x 9.5" on archival mat board (2012)

A quick first take on Sara Pearce’s Expecting to Fly at 5th Street Gallery downtown shows her a words person as well as a visual artist. And no wonder; words were her trade during her Cincinnati Enquirer years, when she reported on restaurants, books, sometimes visual arts, and was a features editor. What collages require, however, is a good eye; Pearce has it. If word play is essential in the way she shapes her work, it should be said that her words are sharp, funny and slyly pointed.

That quick first take can be satisfactorily followed by closer looks. There are curious, telling bits tucked into these compositions and it is fun to search them out. The exhibition presents three groups of work: “A Grand Tour,” “Out on a Limb” and “Mad Women,” each with its own look.

“A Grand Tour” pays homage in seven panels to those young American women who in the 19th century descended on Europe in the company of their parents with large dreams and the sort of anticipation the signature collage for the show suggests in its title and its depiction: “Expecting to Fly.”

Pearce likes a long title, however: note “They Were High In the Alps When Adele Took the Opportunity to Bolt.”  Adele has bolted over a chasm; one wonders what else she was high on? Godey’s Ladies Book is mentioned as one of Pearce’s sources; those ladies must be among those we see Grand Touring.

“Out on a Limb” is bird life, in and out of the cage, on five inch square, inch thick blocks, while the third series presents life of a different kind: “Mad Women.”  McCall’s Pattern Books come into play here, and the titles suggest what’s going on:  “The Gloves Were Off” and “I Did It My Way” are among them. The latter shows a young woman decked out in the small waisted, large skirted New Look, her motorcycle at her side.

Pearce draws on her own library of antique world maps, fashion magazines and more and is knowing about vintage papers. Expecting to Fly can be seen at 5th Street Gallery, 55 West Fifth Street, through April 7. Pearce will be at the gallery to discuss her work, 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 31.

— Jane Durrell

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