Strength in Relief, Mary Woodworth Provosty at U.C. Clermont

June 17th, 2012  |  Published in June 2012, On View

"Redemption", Mary Woodworth, 2012

By: Fran Watson

Photographs courtesy of Eric R Greiner

This may be prejudice, but print shows are always elegant to me.  It might be the stark, bravado of good line on fine paper, or the iteration of symbols, or even the sinuous curls and aggressive exclamations of straight lines reminiscent of the waning popularity of cursive writing.  (We never appreciate small beauties until they’re gone.) Yet, as long as there are printmakers of Mary Woodworth Provosty’s caliber, the little pleasures of civilization may be saved for just one more generation.

Provosty’s “Artist of the Month” appearance at U.C. Clermont’s art gallery in “Parnership with the Shadow” speaks of many things: fear, resolution, redemption, freedom…in short nearly all parts of living that fill our days for good or ill. Her narrative though, may not be the same as the viewer’s.  Individual interpretation is the name of her game.  Each linoleum cut print, large or small, encompasses a wealth of possibilities.  William Blake’s ingenuous delight with the world seems not so far removed from the winged entities lurking off center in Provosty’s prints, capable of healing or harm, the presence of both shimmering unnamed in each image.  Just as there cannot be happiness without unhappiness, so there cannot be total contentment without fear. This subversive tension provides the lure of her concept.

Dancers figure prominently as protagonists and lovers:  often one is in black (the shadow) and one in white, nearly always entwined in coils of energy.  They float and bound across their parameters in some unmapped vacuum accompanied by snakes (for wisdom), birds, (because Provosty likes them and performs wonderful fantasies of rendering with feathers ), and demons or demonic accoutrements. In addition to coils, reminding me of the relentless circles of Hell, pathways meander from top to bottom like a perpetual “quo vadis?”  Most  of this is accomplished in a mere 6” x 9” plane with flawless composition.

Seven larger pieces, 30 1/2” x 24 1/4”, follow the same design precepts mentioned above, with added drama due to size.   For once, I must admit, size changes everything  in this show.  A little elbow room accents movement…. and relationships.  Shadow images threaten more, and joyful leaps nearly spill like laughter into textured corners.  As always, texture doesn’t just happen.  In linocuts, texture brings the subject matter to life at the cost of the artist’s time and patience. Size  also provides a better opportunity to marvel at the perfect cuts that weave around the figures.

Now comes color.  Black and white relief prints are strong stuff.  Provosty has chosen unusual color to soften a random group: melty oranges, faded reds, lemony yellows in perfect harmony in each of the prints chosen for hand-coloring.  Not one harsh note raises one print above another, nor does this appearance of color shock the senses in any way, except to enhance with their  gentleness,  succeeding well  in the artist’s intention.

Another touch of interest has been added to the opening June 14, 6-8.  There will be cards for guests to enter their own titles to the pieces.  Most artists hate titling their art, so for this occasion, that duty will fall to the the guests.  Labels will either be removed, or turned to the wall, and anything goes.  Such creativity doesn’t come as surprise.  According to her statement, the artist has been a dancer for 23 years,  a poet for 17 years and a visual artist her whole life.  She began working in lino-prints in 1991 and had been exploring the current  exhibit’s themes for just two years.  Printing was done at Phoenix Rising in Columbus, Ohio, where select works from this show have been run as an edition and are available for sale.

Perhaps the best way to sum up this skillful collection of graphics is through the special attention they deserve for excellence of execution.  It’s not often that devotion to detail pervades with such consistency.

Mary Woodworth Provosty at U.C. Clermont  June 14 – July 6

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