Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

A Love Letter From Death to Decay: Naomi Marine’s drawings and soft sculptures at Finch Lane Gallery

If you reached into your refrigerator and pulled out a carton of plump strawberries, only to find they’re covered in fuzzy, circular patches of fungus, you’d grimace and throw them away, right? You’d hardly examine the tiny, flowering patterns of decay and growth. But fascination with such microscopic details, which show how plush organic material changes over time, is one element that makes Naomie Marine’s drawings and soft sculptures alluring. Marine’s exhibit all things are waiting here, at Finch Lane Gallery through April 14, provides a detailed look at the beautiful and grotesque cycles that define the transient organic world, including our own bodies.

Many of the pieces in all things are waiting here are detailed ink drawings, series of curving parallel lines created with an impossibly fine-tipped pen. The drawing “would you know me” is made of thin black lines, unfolding in an upward, undulating pattern. On close inspection, a viewer sees what might be the edges of textured wood covered in moss or algae. From these curved shapes drift small points of ink, which look like seeds or dandelion fuzz caught in a breeze. This piece, as well as the similar “eclipsing of the will,” communicates pulsing growth on a miniature scale.

The namesake of the show, “all things are waiting here” is made with the same obsessive and intimate pen technique. This piece is a flowing series of marks that undulate like lumpy infinity symbols. Rather than wood and blooming algae, however, the piece resembles intertwined tresses of hair or silky skeins of yarn. These shapes and textures are familiar, but their suspended, pulsing movement against a stark white background is too magical to look like something you could stumble onto in a forest or on the slide of a microscope. Pieces like these show the constant processes that take place in our bodies and around us, but because they are singled out and framed, make the audience take notice of how wondrous they are.

Marine’s two-dimensional pieces relate changes that occur constantly at a cellular or otherwise invisible level, which ultimately fuel the major aging that we see in our own bodies at a macro level. She says, “Taking a generally microscopic view, I focus on these points of transformation or mutation to better understand the way cycles of growth shape the experience of time. Time ravages and marks our bodies … marching us closer to the abject reality of our mortal flesh.”

Marine deals more explicitly with the draw and repulsion of human flesh in her soft sculptures. Mounted on the gallery walls or sitting on top of pedestals, these soft, flesh-tone assemblages are made of pink, red, white, and brown fabrics, sewn into tubular shapes and connected in pulsing compositions similar to her drawings. Each of Marine’s sculptures includes soft textures that range from satin to velvet, and call out to be stroked. However, in “bending the will” and “wading through days” the inviting soft fabric is offset by stiff wiry threads that poke upward at odd angles and include menacing white fabric horns and odd patches of dark brown fur.

Spotlighted on a pedestal in the middle of the gallery floor is “bending the will.” In the Greek myth of Aphrodite’s birth, Zeus castrated his father Uranus and tossed the severed genitals into the ocean. From the splash of bloody foam, Aphrodite rose in all her delicate feminine beauty. Marine’s fleshy object, on a pedestal that rises from the center of the gallery, contains a similar contradiction as the one articulated in this myth: body parts most responsible for generation are repulsive and beautiful, brutal and delicate. Marine says, “The combinations of seductive and grotesque imagery created within the work hint at the pleasure and revulsion I find in our corporeality.”

These surreal sculptures, which echo the frank female sexuality of canonized sculptures like Méret Oppenheim’s“Fur Breakfast”(1936), are highlights of the show. They echo the organic and biological themes in Marine’s tiny pen drawings, but are executed at a larger, exaggerated scale in the immediate vicinity of viewers. As a result of the sculptures’ confrontational size and position, viewers must think about the constant growth and decay within themselves.

Marine says, “In some representations [the body] is fallible and beset by disease and disorder. In other manifestations it is flush with life or suggestive of intimacy.” As an artist, Marine creates work that reveals the infinite links between opposing psychological forces and the micro/macro scales of life. In doing so, she creates a body of work that communicates her themes, too, on many levels.

This review appeared in the March 2017 edition of 15 Bytes.
Hannah McBeth studied art history, classics, and Mediterranean archaeology before getting a Master’s at Cambridge University. She enjoys writing, hiking, and traveling to far-off places.

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