Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

Navigating a Narrow Passage: Jenevieve Hubbard at Charley Hafen

by Lane Bachman

My first impression of Jenevieve Hubbard’s series Narrow Passage is that it seemed to have taken a tedious amount of time to execute each piece. The tedium is always thwarted, however, by the artist considering the act of process as being an integral part of the work.

Narrow Passage, unveiled but not completed by the half dozen pieces now on display at Charley Hafen Gallery, is held together not only by the artist’s style and by the recurring motif of fingerprints but especially by the subject of the series: identity. Hubbard uses a step by step process for each piece, usually starting with the acquisition of a finger print, which she then sketches with tea (Navajo tea, when it is not too rare to find), and then she traces the initial outline with acrylic paint sometimes mixed with dirt or other organic materials.

On both silk and flat board or canvas, these fingerprints ask us what we, as the viewer, see as identity. Whether identity is as beautifully simple as what we view from a distance of her monochromatic tones and the convergence of hairlines into abstraction. Or if it is more complex, like the labrynth of the tunnels of the fingerprint itself. One can get lost in these questions when seen in the visual, both at a distance and in close proximity. However successfully Hubbard introduces these questions, she has just as successfully bound them into a visual conclusion.

You may wonder about the impetus for this unique series. Gratefully, we are feeling these works directly from the heart of the atist. Much like her fingerprints on silk, her past is a woven piece of the integration of native cultures. Her work echos the ambiguous nature of how one feels being born to customs and tradition not shared by a bloodline, yet Narrow Passages acknowledges the unbreakable bond of culture and place.

It is important that the artist ask these questions not just of herself, but also present them to the audience, especially in locations of comparatively “modern” civilization.

Narrow Passage is an exemplary execution of process, experience and interactive examination not to be missed. We should all look forward to viewing further exhibits of the larger and complete series.

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