Wednesday, November 1st, 2006
I had the pleasure of seeing the show "Monsters by Land, Monsters by Sea" by artist Jen Corace at the OKOK gallery in Seattle this fall. It was especially good to see the paintings in person, so that the velvety, effortless gouache washes and Corace’s confidently drawn lines could be more tactilely experienced. Usually, of course, images like these are photographed and printed as illustrations, so the paint of paint is lost in translation. Jen Corace is an illustrator, as well, ( www.jencorace.com) but these pieces stood on their own, straddling that line between a direct narrative and a singular mysterious moment.
This tension between forms is joined by other tensions. Most paintings have as their main subject a sort of girl-woman… a stylized, child-like figure with adult concerns. Her most common companions are others like her, or nature-come-alive. Leaves and grass and water and wolves do not leave her untouched. In fact, they often grow through her very own body or enclose her in a thicket. The effect of this is a terrible and wonderful romance of the wild with the docile. Snakes or dragons are mildly menacing, but the figures seem to be above the fear of them, accepting them as a matter of course when they leave the confines of the civilized world and retreat into the wilderness.
Anyone who has read the original fairytales of the Brothers Grimm knows that children’s stories have traditionally held the extremes of terror and beauty. Stories for any age work best inside this tension; Jen Corace inserts herself into this fertile history with grace and aplomb.
ink and watercolor on paper
15 in. by 21 in.