Monday, September 17, 2007

Anna Druzcz: The Makings of New Lifeforms and Constructions

This past Friday at Like The Spice Gallery was the launch of a new exhibit, "Endemic Constructions" by artist Anna Druzcz.

It is in many ways not just a new show, but a new forray into an uncharted realm.

Over the past 15 years, digital art has taken a strong foothold in the art world, but most have been the usual suspects-- CGI, explorations into video art, mechanical, and/or basic photo manipulation.

But in this case, the artist, who possesses a strong background in painting as well as photography, combines the two into one-- creating, if you will, new landscapes previously undiscovered to the human eye.

At Like the Spice, Ms. Druzcz's combination of multiple disciplines-- painting, photography, set design and, yes, the power of Photoshop-- blends so well, that at times you cannot believe you are simply looking at a C-Print.

In fact, many viewers will need to do a double-take to make sure that these are indeed not paintings, or light boxes, given their luminescent quality.

Much like Mary Shelley, Druzcz is producing her own Frankenstein monster through intricate combinations of natural and mandmade worlds.

Her unique choice of multiple image overlays collaged from previous on-site photographs she has taken on the outskirts of Rochester and Toronto appear almost seamless in their combinations.

I'm enclosing above a detail of her work in magnification.

Druzcz starts each piece by painting on canvas, which she then photographs and manipulates in Photoshop, replicating layer upon layer, until the correct level of underpainting is achieved.

You can also see little tears and threads attached to each piece of fabric.

The backdrop now being set, from here she begins to choose which pieces she will combine to create her work.

Druzcz is particularly engrossed with the unique processes in which humanity takes to control the organic.

Nurseries cover or protect their product-- trees, shrubs, flowers-- and envelop them much in the way we blanket our own newborns.

Saplings under wrap in this piece seem to appear as if they are mummified, or ghost-like in appearance.

In an artist talk she gave this Sunday in Williamsburg, she noted how she believes what distinguishes us between the animal world is our use of "tools," and how we "construct" new worlds and identities through our control over nature.

Her "constructions" are built from the ground up, taking elements of her photographs of rural nurseries, lily beds, bales of hay, portions of highway construction and topiaries, juxtaposing them into new realms of the underworld.

With the advent of industrialization and subsequently the power of globalization at a moment's notice we can go down to our corner flower shop and purchase plant "hybrids"-- for the power of modern science and horticulture has let the process of natural selection go by the wayside, as we create new living beings.

Even though science has now found out that there can be no "black tulip" (it is inherently impossible), somehow we doubt this, given the advancements of technology.

It brings to mind genetically modified strawberries; crops with inherent immunity to certain pests; new species that will be the edible future of our ever-growing population's need for sustainable harvesting.

Our actions as residents of planet earth are having a direct effect on changing how nature operates on a daily basis; Druzcz' s works only emphasize the rapid pace at which we currently are operating.

As well as a direct commentary on humanity's ability to alter nature, these pieces also appear as if in a whimsical, dreamlike state.

We never really can truly remember our settings of dreams; (We combine strange lands that we know we've seen before, but when we awake we realize that they do not exist.)

In many ways, Druzcz is a cinematographer of new possibilities.

Each piece confronts us as if it were a still frame of a motion picture.

I feel a strong pull in many of her works that leads me to a comparison of a "Wizard of Oz" land of imagination and wonder, though with a strong evil undercurrent much like "The Matrix."

In the work above, I could imagine a flying monkey, or two, or three, if not Trent Reznor greeting me as well.

Or perhaps this is more of a nod to mystical lands of Tolkien, where the hulking Treebeard comes out from hiding and starts speaking to us from inside the frame, not unlike the hallowed halls of Hogwarts' portraiture.

The most interesting part about this image of "gigantic" trees and their massive exposed root systems is the fact that they are actually close-up photographs of bonsais digitally manipulated into large scale.

I found this to be one of the biggest surprises about the artist's mastery of space, manipulation of scale and how perspective can be dramatically altered by the digital realm.

Druzcz in many ways is playing "God," in the creation of worlds that do not exist, but we almost wish they would.

I'm enclosing this Hieronymous Bosch work, "The Last Judgment," for comparison in the way Druzcz also seems to have such a hierarchical structure in her works' makeup.

A feared underworld lurks below-- the skies opening to the heavens above.

In the image below, Druzsz' work is again quite Boschian in its makeup-- a feared underworld lurking beneath; a heavenlike dreamstate above.

The Dutch master was perhaps centuries before his time in many ways-- much like I believe Druzcz is as well.

Throughout art history there has been such separation in imagery-- the color fields, if you will, of Rothko-- where the horizon separates from the earth; above and below.

Yet Druzcz's imaginative piece seems to float in mid-air over the burial ground plots-- or more than likely trenches being dug for new plantings.

What's so interesting about this work, though, is how each and every piece has been painstaking crafted by Druzsz, then photographed in isolation.

Only upon her choosing its new location, (small conical structures she made in her studio, then photographing them, manipulating their light and texture), and thereby adding layer upon multiple layer of pristene lawns, winterized burlap fields and topiary plantings, does she showcase these elements of beauty and despair.

The evergreens seem to take on a new life, reaching new heights in her golden backgrounds.

The sepia tonalities of each image gives an almost antique quality to her work.

Here, we see the combination of roadside concrete drainage pipes juxtaposed with an endless horizon of bales of hay.

Much in the way of her previous topiary works, Druzsz again takes the route of multiple terracing.

Though Druzcz is referencing how man continues to exert control over nature, there is a stark dark element that is at play, but does not completely envelop the work.

When I first saw this work at right, I couldn't help but have my own preconceived notions of what the image stood for.

The tree wrapped in its "protective" blanket, if you will, sheltered from the elements, instead takes on a far sinister presence, looking quite similar to a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

This is not an image to be taken lightly.

Again, the star-scape backpainting gives it such a dream-like quality.

The cool-white light envelops us much in the way the blanket wraps itself around the nature.

As Druzcz mentioned in her talk, she is "Very comfortable with breaking those boundaries" of the everyday and commonplace and combine very unusual elements into something new.

With this exhibit she certainly has accomplished that, and much, much more.

For more information, go to

The exhibit runs until October 7th.

1 comment:

Hungry Hyaena said...

Interesting ideas, Oly, about what appears to be strong work, at least in reproduction. I look forward to seeing the show.

One comment, however.

Humans aren't the only species to be documented using tools; New Caledonian crows and chimpanzees are two of the most publicized tool users/makers.

In my opinion, the two attributes distinguishing man from his animal brethren are:

1) The decision, 10,000 years ago, made by some tribes of our species, to become an agricultural culture, one intent on "mastering" our food sources no matter the consequences. (This ties in to the ideas Druzcz forefronts.)

2) Our capacity for denial.