Below is a review, published by ereview out of Kansas City, written by our former intern Valeria Turturro.

By Valeria Turturro December 20, 2010

A review of Fall Exhibit 2010

JoStealey_NapkinStudyJo Stealey, “Napkin Study,” pecan, boxelder and ginko leaves, silk organza, thread, and vintage textiles; 32″ x 33″. Image: courtesy of the gallery and artist 

Perlow-Stevens Gallery

Columbia, Missouri
September 29 — December 30, 2010

Fall is the most nostalgic of seasons. As the year draws to an end, like dusk at the end of the day, fall prepares us for the dark, cold winter ahead. It’s a time of reflection, really. How fitting, then, that the fall exhibition at PS:Gallery is full of just that reflective nostalgia. Here two University of Missouri faculty members, Brett Grill and Jo Stealey, show work that is diverse in media but complementary in tone.

Brett Grill’s paintings are collections of memories and mementos. Seeing Knicknacks and Novocain the viewer loses site of the man, woman, and child in the painting and writes them off as fellow forgotten objects. As the people are presumably asleep on a bench, their laps strewn with a doll, boxes, and playing cards, they blend in with their surrounding.

The painting as a whole is reminiscent of I Spy books. “I spy an old birdcage, a preserved wooden chair, and an old wagon wheel.” The viewer’s eyes never tire from picking out some new detail and wondering about the sentiment behind each item.

BreggGrill_KnickknacksandNovocainBrett Grill, “Knicknacks and Novocain,” oil on linen, 62″ x 67″. Image: courtesy of the gallery and artist 

The old household items and toys lie like pieces of the past, as if they represent the memories of how this family once was, now that the child is grown and no longer the innocent boy asleep on his father’s lap.

In Small Monument, people are absent but photographs take their place. Most of the items are attached with price tags, showing that no matter what personal value they once had, they’ve now been reduced back to what they originally were: another thing to be bought. Each of these things — the globe, the tabletop sculptures from foreign lands, a well-used cake mixer — pay tribute to a certain memory. They’re monuments to years past.

Most of Grill’s paintings are subdued in color, although not monotone in any sense. A murky, hazy quality of light hangs over each of these works like a fading memory.

Jo Stealey’s art seems to be a beautiful ode to fall, fragility, and history. In her fiber art, she threads together leaves and silk into delicate keepsakes that appear to have been handed down from generation to generation. Napkin Study is a beautiful rendition of a traditional heirloom, like a doily made by nature. The faded brown leaves seem to have withstood years of use, like the special textile that sits in a grandparent’s immaculate home.

JoStealey_SeductionJo Stealey, “Seduction,” scrub oak leaves and thread, 17″ x 21″. Image: courtesy of the gallery and artist 

In Seduction and Heirloom, leaves are layered to form a natural fabric; thread is stitched onto the leaves, which would not seem to withstand even the slightest handling, let alone such needlework, and the effect is mesmerizing. With a ribbon sewn at the top, Seduction resembles an apron made of leaves. And with this, Stealey furthers her study of the home and domesticity. Not only is needlework a traditionally female craft, but Stealey’s creations are also comments on the roles women have taken up and continue to examine. The leaves in further remind us that nature cycles yearly. The leaves will always fall and then grow back and then fall once more. They’re transient but dependable. They’re also another connection to history and a heritage.

Henry David Thoreau wrote that we should live in each season as it passes and resign ourselves to the influences of each. In Grill’s artwork, we resign ourselves to the nostalgia of memories and the melancholy tendencies of fall; in Stealey’s, we reconsider our own connection with nature and the lifelong cycles it takes us through.




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