Stacey Cushner’s latest show at the Kingston Gallery, Intangible Aspects of the Forest, wonderfully encapsulates the dichotomy of environment. There is the literal, physical manifestation in the flora, and then the feelings imbued by that location. “My drawings and installations in Intangible Aspects of the Forest harken to the time I looked in wonder at the woodland while walking to school through one particular mini-forest…I called this space my own,” says Cushner. In the exhibition, she conveys these feelings through representations of the world that inspired them.
A wonderful example is “Fallen” (2015). The drawing shows a tree on the ground, trunk twisted and bark peeled back. The timber fills the frame, imparting a grandiosity — a life long-lived. Cushner uses heavy detail in the majority of the depiction, but towards the top of the work there are loosely sketched outlines of what might be another tree, or branches, like phantoms lingering behind. Combined with the use of black and white as opposed to realistic coloring, Cushner shows us the reality, while still leaving room for interpretation, or perhaps a void for our own memories to fill.
While Cushner leverages heavy detail in many of her pieces, “Botanicals 2-7” (2018) is looser, and in turn projects a natural capriciousness. The style here is more conventional — relatively simple sketches of flowers — but the use of dreamy, phthalo blues and etchy fills convey the imaginative quality of the show. Once again, the viewer is left to fill in some of the details on their own, whatever those may be.
The majority of the show uses the medium of pencil or graphite on paper. A diversion from this is entitled “Scenic Word” (2018). This work is composed of small, glass balls, evocative of a typical snow globe, filled with small evergreen trees. In one of the eight globes, we see a man and a woman standing together. Despite their captivity, the work did not make me think of being stranded or trapped. Rather, the liberty of fantasy, like bubbles of imagination, dancing through the woods.
The strongest example of the spirit of the show is “Oneiric Temperament 1” (2016). In this piece, Cushner shows us a grouping of evergreen trees, once again in the phthalo blues, once again in meticulous detail. This is by far the largest (framed) work in the gallery, and as such imparts the feeling of nature enveloping us. In addition, the impact of the pointillism technique used here hits harder when displayed on such a large scale by leaving room for one to stand back and take in the picture as it is, or stand closer and examine how the trick is performed.
Through the works in this show, Stacey Cushner tells us that the world we live in is more than the objects that make it up. It’s the way we live, how we use it, and even moreso, the way we imagine it. Intangible Aspects of the Forest has wrapped up its most recent display at the Kingston Gallery, but Cushner is local and so I imagine more of her work will be on view in the future. I highly encourage you to see whatever comes next.
Feature Photo Courtesy of Kingston Gallery — Intangible Aspects of the Forest — color pencil of paper (2015)