Verge by Patrice Donohue
At Shift Gallery through October 31
By Cynthia Hibbard
“Portal,” a piece in Patrice Donohue’s compelling Shift show, Verge, replicates the dimensions of a door in her home as a way of inviting the viewer in to explore what she calls “the edge towards something else.”
The 36 x 79-inch construction of luminescent layers of blackened paper hanging in curled and partially cut folds epitomizes Donohue’s concentration on surface, volume, light and materiality to create a tactile, visceral resonance that transcends materiality toward more personal contemplation.
Fittingly, companion pieces of inked and excised newsprint layers, “Meditation I-VII,” also draw viewers into dark, mysterious interiors just as meditation shifts through and gradually creates openings in the mind and spirit.
“Collectively, they are landscapes of the mind, emotion and spirt that prompt the imagination to peel back, reveal, evolve and verge toward the unknown.”
Using pages of the New York Times, Donohue’s meditation series also aims to “represent the density of the human experience” that she has addressed in previous, blackened newsprint work that revealed snippets of news images in lament of the dying newspaper industry. In this case, her completely blackened surfaces lay open to interpretation, and also to their environment.
The Meditation pieces, as well as a “Passage” series of floor-to ceiling white paper scrolls emphatically and loosely marked with drips and swirls and streaks of black ink were “constructed to allow the edges to be free and to curl, open and expand in response to heat, humidity, light and cooling,” Donohue said.
Collectively, they are landscapes of the mind, emotion and spirt that prompt the imagination to peel back, reveal, evolve and verge toward the unknown.
“Depth and mystery and becoming–like the alchemical process–is a big part of my work,” Donohue explained.
“…the waxed cloth strips of “Baffle” contain whitened bundles of newsprint as if preserving the human record for future explication. “
Another theme in her show is containment–boxed, wrapped or gridded materials–depicting energy that needs to be contained to be understood. For example, the waxed cloth strips of “Baffle” contain whitened bundles of newsprint as if preserving the human record for future explication. The white, waxed and bundled pages of “My First Novel” literally contain the record of Donohue’s early artistic development as a fiction writer foreshadowing her future career in visual arts.
“Now,”she said, “my work is more of a symbolic, evocative narrative.”
Another door-sized, multilayered and white piece, “Threshold,” shows a written but unreadable white narrative on a front layer of glassine covering other marked layers that are apparent but not clearly visible. “One is not going to literally read it but take in the psychic qualities that it emits,” Donohue said of the piece. Accordingly, she asks whether interior layers covered with the words “ahhh” and “ohhh” might evoke a sense of sound.
“She builds on her dreams and tries to verge toward new meaning. ‘As I go through time I’m making work that emerges from the elements of mystery and containment and intensity,’ she said, ‘just as we move forward in our lives and evolve as people.”
Three red, orange and yellow wax and black pigment pieces, “Jacob’s Dream II and III” and “Grasp,” depict dreamy, ladder-like imagery sinking into vibrantly hued backgrounds reflective of the fall colors of the Pacific Northwest.
Exploring the mysteries of dreamscapes and contained spaces are part and parcel of Donohue’s concurrent career as a Jungian therapist specializing in sand tray as a pathway for her clients to unlock their unconscious by selecting and arranging symbolic items within a pre-defined space.
By limiting her source materials to common, organic items such as paper, cloth, wax, charcoal, wood and ink and her palette to black and white with splashes of color, and by corralling some of her materials within box-like wooden frames, Donohue draws on her Jungian experience to move forward in her art practice.
She builds on her dreams and tries to verge toward new meaning. “As I go through time I’m making work that emerges from the elements of mystery and containment and intensity,” she said, “just as we move forward in our lives and evolve as people.