Configurations and Mutations
at Shift Gallery through April 30
by Cynthia Hibbard
Jodi Waltier harvested the idea for her Shift Show “Configurations and Mutations” in her own backyard—cob after cob of organic confetti corn.
Dried stalks from that same corn crop that she grew last summer are displayed in the window and the images it inspired fill the gallery walls in many iterations–from a corn house installation to corn monotypes, collages, paintings and collagraphs.
The lively responses Waltier has gotten so far have been very gratifying. She’s found that corn is so basic to our civilization, and these days also so controversial due to ethanol, high fructose corn syrup and GMOs, that nearly everyone she talks to about her work seems to have a corn story to share.
For Waltier personally, what began as a vehicle for focusing her overactive mind is continuing to spawn new work. “I had wanted to push myself,” she said of starting out, “but I needed to be limiting to a specific subject because I can go in every direction all at once.”
She said she chose corn because the corn kernel represents a type of essence that holds meaning on many levels, and also because the variety she grew mutates into interesting shapes, sometimes with kernels hallowed out by bees that worm inside the growing stalks.
Although the politics of corn may be alluded to overall in her work, only one of Waltier’s pieces, “Fodder,” which pairs the shape of an automobile gasket next to an ear of corn, makes an overt reference to the fuel industry.
For the most part, Waltier said she tried to reflect the more positive aspects of corn in many cultures. “Corn is vital sustenance to so many people,” she said. “Whenever we travel and we go to places where there is corn it reminds me of people who are the salt of the earth.”
Two of Waltier’s pieces are derived directly from the practices of indigenous people. The installation “Corn Wall,” actually configured in the shape of a house, was based on a photograph of corn husk bunches hung on the surface of a sod hut. In “Hot Corn Katy,” Waltier depicts an earthen vessel buried in the earth that native people used to store corn reserves underground.
Typical of Waltier’s art practice, she utilized both materials dating as far back as 1986 as well as many newly printed bits. Every scrap of paper pasted into one of her collages is printed by her own hand. She also made use of printed remnants and cut-out shapes. They are liberally woven into her “12 Variations: Corn Beach in a Storm.”
One monotype collage that took Waltier months to resolve, “Reaper Future Past,” ended up being one of her favorite pieces. It sold instantly and she almost regrets that it will leave her sight. She had worked it out in her journal, her dreams and just by staring at the thing over several months. “Restraint was something I struggled with,” she said–a sentiment all artists can understand. “My eyes know when something looks good but my brain wants to mess with it.”
The good news is that Waltier will now get to mess with corn and related images all over again in her continuing work.
“The moment before you’re here to hang the show you couldn’t be more excited,” she said. “But now I can’t wait to get back into the studio to take everything I’ve been thinking about to the next stage.”
Also, she kidded, “I want to have a tamale right now!”