Arlene Distler


Marcy Hermansader

Marcy Hermansader continues her exploration of collage. In her last show, at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia, she drew images of men and women culled from newspaper clippings about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Her current work also takes as its starting point the Iraqi and Afghani wars.

In “Back Through Black” the focus has shifted to the artist’s inner scape. These pieces which, as the title suggests, are primarily black on black, are like taking a trip to the dark side of the moon. They are abstract structures that evoke a barren terrain. All incorporate a hint of color, if only a few white dashes stippled along a black torn strip of paper or cloth.

Some of the shapes have recurred in Hermansader’s work over the years – the ovoid that looks primal, biomorphic, but could as well be a comet shooting through space; the graceful arabesque line.

The work here is rich in both emotional and visual texture, though any specific “message” or thing depicted would not be easy to pin down. With titles like “Force”, “In Deep”, “History”, And then…”, we are not given many clues. Which is not to say the work is puzzling. These pieces tantalize and offer enough so that one is satisfied with letting the mystery remain mysterious.

“Force” is one of the pieces I like best, perhaps because there is more color relief than in most – the barest hint but Hermansader makes the most of it. Crimson pastel has been applied to black ground, over which is lain a fern shape, the red showing between the black fingers of its “fronds.” Black strips of paper are flecked with blue, green.

In the eight pieces included in the show, use of color, while spare, is fine-tuned and exquisitely calibrated.

The collages seem to have their own inner logic -- relief forms built up from strips of paper and fabric cascade and collide, swirl into black rivers as in “A Dark So Dark”, or coalesce, break up, darting around the intrusion of circles or ovals (“And then…….”).

In a strange way, I’m reminded of those Easter eggs we peered into as children, the space surreal and enticing, a reflective analogy for an inner state – the cheery brightness that childhood is supposed to be; here, the dark reality of war, death, and suffering is evoked with somber color and the uneasy feel of no-ground; one is pulled in, asked to look further, deeper and if one looks deeply enough into that vortex, there is redemption. As bleak as things may be, the darkness is a rich, fertile place to be.


Art New England
2008