In the Absence of Presence

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The last time I went to the Noreen Reale Falcone Library (1419 Salt Springs Road, Syracuse, New York 13214), the LeMoyne College campus looked a lot different.  They’ve since uprooted a nearby parking lot in favor of more grassy knolls (which are currently snow-covered).  I had to ask several people to direct me to it once I found visitor parking across the street.  It was, like, in the Hunger Games when they discombobulated the players by topsy-turvy-ing the playing field computer simulation.  The building didn’t even look the same to me as I came upon it from a different angle.  I mean, where was I?

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Eventually, I found my friend Penny and together we chatted with Gina Occhiogrosso, who is currently showing oil paintings and mixed-media fabrications at the Wilson Art Gallery located inside the library.

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Occhiogrosso graciously shared information with us regarding her artist inner-voice.  Her mother (now retired) was an artist and shoe designer with a penchant for “junking” (as my sister calls it), filling her home with flea market finds in various states of patina-ed wear.  Decades of layers that make up a life of surroundings.  As the artist pondered this home landscape, she created paper cut-outs from photographs she’d taken then abstracted them via paper collages.  Intrigued by the void, the absence of the material, she set upon painting large scale versions of these pieces.

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The result becomes its own presence, its own entity put into the world without the necessity of the language of its origin.

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It is beautiful to witness these things and know their secrets, though, because I, personally, just love knowing.

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There is artwork in this show that spans approximately three years of work.  More paper collages are meant to represent the anxiety of environmental disaster, in this case, the tsunami disaster of 2011.  Occhiogrosso creates that absence of presence once again, cutting images, rearranging them and turning them into solid-colored shapes that intertwine to create something vaguely familiar but completely void of the emotion that inspired them.

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In addition, there are fabric collages that are stitched, painted and inked.  Here the work becomes layered, as though there is more to discover, as if she’s hiding a legend inside.  I am intrigued by this body of work.  Occhiogrosso’s talent lies in the bridge between fear and the journey to a calmer, gentler space via the shapes of the present.  She seems to be on a discovery to something more.  I stumbled into something wonderfully puzzling and I am very interested to see what happens next.

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***from the artist’s web-site

I am a painter whose work is composed not only through the application of wet color on a surface, but through processes of disassembly and realignment, and the incorporation of common, everyday materials like thread and yarn. These activities and elements allow me to explore anxiety, loss, humor and heroic femininity.

The hallowed and often masculinized tradition of painting is subverted in my work through a repeated process of cutting and then sewing painted surfaces together to develop new forms, dynamic connections and illusions of depth. Where these freshly stitched edges join, there is a seam, which has both linear and sculptural qualities. The seam acts as a geometric disrupter of curvy ellipses and other organic forms that are carefully rendered and then carved up with alternating precision and chance. The ghost of those cut edges has its own subtle presence. Where the fabric overlaps in the reverse of the painting, a slightly more opaque path is traced, issuing a new element whose origin is not at first apparent to the viewer.

I am interested in developing a surface that’s full of the suggestive qualities that abstraction can create. The stitched paintings supply this through the deliberate recalibration of shapes and their relationships to one another. In parallel to these, and often in service to them, collage becomes an important method for revealing new, unexpected interpretations of form. The sources of the collaged materials are often photographs of real things and places that hold meaning for me. As in the paintings, that information is disrupted and reinterpreted in compositions that suggest the fleeting nature of forces, figures and time.

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Gina Occhiogrosso is an Associate Professor and Foundations Coordinator at The College of St. Rose in Albany, New York.  She is represented by several galleries and has been in numerous group shows.  She is a MacDowell Colony Fellow.  This exhibition will remain on view at Wilson Art Gallery during regular library hours through February 21, 2020.  For more information call (315) 445-4330.

 

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