…the better to hold you with, my dear… Lisa Conn at Space 1026

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[Lauren enthuses over a colorful multimedia show by Lisa Conn, who’s long parlayed her inventive ideas into children’s books and other illustrations. — the artblog editors]

Space 1026 has a knack for narrative artwork, and the gallery most definitely taps into Philadelphia’s craze for narrative, street-inspired illustration with Lisa Conn’s new show, …the better to hold you with, my dear… Conn, who joins ArtStar Boutique, Paradigm Gallery, and J.O.G. (where she’s shown previously) in a celebration of stylized, friendly illustration, now presents wonderfully romantic notions of Einstein’s Spooky Theory–which is, in short, when particles are joined, then separated by a specific distance, and each can feel what the other feels despite the distance between them. Conn combines this theory with an interest in mythology to create her characters, which she calls “Tree Saint Girls”. With hints of Margaret Keane’s “Big Eyes” paintings, Dr. Seuss-ian colors and creatures, Adventure Time illustration, and few dashes of Tim Burton’s influence and Gustav Klimt-esque patterns, …the better to hold you with, my dear… comes to fruition.

Interconnected and immersive

Lisa Conn mixed media the better to hold you with my dear Space 1026
Photo courtesy of Lisa Conn.

Conn’s installation/mural involves 12 wood panels, paintings on the walls between them, and a Dr. Seuss-meets-marionette sculpture hanging from the ceiling in the center of the room at about four feet high. The 12 panels create a tiling around the room, with plenty of space between them to encompass the various rose petals, flamingos, text, and swirling woodland wildlife Conn added to the walls. Cartoonish blood splashes across the walls as well, connecting a few of the paintings. Conn doesn’t stick to one material–her labor-intensive works are a result of some divine chemistry between acrylic and house paints, with linework executed in oil marker. She is not a planner, she says, but allows the woodgrain in the panels she paints on to guide her intuition.

Lisa Conn mixed media the better to hold you with my dear Space 1026
Photo courtesy of Lisa Conn.

Jotted-down cursive complements the menagerie of flora and fauna; poetic definitions of “entanglement,” “saint,” and “martyr” make appearances, and when coupled with Conn’s sweet, lively, and whimsical paintings, they create an effect that truly reaches into your chest and pulls at each individual heartstring. Her resume says Conn has done children’s book illustration and freelance illustration, and her website has a picture of a wall mural she did at Benna’s Café, where she’s a barista–it’s easy to see her deep connection to storytelling. The paintings are executed as diptychs, although each piece could easily stand on its own. The amount of painstaking detail applied to the linework of each painting is impressive, and the radiant rainbow of colors accentuated with black and gold is just about as saturated as the cartoons I watched every Saturday morning when I was a kid.

Sweet but dark sculpture

Lisa Conn mixed media the better to hold you with my dear Space 1026
Photo courtesy of Lisa Conn.

And, of course, we cannot forget the Seussian sculpture in the center of the gallery. There’s a sort of Wall-E meets The Lorax vibe to him, tinged with just a little bit of dark humor that you might find in an Alex Pardee illustration. Conn uses bright bits of paper shaped like feathers to coat his exterior, and a combination of cardboard, tulle, yarn…he is mostly white with two rainbows for eyebrows, a multicolored torso, and two extremely long and thin arms that look like they were ripped out of their sockets and the string messily strewn about is the blood pouring out–all frozen in time. He looks sweet and lovable from one angle until you realize his arms are being ripped out and his legs are gone, and he’s melting in a puddle. There’s a Lennie from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men sort of appeal to him–something pathetic, yet sympathetic.

Lisa Conn mixed media the better to hold you with my dear Space 1026
Photo courtesy of Lisa Conn.

Right past Lennie on the edge of the wall are Conn’s definitions of “entanglement,” “saint,” and “martyr”. A particularly beautiful phrase sits beneath the word “entanglement”. The definition states: “when two particles are so deeply linked they share the same existence”. Conn feels that martyrdom and the Spooky Theory are related–if there is one being or particle suffering somewhere in the world, its counterpart is feeling that pain as well. Conn’s paintings are all connected in the gallery by the art in between the works; they are entangled, and the diptych presentation of her Tree Saints is a really beautiful and simple way of portraying her Spooky Theory. …the better to hold you with, my dear… leaves a bittersweet taste in our mouths, and a faint smell of the forest tickling our noses.

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...the better to hold you with my dear., art & culture, lisa conn, philadelphia, space 1026

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