Difficult memories

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Alums of the organization formerly known as CAN (it was such a nice, punk, postmodern acronym standing for Creative Artists Network) are using the exhibition space in the Barclay suite to organize their own shows.

The new organization title, by the way is The Center for Emerging Visual Artists. Whaaa. I can’t remember it for the life of me.

What’s up now is a show of autobiographical photos with words by Judy Gelles and prints by Lesley Mitchell.

Gelles is showing two new pieces, “He” and “She,” (top image, “She”) and seven older ones from the “Mother/Son” series, the latter forming the basis of her artist’s book, “When We Were Ten.” Both bodies of work mine old family photos.

The words are as important–and spare enough not to bog you down in the gallery.

I find the “Mother/Son” triptychs especially touching as Gelles weaves together difficult memories from her own past with things her son Jason experiences as he’s growing up. Her motherly antennae for a child’s feelings are sharp, finding the small hurts, experiences and dreams that are at once so personal and individual and at the same time universal (left, from the “Mother/Son” series).

The shadow-boxes of “He” and “She” throw shadows of the photographs and words onto the back matte so the pictures take on the immateriality of a fading memory.

The book is also there on display and available for purchase (I’m thinking nice Christmas gift). Anyway, if you’re not familiar with this body of work, it’s worth a visit.

Also showing are prints, some individual, some in series or as books, from Mitchell, in a space that seemed filled to the gills. But some of the work was able to rise above its presentation. I especially liked the inky black prints with their velvety darks and gestural arabesques (right, “Screaming” detail, a book of intaglio and woodcut prints).

Mitchell has a nice way with clouds and I do like her stamped little houses, each with a tv antenna on top. But some of the juxtapositions of imagery and style seemed haphazard.

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