Animal, Mineral, Digital, Spiritual: Jessica Drenk Explores Materials and Patterns at Conrad Wilde GallerySaturday, November 6th, 2010
One of my favorite Tucson artists, Jessica Drenk, no longer resides in Arizona, so her return to The Baked Apple for a new solo show at the Conrad Wilde Gallery is welcome news indeed.
I first met Jessica some years ago during the Open Studio Tour. She had recently graduated from U of A with an MFA in fine arts and I was immediately enthralled by her work. My own professional life revolves around geology, fossils, art, meteorite science and related disciplines, and Jessica’s remarkable pieces displayed in the studio that day were fascinating to me, carrying within them an ancient and natural quality, as if they were valuable archaeological or paleontological artifacts.
A few artists—notably Robert Smithson and Stu Jenks—have managed to infuse their visionary creations with the essence of nature and landscape. However, whereas Smithson might transport found rocks into the studio (or fashion giant site specific sculptures such as Spiral Jetty), and Jenks might build a spiral of rocks on a lonely beach or in a silent forest, Ms. Drenk uses man-made materials and found objects like books and PVC in the creation of works that resemble things we see in the natural world, but which are entirely unique.
For a previous body of work Ms. Drenk began literally and physically exploring the secrets of books. She devised an intriguing process that involved submerging found books in wax, shaving and chiseling off pieces, and arranging the slivers in patterns. The resulting works were reminiscent of delicate shells found by the sea, but carried imprinted upon them barely legible fragments of text; mysterious and intriguing.
Ms. Drenk’s newest works still maintain an ethereal connection with the natural world, but appear larger, more involved, and seem to carry a hypnotic quality that reminds me of the patterns formed in nature by waves, bees, and perhaps even Australian white ants chewing through dry tree branches; all juxtaposed alongside geometric forms inspired by the digital world in which we continually become more and more immersed.
From the “Artist’s Statement”:
My work is a response to, and experimentation with, materials. Each series of work begins with a specific material: books, PVC pipes, rolls of toilet paper, or planks of wood, and my own desire to delve into that material—to play with it, reshape it, and change it into something new.
Jessica Drenk’s new show, Materials In Balance, opens this evening at Conrad Wilde Gallery, 439 North Sixth Avenue, #171, with an artist’s reception from 6 to 9 pm. The exhibition continues until November 27 and the gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 am to 5 pm, and by appointment.