Red Heed Not

Take a second and click over to Steven Wolf Fine Arts’ site and take in the page of works by Theresa Ganz. I’ll wait. Even in the detail images, the wreaths look lush, the tangle of branches full of complicated depth. So strange then to see them in person, up close, the work of the scissors or exacto knife inescapable, the flowers glowing as if from an internal light in the C-Print.
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All of the bunched flowers and thick nests of wood in the exhibit Shadow on the Green were photographed by the artist, after which the negative space was carefully excised before mounting. The contrast between what shows up on the website and the actual works is striking. Viewing the genuine article from a foot or two away there is no illusion: they are clearly composed of reproductions. The edges around the flowers are often ruler-straight rather than organic. Barely visible on the website are the black ribbons, looking like strands of video tape woven through the works.
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All are somber meditations on war and casualty, the titles of the collages taken from works by Melville and Whitman, while the materials point to deeper symbolism. “In the Victorian language of flowers,” the gallery site tells us, “Nasturtium represent Patriotism and Victory in Battle. In Judaism the black ribbon is a symbol of mourning.” Ganz’s work was foremost in my mind yesterday when I read the umpteenth complaint online in response to the story of a potential war crime that such reporting never includes an addendum telling about all the good things soldiers are doing, which would act I suppose like a kind of breath mint applied after a particularly garlicky meal. In the Shadow on the Green series there is no victory without loss: the two are interwoven and inseparable. The point is made all the more palpable by that contrast between what appears real from the distance, if you will, of digital reproduction and the art on the gallery wall. The obviousness of the reproduction carries that eerie taint of reportage, of events and objects recorded that happened somewhere else. Staring directly into one of the compositions of layered sticks, massed like piles of hair, provides an eerie meditation likely to provide an emotional response you might not be expecting (at least it did in my case) as your mind reads into the visual noise all manner of bitter associations.

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