ART REVIEW: Ghostly Echoes in Line and Thought - Marie Schoeff's intriguing, subtle exhibition in the new Jane Deering Gallery space deftly channels visual energy forces
Santa Barbara News Press, Scene, page 46
January 13, 2012
BY JOSEF WOODARD, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
MARIE SCHOEFF, 'TRACES'
When: through Jan. 29, 2012
Where: Jane Deering Gallery, 128 E. Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara janedeeringgallery.com
Longtime Santa Barbara-based artist Marie Schoeff has been intriguing eyes and minds for many years, in various settings, including a pair of notable sightings last fall. She appeared in a selection of local artists' work from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art's permanent collection, and shortly thereafter as one of the wedded artists in focus in "Double Trouble: Married to Art and Each Other," a conceptual outing at Arts Fund Gallery.
But for a truer taste of Schoeff's recent work and aesthetic thinking, proceed to the Jane Deering Gallery, the impressive new art space on Canon Perdido (which locals may identify as situated between the defunct and beloved Jimmy's Oriental Gardens and the beloved and thriving Sojourner Café). Schoeff's current show, "TRACES," lays out the conceptual gist and the gestural uniqueness of a series of subtle, process-minded variations on the drawing/print theme.
Expanding on the implications of her show's title, "TRACES" involves multiple meanings of the "tracing" impulse. Schoeff has established a system of tracing visual and expressive impulses, often animated abstract linear bursts, as an aesthetic modus operandi. But she also uses a personalized technique of tracing and impacting from one drawing to other "ghostly" versions of the original.
Fittingly, Schoeff explains that her work deals with the elusive but undeniably pressing concerns of "absence, memory and loss," and that the impetus for much of the visual material rises out of the reality and symbolic portent of the female body, as a nurturing and transformative source.
While three denser-line dry point pieces hang on the back wall, in the "Coil" series, making an assertive visual impact — assertive, in terms relative to other art in the room — many of the other pieces here rely on a system of Plexiglass plates, ink and an original drawing, which tells only part of the story. Because of this doubling and echoing method, each piece on the wall contains a secret life, turned away from view.
As if to hint at the secret coding of the magician's trickery, however, two of the works have been situated in the middle of the gallery, revealing two sides of the art-making story. "Piggy Back" features a vaguely geological and/or anatomical form, extended further into an abstracted realm on the reverse. "Ghost Barbie" is an apparitional or ritual drawing of a female torso, floating in the ether of Schoeff's artistic determining.
Cheeky though the title "Ghost Barbie" may seem, Schoeff uses the term "ghost" in a freer way than we might initially infer, as a way of alluding to the morphing and transforming process at hand. Thus, we get "Spinner" and "Ghost Spinner" and "Duomo Dog" and "Duomo Ghost," as interrelated variations from the primal impulse of an original drawing.
As for the nature and evocation of the drawing impulses themselves, the artist works an effective line between control and chance — a combination evident in the art, as a whole. In "Plumb" and "Plumbless," a series of spirals, curlicues and rugged arabesques suggest both coiled intensity and gentle freehand invention. "Lasso" blends its squiggling lines into an almost figurative larger form, while "Rouleau de Fantome" could be read as poetic entrails and palimpsests.
Suffice to say, this body of work is very much a body of work-in-progress. With "TRACES," Schoeff seems less interested in the fixity or declarative aspect of a given image (which are often one half of a double image) than exploring a process of elaborating or deconstructing what we see. She is lured by the idea of ever-unfinished arrival.