30 year Ithaca native lets loose with shape and color
Of her 18 piece show, “Untethered” is fastened prominently to the east wall of State of the Arts prime viewing gallery at 120 W State St. in Ithaca.
“Untethered” is overwhelmingly white. But it is like peering through breaks in clouds where you can piece together the potential of a landscape, perhaps a seashore. With hints of greens, browns and blues, the collection of form and color offers a feeling of place and perspective.
Flanking the whitewashed work to the north is “Freeform,” an oil on canvas with a limited color pallet which again offers a hint of objecthood and place. Like a child’s offering of the sun seen through the upper right hand corner of a window, “Freeform” can be seen as an amorphous window frame with signs of structure in the volumetric ridgeline of a house and salmon colored drapes hanging from a mullion subtly bolstered by a gust of wind. Heat and movement seems to escape from the canvas.
“Autumnal Harmony” flanks “Untethered” to the south. It is a checkerboard of relational colors framed in blue grays with layer upon layer of paint daubs of varying tints and shades to create a flow of color and depth. The neutral gray framing acts like a buffer to the outside world so your visual field can center on the pattern and color at play.
“Minds eye” is another knifed on delicious frosting of color. Pushed, pulled, scraped, and tooled with an expressive hand until the pigments collect, collide and streak, becoming tinted striations and color forms. This is the creative event. The events that follow are those reactions from the painting’s audience.
The answer to abstract expressionism is not to conjure a recognizable form and let it fall neatly into a known category, although for some like myself it can’t be helped. Answers to abstract art can be found in the emotional relationship between the medium and the viewer. It is reactionary, brought about by the artists expression of self through pigment. Ithaca artist Ethel Vrana takes delight in this.
Standing in front of the piece she asks “What do you think?” “The name of the show is form and feeling,” I thought. I’m not supposed to think. I had that thought after I told her what I was thinking and putting real-world objects to her forms.
Moving around the room she asks her viewer “What do you think?” She’s gauging the works’ success by gauging the viewer’s reaction. “Anyone can see anything they want, and for me it’s an event” said Vrana at her opening Friday while describing her expectations of viewers of “Form and Feeling.” If they are speechless for a moment and then only adjectives rooted in emotion emerge from their lips then success! “Wow” was one of those adjectives that could be heard at State of the Arts gallery First Friday Gallery walking tour.
The pieces can work to trick you out of your every-day mind and startle you into a reaction without thought. The impressions play at your emotive center after getting past your eyeballs. Let’s call it more of a talent than trickery.