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Color and Influence at New Shows at Firmament Gallery and Hamilton Square

https://jcitytimes.com/color-and-influence-at-new-shows-at-firmament-gallery-and-hamilton-square/

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Nevertheless, we keep trying. MANA Contemporary, for instance, introduced itself as an arts community and turbine for creative collisions. It’s unclear how much crosstalk is happening behind those big, slab-like studio doors, though. Donna Kessinger, the deputy director of 14C and the fourth participant in the “Influencers” show, starred in a celebrated solo exhibition at MANA in August 2022. “It’s Not the End of the World… Yet” presented Kessinger as an artist with a clear personal vision and methods of expression that allowed her to bring her ideas to her canvases with assurance.

She’s only contributed one prominent piece to the Firmament show, but it’s a doozy.  “Push Pull,” a nine-panel painting, is a repository of Kessinger’s benevolent wizardry — a play of hue, shape, texture, and tricks designed to delight and perturb the eye.  She’s poked hundreds of holes in lines in her canvases, stained them red, and gotten the apertures to mess with the viewer’s perception of color and shape. On top of that, she’s varied the thickness of the canvases, creating subtle destabilization and drawing the audience closer. It can be appreciated for the intrigue it generates, but it also be understood as a theoretical piece about penetration, and how deep into a work of art it’s possible to get. 

Because of her importance to the scene and her evident talent, Kessinger is exactly the sort of creator with the capacity to exert influence over other artists. MANA was designed to be an art laboratory; if it truly is one, we’d expect to see a response to Kessinger’s pieces. That doesn’t mean artists imitating the things she does. That’d be mimicry, not influence.  Influence means attunement to the ideas that Kessinger is presenting through the things she’s created.  Beyond the formal features of her paintings, there are discernible queer and feminist implications to Kessinger’s approach. There’s a lot in her work for a receptive artist to be influenced by. If she’s to be influential, rather than merely an influencer, other artists have to hear her call and answer back.

What I’m describing is a pretty rare thing, but it does happen; indeed, it must happen for a scene to truly catch fire...  

by Tris MCcall

Early in her career Donna Rae was mentored by powerful Art womyn, including Marsha Tucker, Alanna Heiss, Jenny Dixon and Kate Millett. She is deeply familiar with operations relating to Womyn’s Artist Colonies, top tier and smaller museums traditional galleries and Alternative Art Spaces.

The paintings represent the mental space somewhere between dreams, memories and trying to forget.  Chunky surfaces are built up slowly, removed bit by bit and manipulated again and again. The process becomes meditation with no direction in mind. 

Her feminist media based video artwork, has been cloned and archived on Rhizome’s Artbase at the New Museum, is live on http://artfem.tv/documentary/ has been screened at the Jersey City Museum and at alternative spaces in the US and abroad. Kessinger’s REPOhistory sign which was created for the Entering Buttermilk Bottom Project, is archived by NYU Fales Library and Special Collections. Since the late 80’s her paintings have been collected by curators, other artists and  writers.  

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