Rubbing Shoulders.

There have been so many times when I’ve been looking at a work of art that I wished I could meet the artist, ask them questions, or just tell them how much I like their work. And then, by pure luck, I was at the Sarratt Gallery and a tall, white-haired woman with glasses was trying to get a video incorporated in one of the works to play. And that’s how I met artist Christie Nuell and her brother-in-law, who just happened to be there looking at some of her works that are on display until May 30th. And what could I say? When I came in the first work that drew my attention was Voyages. Made up of three contiguous panels of etched gesso, with a ship distinct in the far right panel, this seems to capture the rapidly changing nature of stormy weather, but, like the other pieces of etched gesso, it has intensely layered detail. Her copper-framed works, which are older, were more playful, almost like the work of a completely different artist. Chocolate IV, for instance, has an elegant white truffle resting in a cockle shell like Botticelli’s Venus, with the legend, “Every luxury must be paid for” floating above it. Old images of island natives and cacao beans are etched into the copper frame surrounding it; we’re often too unaware of the history of the things we enjoy. The contrasts are striking; on the one hand the copper-framed works seem like playful, well-constructed riffs on Pop Art, particularly Xenophobia, which is a hilarious twist of East meets West: Japanese and Thai prepared food packages frame Italian seasoning, falafel mix, Manishevitz matzo meal, and Ortega seasoning. The gessoed boards, on the other hand, are at the other end of the spectrum, prompting contemplation of a different, darker sort. If you can’t get to the show, check out her short film Underworld, which is incorporated into a larger piece of the same name but also stands on its own.

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