Art Review: Ascension ascends to great art

By Indrani Kar

Mystical, ethereal, dreamscape and serene all come to mind when viewing Marcia Harris’s most recent works, an exhibit collectively entitled Ascension. The content and theme of the paintings have the ability to transport viewers into foreign worlds retaining some semblance of the familiar at the same time. A timeless essence is reflected in the work, as though one is looking through the filter of memory and has the opportunity to suspend time and momentarily witness an experience unfolding.

In fact, speaking with Harris herself, she reveals that some of her work is inspired from her own memory, as well as landscapes, both natural and urban. There is also a very elemental quality to the work. Barren tree branches growing into the wooden panel as an apparition, hinting at a deeper reality than what is noticed on the surface, compose the foreground of Sustain, one of the pieces in the exhibit. The solidity of the whole tree is itself insinuated and remains unseen, while ghostly lights in the misty background add a haunting quality to the piece.

Similarly in the pieces Blackbird and Robin, buildings stand as stark testaments to stories older than themselves, such as the journey of a river passing them. In the next moment the scene looks like the main strip of Inglewood as seen from the bird sanctuary. The title piece, Ascension, mixes mauves, pinks, purple, and blue to create a view of the sky at first and then perhaps glimpses into higher planes of consciousness or being.

Just as natural and built environments weave together to create a mood, Harris intermingles varied media such as wood, metal, collage, and acrylic paint. There is quite a process involved in the creation of her work; indeed, Harris’s work is all about process. She becomes involved in the actual making of it, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The main features of the pieces are their highly textured, sculpture-like properties. In Ascension, metal works itself into sky resembling a chinook arch in the painting, while in Blackbird and Robin metal becomes water. The wood panel baseboard is itself sanded and the artist uses her fingers as well as paintbrushes to add to the organic quality of the paintings.

Decked out in a painting uniform in her studio, Harris’s work requires full mind and body participation in order to come into being. However, she is often most satisfied with her work when the paintings unfold in their own story and take directions she wouldn’t expect but otherwise express her ideas succinctly. It is at those times when the process of her own learning from the paintings themselves adds a new dimension to her work.

As with any artist, part of the process also involves an evolving style. This exhibit is one stop among many points of changing expression. The tableaus in this exhibit portray a dynamic aliveness in captured windows of memory or scenes at different times of the day, in an updated Impressionist style, somehow ethereal, mystical and serene all at once.

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