Art » Art Feature

Mind Trips

Kathleen Holder and Meikle Gardner take us there.



Anamnesis," Kathleen Holder's current show at David Lusk Gallery, is one of the most emotionally powerful exhibitions in Memphis this year. Like luminists' landscapes and particularly Mark Rothko's late paintings, Holder's nuanced and intensely saturated pastels burn with a mystical intensity.

"Anamnesis" means remembering, and her works reflect a calling up of deeply buried memories -- an image or idea that is in the brain but just beyond reach and then spontaneously pops up.

Phrases that sound like poetry -- "I am the house where the moon lives" -- occurred to the artist as her fingers spread particles of bluish and golden-white pastels across fields of carmines, violets, scarlets, and cadmium reds in Anamnesis X.

Faint shards of light inside barely visible receptacles could be dying embers in ancient caves (Anamnesis IV) or slivers of gold in alchemists' cauldrons (Anamnesis XI) or chemical reactions in our bellies (Anamnesis IV) or Holder's memories of purple-pink steam rising from a smoldering house fire (Anamnesis XII).

Her almost imperceptible, softly glowing apexes invoke images of Gothic arches (Anamnesis X); the tips of a pope's or wizard's hat radiating their masters' special powers (Anamnesis IV); or boat bows emerging from moonlit mists (one of Holder's metaphors for accessing alternate states of consciousness).

Flecks of golden-white pastel backed by midnight blues (Anamnesis III) or dark umbers (Anamnesis XII) bring to mind pinpoints of light playing out Bell's theorem about the interconnectedness of particles across vast expanses of space. Like visionary poets and philosophers, Holder intuits that all things arise from common ground. Her art attunes our sensibilities to the point where "unified whole" and "ground of being" are no longer philosophical jargon or tenets of faith but deeply felt experiences. This artist draws us into "the house where the moon lives," where a chorus of memories, dreams, and sensations pool and reconfigure into the most mysterious of all cauldrons -- the human psyche.

Kathleen Holder at David Lusk Gallery through April 2nd

Meikle Gardner's current exhibit fills two walls of Perry Nicole's beautiful new gallery space in Chickasaw Oaks. The oils on canvas he describes as a "visual presentation of the interconnected workings of thought processes." But these works are not dry, intellectual musings. Here is thinking in all its inventive, obsessive, self-reflective glory. The paintings were created within the last six months, and the works' sharply defined motifs, interlocking grids, intricate weaves, and highly expressive colors tell us about the challenges of preparing for a major show.

Spirit Ditch is dizzyingly intricate. The composition's multilayered weave unravels, and an oozing, gummy substance drips from the threads. Beyond that is pitch-blackness. At the bottom of this structure, a salmon-colored shape with multiple appendages looks like some sort of spiderlike, fleshy creature caught in its own web. Claustrophobic and disorienting, Spirit Ditch's subtitle could be: "Trying to micromanage the void (or God or creative mind) is not a good idea."

Gardner's ability to build gesture, color, and composition to intense pitches produces true delight in Maiden Voyage. In this work, the unraveling threads, like those in Spirit Ditch, become a sieve that delicately holds the composition together. Forest greens and orange ochres are highlighted by electric-yellow lines looping, snaking, trailing off, and beginning again. The work is playful and experimental and is punctuated by yellow asterisks to suggest the epiphanies that arise from free-flow thought.

Gray grids superimpose Shiva Saw, a shape-shifting abstraction of spring greens. About the fifth layer down there is what looks to be a pale-green radar screen with finely incised crosshatching. This is an organic form, a life force, and here is its central switchboard. What a richly realized abstraction of Shiva, the Hindu god of creation and destruction. "Shiva saw" (and every creator knows) that each new idea requires working through some old patterns and presumptions.

The artist steps back for a broader view in Tsunami Lights, a haunting combination of title, color, and design. The pale-blue background is calm now. Strewn across its surface are gold and rust-brown gridirons that have been twisted by some monumental force. Superimposed starlight creates the impression that we are viewing the site of devastation from a great height.

In Chinese New Year, Gardner goes all the way down -- past grids, past intricate weaves, past finely etched switchboards, to delicate green and blue washes and untouched white paper. His signature grids become unfurling ebony and red ribbons that curl around expressive dots and jottings of Eastern calligraphy in gestures so loose and un-self-conscious they read like finger-painting.

Gardner's major new show has successfully opened, his slate is clearing, and Chinese New Year, one of his most satisfying new works, feels like celebration and letting go.

Meikle Gardner at Perry Nicole Fine Art through March 30th

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