Thursday, August 25, 2016

Elise Richman’s Spectral

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 25, 2016
“Spectral,” mixed-media installation, photo courtesy Matter
Elise Richman’s unique installation, “Spectral" at Matter Gallery may be difficult for many to grasp, but should be worth the effort to really look and contemplate deeply.
Call it a wall hanging, a painting or assemblage with plastics, this piece explores properties of light and color and was inspired, according to a statement from the gallery, by the phenomenon of shimmering color seen in a butterfly’s wing.
The term “spectral” means of or like a ghost, a phantom, incorporeal, insubstantial, otherworldly. A secondary definition is of or relating to a spectrum, which is what you get when sunlight passes through a prism to produce light of many colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Richman’s “Spectral,” is all of that, but not in a spectacular, light-show kind of way. There are color changes that some viewers may find hard to see, and there is a visual investigation of the nature of absence of color.
It can be seen as a single work of art with multiple parts or perhaps as two similar but contrasting works hung side-by-side. On the left are four flat panes of plastic in alternating colors: blue, yellow, blue, yellow. Dull colors, but with intensely colored edges. The blue edges are dark, and the yellow ones are like lemon-colored light. Matching in color are a group of rods that stand out from the wall above these sheets, and suspended from these rods are clear plastic sheets in the shape of tall, multi-faceted tents or umbrellas that are colorless but act as prisms. On the right, a similar arrangement consists of three tall, rectangular sheets of light blue plastic sheets with dark blue edges with more clear, tent-like prisms suspended in front of them.
The installation needs to be studied slowly and from many points of view. Don’t approach it expecting something like a kaleidoscope and you might enjoy the subtly shifting and shimmering colors.
Richman co-programs the Art+Sci Lecture Series at Tacoma Art Museum. She was a finalist for the 2015 Neddy Award, recipient of the 2014 Davis Teaching Award, and of the 2014 Foundation of Art Award from the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation.
Richman explains: “The interplay between material form, environmental conditions and visual perception inform ‘Spectral.’ Repetition and transformation infuse the process of creating ‘Spectral’s’ shimmering three-D forms from rectangular sheets of plastic. Multiple incised lines transform flat Dura Lar into dimensional angles.
“While these transparent forms have no inherent color they capture and are activated by light and color in the surrounding environment. Ever-shifting reflections express a state of constant interaction as in the shifting glow of a blue morpho’s delicate wing. Our own capacity for optical perception, as well as the interaction between matter and surrounding environments are integral to the manifestation of structural colors.”
Also showing with Richman are The Bold and the Black, abstract sumi ink paintings by Selinda Sheridan, and original ceramics by Melissa Balch.

Spectral by Elise Richman, Saturdays noon to 6 p.m., or by appointment, through Oct. 1. Call 253.961.5220 or 253.879.3701 for an appointment. Matter, 821 Pacific Ave., Tacoma.

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