by Kristen Schweizer
first published on Vanguard Culture
When we hear the term “mixed media,” many merely imagine complicated collages or other fastidiously fastened objects to canvas. At least, this was my inclination. Artist Cathy Breslaw shatters expectations with installations, wall work and drawings that seemingly defy both gravity and light. Her current exhibition, Imaginings, opened yesterday at the James Allen Rose Art Gallery at Francis Parker School in San Diego.
The instantly striking piece is Dream Scape, an installation made from industrial mesh suspended from the high ceilings of the gallery above portions of fabrics and paintings on the floor. Breslaw explained she was “inspired by the natural light, space and open high ceilings of the Rose Gallery.” I, however, was struck by the impactful nature of a fabric often written off as useless. Tulle, industrial mesh: these opaque fabrics are rarely the strength of a dress or window. However, they finally find center stage as somehow both substantial and subtle within Dream Scape.
That same sentiment is throughout her wall pieces as well. Translucent mesh, dyed and layered, seem like Rothko-reminiscent watercolor murals from afar. It is only up close that the viewer realizes her intentional delicacy. The painted mesh, somehow both inspiring a ballerina’s skirt and the protective shield of a screen door, are layered deliberately. The pieces wait unwearyingly; but it is merely a holding pattern. Upon the first breath of the viewer or gesture from the room: the pieces all dance. Alive and reactive to the slightest breeze, they move like the sky and watercolor in motion. It’s impossible to see the piece the same way twice as a result. It requires the viewer to change their opinion, to see new colors within the layers.
Breslaw’s mastery is evident in the construction. More often than not I found myself searching the seams and edges for proof that these pieces were deliberate. The work is so full of life it’s easy to believe that it made itself until you take a closer look…then that the purposeful expression and shape-making becomes apparent.
The genius is echoed in comparison. As the gallery is housed within a school, student mixed media art with colored mesh is also featured. While the students’ color, enthusiasm and ideas show bravely, they prove that a true artist finds more than immediate color, patterns, and texture for her inspiration. The student art is solidly pretty – but that is all it is. Breslaw’s art is impactful in its tenuous patience; a breathless reminder of what beauty actually is.
Imaginings runs from Thursday, April 2 through May 5, open from 7:30AM to 3:30PM at James Allen Rose Art Gallery at Francis Parker School, 6501 Linda Vista Road, San Diego, CA 92111.