Friday, March 9, 2007

Jan Nesser-Chu and the Art Rubric

Last night at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley I was knocked off my feet by the powerful works of Jan Nesser-Chu. Because the works do not fit any rubric, they could easily be dismissed. Yet I woke up this morning still seeing (and feeling) the works as if they were permanently lodged in my heart and mind.

Wordsworth wrote "Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recalled in tranquility." Jan, "in her grandmother's blood," creates a powerful environment where we visit her very private and very personal "inheritance," yet we also struck with the universal qualities of her narrative. Her voice is almost muted so her story becomes our voice telling our story. The new pictures force us to realize that we share the same planet as she. The lace dresses surrounded by dress patterns are in an intimate (sewing?) room by themselves, yet we can't touch them because of a spiderweb strung from one wall to another that creates a separation of both space and time.

Jan has put herself and her feelings "out there," displaying bromide prints of antique aprons like they were lingerie from Fredericks of Hollywood. They are images from her grandmother's era when women waited on men, and thankfully Jan has ended that era by hanging these aprons out to dry.

Bingo is another symbol of some of our mindless activities of her grandmother's generation, yet is reframed by Jan by the powerful emotive words that appear on each of the bingo cards. Another artwork talks about the meanings of names, and asks the audience to sign their names. Because each signature is so unique we hear many different voices .

I've often though and said that rubrics don't work too well for art. Good art may not get a good grade. The art hopefully will ruffle some feathers. It might be rough around the edges. It might break every rule in the book. It will, like Jan's work, open the door to the very soul of the artist. And we thank Jan for that exposure, for it lets us know some of our own secrets.