Vitality Turns Memory into Art
BY CATHERINE RICHERT
Vitality, an art show by senior Julia Sarene Rosenberg fuses varied
media to create a collection of pieces that serve as portal into memories,
both hers and the viewers’. “Much of my work is tied to memory,” Rosenberg
wrote in her personal statement. “The very act of remembering can take
us to many places. In my work I choose to focus not only on distinctive
memories and stories from my life, but also on memories that feel more
eternal and abstract to me.”
(photo by Pauline Shapiro)
Rosenberg further describes her work as
“direct and improvisational, but not at all by accident. It’s all very
connected and rooted.”
Indeed, her use of vibrant colors and cellular shapes pull the pieces
together while the use of various media allows the artist to take the
message and aesthetic quality of her work in several directions.
The most striking piece in the collection, “Place of Entry and Departure:
A Commemoration” is a shelter located in the center of Fisher Hall.
The structure, which Rosenberg said “serves as an in-between space,
but also exists in itself,” is painted in vibrant blue and accentuated
with carved wood panels. Each panel depicts an image associated with
growth, such as the sun, trees and human figures. Rosenberg said these
panels were the reason she built the larger structure. “I wanted something
to hold the wood relief carvings with integrity,” she said.
Another striking feature of the structure is the curved roof covered
with an elaborate crocheted blanket made by her grandmother. Rosenberg
said, “Crocheting was very important for the women on my father’s side
of the family.” This skill she learned while growing up has influenced
her work immensely.
“I was fascinated with the detail [of crocheted items] and would study
them with my hand,” she said. This attention to detail and complex patterns
reminiscent of crochet can be seen in all of Rosenberg’s work.
Rosenberg also invites the viewer to walk through the structure. This
interactive quality was important to Rosenberg. “The house is a turning
point for my art,” she said. “Interactiveness is not always included
in my art.”
Rosenberg creates an even more interactive area in one corner of the
room. There a lamp, a pillow to sit on and a shelf create a comfortable
area where the viewer can peruse Rosenberg’s smaller projects. Her handmade
books contain a collection of memories and drawings; one contains the
doodles Rosenberg cut out of her science notebooks from her first two
years at Oberlin. Another speaks directly to the mission of Rosenberg’s
work: “I feel that I was put here for the past and the future,” she
writes in the book, “kind of like I’m a transmitter. My carvings, drawings,
paintings, visions — they’re not mine alone.”
Rosenberg demonstrates her ability to combine several media into one
work in “Bedtime Conversations with Those No Longer Here.” The piece
speaks directly to Rosenberg’s fascination with the celestial and spiritual:
“I have a growing interest in the place where the “real”/material world
meets the mystical/spiritual world,” she writes.
The background of the three-dimensional work is a wood panel depicting
human faces on a night sky. Between this panel and the foreground, there
is a window, a gateway connecting the material to the celestial. The
foreground serves as a shelf for three objects made of metal wire: an
eye, an ear and a mouth, all vehicles of communication.
“Bedtime Conversations…” is suggestive of Betye Saar, an artist who
Rosenberg sees as having a huge impact on her own pieces. Saar’s work
has “influenced and inspired me greatly, and also has allowed me to
more fully understand my own self and work,” wrote Rosenberg.
Three black and white paintings on Fisher’s far wall contrast greatly
with the rest of the show. The lack of color makes them static, a far
cry from the flow and dynamic quality so well captured in the rest of
Large and imposing, the paintings are out of place and seem to be more
a demonstration of Rosenberg’s ability to create highly stylized designs
than anything else.
But this lack of energy is compensated for in the rest of Rosenberg’s
work. Her representations of memories are presented in a highly personal
manner, yet become accessible with Rosenberg’s willingness to share
them through her art. The viewer becomes enveloped in the colors and
textures, recognizing the unmistakable vitality of Rosenberg’s work.