by Judith Christensen
(Fresh Paint, West Side) jami hewitt's pieces appear to be quite simple. One consists of just three ink lines and six words of text. The issues they explore, however, are not simple. We know letters combine to form words, words blend to form sentences and these in turn join to form paragraphs as increasingly complex thoughts take shape. hewitt examines how the functions of these components vary as their context changes, whether there are similar building blocks for images, and how the elements of our written and visual languages interact.
To produce a series hewitt repeatedly uses an individual rubber stamp. The resulting image--made with red ink on white paper surrounded by a gold leaf border--is abstract. Unlike letters within a word or words within a sentence, which retain their identity even when we do not focus on them as we ascertain the meaning of the larger entity, the form of the stamp itself is lost.
"Demos," steel/fiberglass/overhead projectors,
15 x 12 x 32", 1995.
"Ethos," steel/fiberglass/flourscent lamps, 78 x 23 x 12", 1995.
In two other series hewitt uses letters and numbers to achieve a similar effect. In one she applies, among other things, numerals from vinyl peel-off lettering sets over a background of watercolor of reds and yellows. Because the numerals are set at right angles to one another and applied on top of one another, they lose their significance as individual numbers to become pure form--part of a pattern.
In another series, hewitt uses a larger unit-lines of text. Placed on top of one another, both lines are unreadable, thereby negating any meaning normally attached to them. Seeing the overlapping lines only formally is not enough. Some are intact and readable, and because we are in the habit of assigning meaning to strings of text the impluse is to be able to decipher them. They thus never can be read as pure form; rather, they disappoint us.
Other work returns to the smaller units of language. hewitt applies parts of the vinyl lettering--a 'D' or the interior of an 'o' or a 'p,' for example. Taken out of the context of written language these easily become elements in hewitt's own visual language.
Her poetry series which, when completed will consist of approximately 400 pieces, is the most direct and successful examination of the issue of context. Each small (6" square), simple ink drawing links to a short bit of text, all hung on the wall in a grid. Each drawing, seen in isolation, is ambiguous, but viewed within the series, and in conjunction with the artist's paintings, a sense of naturalism emerges.
Context also influences interpretation of the text. One line reading, "they mean different things in different places" is vague: you don't know who 'they' might be. The pronoun is connected to words such as "images & words," "longing" or "distance" in other pieces so as to conjoin them.
In another series there is one piece in which the text suggests an interpretation of the image--two almost-parallel ink marks assume the form of a road upon reading the word "vehicle." Not only does this illustrate hewitt's themes, it addresses them directly. Because much of the text refers to the relation between images and words, despite the visual sparsness there is an interplay between concept and precept that provides a richness that does not appear enough in other series.