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CONNIE MISSISSIPPI

by Ray Zone

(Brand Library Art Gallery, Glendale) The passage of time suggests a circle. Time's cyclic nature is seen in the waxing and waning of the moon, the turning of the earth on its axis, and the faces of clocks which bear the circular motion of hands which return at regular intervals. The simple shape of the circle is symbolically and spiritually rich in temporal meaning. Mortal life is a circular progression.

Connie Mississippi's sculpture installation, titled The Garden of Time, is an exploration of the nature of time through the medium of wood which has been turned on a custom-built eight-foot lathe. Mississippi explains, "Creating a garden allowed me to investigate aspects of time like seasonal changes, the life and death cycle, growth and decay in a form accessible to all of us."

The artist transforms the gallery space into a unique form of garden, and though the arrangements and shapes are representational, their abstract nature serves as an inquiry into nature's mysteries as if to conjoin the obvious with the unknowable. Individual sculptures bear this same quality. They are suggestive of real objects and yet resolutely abstract. In this whimsically forged garden we are thrust into a new perception of nature.

A work such as May I Have a Minute of Your Time?, made from laminated plywood which has been turned and carved, has an otherworldly air. It is an elegant and wonderfully crafted inverted cone with flowing indentations on one side. But it seems to pose a mysterious question in its imperious quietude. Perhaps it asks us "What am I?" And by so doing it can elicit us to ask the same question of ourselves.


“May I Have a Minute of Your
Time?” laminated, turned
and carved plywood,
48” h x 23” dia., 1998.

 

"Spiral for Alice Aycock,"
laminated, turned, carved &
bleached Baltic birch
plywood, 40 x 39", 1998.


"Garden of Time" fruit trees,
turned wood with steel/Basswood
fruit, turned & painted,
7' x 6' ht x 14" diam, 1998.

 

 

 

"Time Life of the 20th Century,"
Basswood, turned & carved with
lacquer, 8" x 12" ht x 3"
diam
, 1998.

Many of the sculptures in the garden are named for female sculptors who have worked in the twentieth century. The artist hopes to honor these women who have lived during this, the first century in which women have been positioned to freely create art and gain recognition for their work. One such sculpture is Marisol Object, made from Baltic birch plywood which has been laminated, turned and carved. It resembles an elegant mushroom, standing over two feet high with graceful ellipses carved smoothly atop. Spiral for Alice Aycock, is a very different work with a black Douglas fir spiral curling around the top of a barrelled base of Baltic birch.

Sheer whimsy informs the Garden of Time fruit trees that stand seven feet high. Here, turned abstract Basswood fruit that is faintly electronic looking hangs down from gently curving steel springs planted in perfectly turned trunks. These are fruit trees from a cartoon in outer space, Miro via a paperback science fiction book cover by Powers. It is both instantly recognizable and yet tantalizingly abstract.

Several of the works acquire immediacy by grouping multiple objects together. Their congregation of differences give them an affective humanity. A group such as Time Life of the 20th Century seems to converse among itself while moving circularly in a slow, alien shuffle. The objects in Still Life of Time sit on a flat circular base looking edible and appealing. You will subliminally and instantly recognize the purpose of these objects and their relative functions in their discrete universe.

There is an oblique and fascinating repurposing of nature in the work of Mississippi. She takes the fallen gifts of nature and through the powerful circularity of the lathe reinvents an- other world that resembles the original yet is quite new. The new nature that Mississippi invents is recognizable with similar signposts and cues to our own. And yet the world of her invention is also alien and provocative, with a delicately fastidious humor. It is a powerful analogue for what we already know, pointing to what we have yet to discover.