PELL LUCY: OF A CHORD
BY DEBORAH BARLOW
In Salman Rushdie’s novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, narratives float in the sea like currents. In this memorable metaphor for finding and connecting, Haroun just has to sit in his boat and reach his hand in the water to pull up a story that
suits him. Then another, and another.
That’s how resonance often works. Something in us—a something that is undetermined—recognizes alignment more adroitly than our logical minds. And when we do make a connection, the unexpected and the uncanny can be surprising sources of depth and meaning.
Our art guidance system—the one that discovers the visual language that speaks to us powerfully and personally—is a very particular form of resonance. Now more than ever, that search system must navigate a landscape of extreme plenitude. Like the myriad of stories that are just a hand’s reach away for Haroun, art has never been more available and accessible.
As we know from many other realms however, overabundance is both a boon and a burden. Increased availability also means more noise, with even more time needed to sort and parse. Meanwhile ideological influencers and big money are jockeying relentlessly for dominance, making it hard to get airtime for those approaches that tend to be subtle—ones that lean into the intuitive, the marginal, the undefined.
Cultural critic Rebecca Solnit eyes this hegemony with a cool eye:
“Museums love artists the way that taxidermists love deer…that desire to secure, to stabilize, to render certain and definite the open-ended, nebulous, and adventurous work of artists is present in many who work in that confinement sometimes called the art world.”
Solnit offers a much needed counter argument to those trends, a critical alternative that provides a more dynamic and rewarding relationship with art:
“There is a kind of counter-criticism that seeks to expand the work of art, by connecting it, opening up its meanings, inviting in the possibilities. A great work of criticism can liberate a work of art, to be seen fully, to remain alive, to engage in a conversation that will not ever end but will instead keep feeding the imagination. Not against interpretation, but against confinement, against the killing of the spirit.”
Solnit’s words are a welcome reminder of how limitless and inclusive art actually is. They also dovetail with values Pell Lucy has embraced since its inception in 2020. Open-ended. Nebulous. Adventurous. Against confinement.
Earlier this year, 24 artists participated in Pell Lucy’s first in person exhibit, In Praise of Form. Nearly 80 art works were included in this show in Boston, with a wide range of styles and methods of working in full view. But even with such diversity on display, visitors felt the harmonic thread that held the show together. Several made mention of that during their visit, and one reviewer described the quiet hum she could feel throughout the gallery.
The artworks in this show also share a harmonic armature, and for good reason. Pell Lucy’s credo is a belief that form “possesses an intelligence of its own—an intelligence far deeper and more complex than conscious discursive thought” (Taney Roniger.) These ideas bring us together under a shared canopy in a crowded landscape, but they also have deeper implications. This is not just an aesthetic approach to art and art making. An invitation is embedded in these words: to be more conscious and connect to the world at large, to step away from the narrowbanding of a human-only point of view. An expanded sense of relatedness with all things can be of great value to an artist, but it can also speak profoundly to friends, families, art lovers, collectors and just about anyone who is choosing to be a conscious denizen of Planet Earth. This community, expanding and inclusive, has a resonance that is like a rich and sonorous chord, one that can hold many harmonies. Please join in.