How often do you encounter originality? Not some re-hashed, updated, appropriated, two-point-o version of thinking-out-of-the box freshness. I mean genuine, authentic anomaly.
I had to think hard about it to find those instances in my life. But what jumped to mind immediately is when I met (1) Christy, my insane teen-mom anarcho-vegan traveling mate; (2) Mary Carothers, my insane anarcho-omnivore professor of (social practice) photography; and (3) Michelle Word, my insane art school studio-mate.
When I first met Michelle she was wearing feathers in her hair, a skirt pulled up to her armpits and some sort of vest that some kindergarten teacher/grandmother made as a gift in 1987. When I first saw her work, I thought, “Where is the negative space? I don’t understand you at all. We are going to get along famously.”
That was ten years ago, and I am happy to report that she has only gotten weirder. Ms. Word’s artwork is mixed-media collage on Armstrong-levels of performance enhancing drugs. Collecting unlawful amounts of found paper, thrift store fabrics, odd objects and homespun mementos, Word sews it all together with discordant color, texture and an explosive compositional-sense that completely negates the regularity of the square canvas format. These works must be contained, because they are infectious. Like salted watermelon, you wouldn’t think it, but it works.
The only thing “regular” about her two-dimensional body of work is that they are contained within a picture plane. Their formal chromatic combustion gives the viewer pause – you have to figure this work out. What is the artist using and what is this image doing? Conversely, the aesthetic of Word’s collage installations is quiet, floral, exhibiting a sense of melancholic gravity that makes you want to sit down because the world is heavy and this work is so light.
Now, I must contradict myself for a moment to state that her work has artistic correlatives. Julie Mehretu and Matthew Ritchie, both compositional strati formers, would find Ms. Word’s work exceptionally compelling. Annette Messager would completely dig the installations and offer to share her stuffed animal collection with Ms. Word.
Now Louisville can see for itself. Michelle has a one-woman show opening at the Krantz Gallery, at Jefferson Community and Technical College. The opening is Tuesday, February 26, from 4 to 6 p.m. Come and meet the artist. She may possibly be wearing a Sunday hat, opera gloves and a mohair poncho.
Tim & Dair Mathistad
Katie & Chris Haulter
Kathy Todd Chaney
Angie Reed Garner