Nelsonville painter explores unworldly realms
By Kevin E. Foley
Judging from the perspective of her most recent work, Dana Wigdor spends a lot of her time with her head in the clouds and beyond. Her 10 new paintings, on display at the RiverWinds Gallery in Beacon, evenly paired off in sets of five, clearly suggest a preoccupation with matters celestial, ethereal, eerie and spiritual.
Yet while her paintings reflect her own preoccupations with that which lies just beyond our physical perception, her work, with its playful and colorful elements, openly invites the individual viewer’s imagination to intersect with hers and create new ideas about what we see, what we believe, about the multiple dimensions of our existence.
Amid a crowded Beacon Second Saturday gallery opening, one could hear visitors commenting and speculating with tilted heads on where Wigdor was taking them as they stood before her canvases. And for those who greeted her with questions or remarks, she readily engaged with her own ongoing puzzlement, skepticism and delight over the work before them.
“I think it’s useful when art can ask a question of the audience, or invite them to contemplate their own beliefs or perceptions. In this way, an unrecognizable image can become an emotional window into a familiar, personal sphere,” she said in an interview with The Paper.
“My professional aim is to create a goofy, silly quality while still creating serious, credible work. It is a difficult edge to walk to achieve that,” said Wigdor
When asked if the current work continues prior interests, she said, “I have always had two parallel bodies of work.” Invited to explain further, she pointed first to a set of monochromatic works featuring renditions of various creatures (she calls then widgets) appearing simultaneously comic and ominous. “I make these creatures appear. They are sentient beings. They represent an unseen world, almost a fourth dimension. I see them as a visualization of the language of the unconscious.”
Wigdor then moved to the other set of paintings, colorfully rendered circular shapes occupying undefined landscapes. She sweeps her arms to illustrate her point that they are, to her, energy fields, reverberations, from the activity seen in the companion works.
“The spherical shapes beg the question: What are they? Where are they coming from? Are they gaseous bubbles coming out of the ground? Are they air bubbles coming out of the ground? Are they air bubbles coming up from the ocean? Are they planets? I’m suggesting through these paintings that there is an alternate reality where these shapes originate. In my case [here she refers back to the first set of paintings], that reality is inhabited by the whimsical, floating creatures that appear to be half machine, half animal and half liquid.”
Wigdor believes we all sense realms beyond our immediate grasp. She makes reference to an “unseen presence,” “out of body travel,” “spiritual guides,” and “what is watching over us,” in an effort to illuminate her concerns. “It is my belief that everyone has a construct in which to interpret something unrecognizable.”
Only minutes after her interview, Wigdor climbed into the RiverWinds front window and sat on the floor with a visitor to further ponder the mysteries her paintings present. This intimate collaboration seemed very much part of the work itself, or rather a human representation of the energy her work generates.
A resident of Nelsonville, Wigdor was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and earned her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1990 and her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2008.
She has exhibited in cities both nationally and internationally, including San Francisco, New York, Moscow and Berlin. In 2004 she received a National Endowment for the Arts Creation Grant to produce her solo exhibition Fugue. The Fleming Museum in Burlington and the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center both featured her artist’s talk, “The Anthropomorphic Machine,” where Wigdor introduced the mystifying creatures that populate her work.
The show runs until Aug. 2. The gallery, located at 172 Main St. in Beacon, is open noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Monday. See riverwindsgallery.com for more information.