The Breadcrumbs widget will appear here on the published site.
Text-Art of Jen Mussari Witty & Winsome in Debut Gallery Exhibition
By Sally Deskins
Jen Mussari’s exhibit, “You Win Some, You Lose Some” at West Virginia University’s Paul Mesaros Gallery, which ran through Dec. 9, immediately invites you into her process with an open “Notebook #4" (Figure 1) of her sketches and personal thoughts. The tiny book reveals her grounded, unassuming nature, and her work demonstrates a bold, yet subtle and humorous, irony, echoing her clever commercial design work, but with a feminist edge. The combination exhibits impeccably via her embroidered found jackets and flags, painted and repurposed (and now unusable) motorcycle helmets, and sketchbook drawings (both ripped from sketchbooks, and on transparent and other various paper).
The notebook, wall text, sketches, and final products expose an admirable openness and authenticity, reiterated in the exhibition title. Rare to high art gallery exhibitions are personal notes and ripped-out in-progress sketchbook pages, which put the messy process on view; only the artist-perfected finished product. This context, coupled with her approachable, witty text-art, emit a contemporary, feminist vibe, a welcome and refreshing trip that calls to mind feminist artists known for using text with flare, such as Barbara Kruger or Lesley Dill.
Scrawled among the sketches in her notebook are the words “safety in nostalgia,” keenly capturing the aura of her work. Some of the messages, like the welcoming flags claiming “You Win Some” and “You Lose Some” on opposing sides of the entryway (Figure 2), are not only real-life reminders for adult-viewers, but are reminiscent of traditional parental advice, the usual response being an eye roll from a teen. The shiny fabric, solid, capital lettering, and gold strings hanging down also evokes retro high school band-wear, adding to the nostalgic sentiment.
Among the eight painted and embroidered found jackets, stand-outs include the jean jackets. Her stated inspirations come from car and motorcycle racing, and there is also a nod to 1970s folk and feminist art. Her embroidered, cheeky phrases charmingly bring her aesthetic out in a fresh way. “It’s Easier to Ask for Forgiveness” (Figure 3) is stitched with white thread on a dark jean jacket, with “Forgiveness” on a graphic flag. This links to her other work, and, waving in the wind, alludes to applauding the act of forgiveness, a notable yet subtle feminist message. “All I Want is Everything” (Figure 4) is stitched with black text, with white-stitched praying hands with pink nails, gold rays shooting out, another subtly feminist, playful plea (and for those well-versed in art history, a direct visual reference to groundbreaking printmaker, German artist and theorist, Albrecht Durer’s “Praying Hands” , creating a multi-layered, ironic feminist jest) and a jab at our materialistic culture.
“Pay Attention to Me” (Figure 6), one of four bold flags, implies again her ironic, self-deprecating nature with a feminist undertone, again resembling 70’s retro style and the elusive circumstance that women continue to be overlooked in art spheres. (The 1970’s were a peak moment in the feminist art movement, the era the style evokes.) “A Clutter of Process Pieces” (Figure 7) includes dozens of graphite and ink sketches on different papers, showing her process of these works and others that were not included, multiplying her message, while echoing the messages of contemporary social media puts out there, challenging viewers to ether pick one or take them all “with a tablespoon of saltm” as wittily put in her presentation. The sparkly helmets, too, exude her playful presence.
This first gallery exhibition by the Brooklyn-based designer, who is primarily a hand-lettering artist, Mussari is approachable and enjoyable, with all of her new work exhibiting her motivation, and sparking the viewer’s curiosity for more. From the candidness of her personable process to the jokey references she uses in her intricately handmade crafts, this exhibit is clearly a win.
#Real #ArtReview #JenMussari #SallyDeskins #FeministArt
Visit our shop and subscribe. Sponsor us. Submit and become a contributor. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.