Vanessa Paschakarnis: Ten Black Forms

Acadia University Art Gallery, Wolfville, N.S. by Judith Leidl [ARTSatlantic 66, Spring 2000, Pages 25-26]

The gallery space at Acadia University served as a darkened and hushed meeting place, an unusual and powerful gathering of two related, yet opposing, constructs. At first glance, these sculptural presences appeared to share a similar family heritage in their very weight massiveness, but upon closer inspection also revealed two distinct and marvelous groupings: one group or family consisting of ownerless, possibly abandoned, blackened crab shells; the second made up of shield-like shapes, which in themselves serve the dual and dichotomous purpose of being both covering and barrier to direct human contact.

These sculptural pieces, the ten black forms and the two shields, are made from hydrocal plaster (hard plaster) over wire. The shields have graphite applied to them and subsequently an ironoxide pigment. The crab-like forms have graphite only applied to them.

If one were to take the metaphor of family gathering a step further and delve deeply into the nuts and bolts of relationships and the underlying human psyche which propels them, the first group, the blackened crab-like forms, could be seen as representing the aspect of the human psyche we long to slough off, to be free of, the multitude of protective layers which we all build up, out of necessity, for crucial psychological survival, beginning in our formative years (where family has the most impact) and onwards. Layers here lay abandonned, rendered seemingly useless, upon the relative vastness of the gallery floor. However, upon closer inspection and contemplation, they served as a profound reminder of our shared human experience. As their visual form transferred into thought, these sculptural pieces became, for me, a metaphor for connectedness and so the sharing of selves, a celebration, as it were, of the knowing of the other.

On the other hand, the second group, or gathering, appeared to represent and embrace the very human need to protect, to shield our psyches from another. Ironically, what serves to protect often serves as a powerful barrier to what we all seem to long for in the core of our beeing – namely a sharing, a close knowing of the other, whether from our immediate family group or beyond.

These two groups, the black crab-like forms an the human shields, reveal a strong physicality in that they live in the walking space of the viewer. They present both mass and an ephemeral quality of darkness and light. These forms both invite and repel in the questions they pose and the answers they provide. They share both the dark and the light side of the human psyche: the masked and the revealed.

Like any family gathering, which by its very nature consists of myriad personality types, wants and needs, with an essential need being to be understood, despite self-imposed barriers, Ten Black Forms is a powerful and dynamic statement about the merit and basis of our shared human experience, the essence of our particular human journey, a gathering and meeting of thoughts and feelings. 



Blue Moon, 2010 was exhibited at Sculpture Today: New Forces, New Forms; 2011/2012 at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
Vanessa with her "Bestia Romana", 2009
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© Vanessa Paschakarnis