Elton’s Work Comes Out Of The Closet

Allan Appel PhotoFreddi Elton used to do carborundum printmaking. (Carborundum is the stuff of sandpaper.) Then the fates and a heart valve problem intervened and suggested: How about using a method that requires less heavy physical labor?

Elton (pictured) heeded that suggestion, and has returned with Revisions, a new show of her prints on paper at City Gallery .

She’s sharing the cooperative space with her friend textile artist Myra Serrins. Their joint exhibition, which is both pretty to look at and even more interesting to pore over, runs through Jan. 26 on Upper State Street.

At the storm-defying opening reception on Saturday afternoon, Elton recalled that she had recently had surgery. As s her show at City Gallery approached, she wanted to revisit some encaustic works that she had made.

The problem was she did not like those works enough to exhibit, and had stashed them in her closet.

“I felt they were failures. They didn’t do what I wanted them to do. I showed them to my husband and he said, ‘Throw them out.’”

This time she hesitated to follow his advice and consulted a friend instead. Her friend said, “Never throw anything away.”

The result was that Elton “invented a way of reusing the encaustics.” She laid paper on the encaustic board, and ironed over it, with the heat lifting onto the paper some but not all of the original image in the melted state.

In the case of some of the newly lifted prints, Elton added lines and even kept a tear here or there.

The resulting work seems, well, light and lively at first glance but then, on further study, also feels as if you can get a little lost in the Milky Ways of color, with a take-away feeling not unlike that of Helen Frankenthaler‘s graphic work.

Elton said that the previous encaustic work, especially with carborundum, had required pushing down with a pressure she couldn’t quite muster again. “I had to find something as physically exciting but less stresssful,” she added.

To make the return to exhibiting more fun, she invited longtime friend and fabric artist Serrins to join her.

Serrins also revisited some previous work. They’re not revisions as much as re-visions, in the sense that artists are always returning to an initial triggering vision or wellspring of interest, she said.

In Serrins’s case, at least geographically, that proved to be Spring Lake near her home in Sherman.

There, contemplation of the arrival and then dispersal of birds and other animals allows this artist to find an objective, or visual correlative, to what that type of experience means spiritually, or internally.

At least that’s the path I took when I visually hopped onto her intriguing lines of little white stitches.

Serrins didn’t argue. “You are always asking the same questions and the nature of something over and over again. Looking at nature is a path inward,” she said.

What’s interesting about the pairing in this show is how one artist offers a dizzying, spacy experience of cosmic travel via color, while the other offers a path in black and white.

What’s do be learned from this? I’m not sure yet, but it’s worth a visit to find out.

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