Nicole Lenzi
Elen A. Feinberg and Nicole Lenzi

I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about abstraction, the importance of abstraction and about the beauty and value of it; either in the case of Elen Feinberg and Nicole Lenzi. Both compliment in my mind very nicely one another.

I think most of us understand that art is basically about perception. How do we perceive the work? Now admittedly some us might say, “Whoa, I don’t see the world the way we see it in these two artist’s works here,” but I would beg to differ that you actually do. If not I hope that you do after this. Because if you are on the street and you happen to see shadows cast of abstract geometric forms or look at sky lines and see how they shape or just watch the pattern of shadows leaves or something rustle in the wind you are looking at something that is abstract. It is not real. It is a shadow, the platonic cave of the original. When you look at the world abstractly what you are doing is taking the real world and In the case of Elen Feinberg, you can see it in the clouds or the dramatic sky series. In the case of Nicole Lenzi, in the way she takes images and then she repurposes and rearranges them.

They both are working from the real world but they ate imposing onto it a structure; an intellectual, geometric structure in which the two come together by taking the world and seeing it through this mathematical grid. So what does that do? First of all you have to think about how do you combine the two? Because clearly what the artists represented here is either an underlying sense of purpose, an intellectual order that underlies the seemingly chaotic reality of the world; or they are taking the real world and simplifying it down to its geometric essences to the purest sense of the shape color and form on a canvas that nature itself becomes so abstract that all that is left are marks on a canvas.

So that what you have at first is this sense of inspiration. Where do you get your inspiration from in nature? Then how do you put an order onto it? How do make that happen? You can pair down your images the way Elen does and create these flat panels of color with subtle senses of clouds or a dramatic sky effect that are both reminiscent of the real world but also sensible in the way that they are put on the surface. In the case of Nicole, you have cutout images from the real world repositioned, reattached, and painted.

So you have this inspiration and order but what Elen and Nicole represent in both cases is only a fraction of the options that are out there. So it is not just inspiration and order but there are multiple ways that you can do it. The nice thing is that they can switch. We can see this here in Elen from one wall to another. You can switch from a more austere and rigid sharply set piece to a more dramatically opened ended and vibrantly curious sense of what it is we are looking at. You can also get deeper and go way into it or you get very close the way Nicole does to the shapes and forms and use them as geometric grids on the panel.

You can take that initial idea, “I’m going to try this.”, and see how it spins out over and over and over again. You can see how one idea leads to another and creates a whole sense of inspiration and order and the sense of actually doing leads to new ideas that take you further down into the world in which you are trying to represent. Someone once said that most of us have one or two thoughts every day and artists have hundreds every day. They constantly see how their work can relate to other things they are thinking of doing.

It is also fascinating how these infinite shapes that these artists come up with can be parlayed into infinite varieties ever changing, ever developing and ever more interesting. You have to talk then about the role of color. To what degree do we play with color and how do you put it on the surface again? From this much more austere sort of simplified patterning or the more dramatic with the circular images of Elen’s to the work of Nicole, who creates these complex geometric shapes on very small surfaces. So color itself plays a role not only as an emotional factor, but as a way of suggesting the unity and harmony between the real and the fanciful and how these artists combine inspiration and order.

Then you have the whole sense do I do flat things or do I keep a sense of depth? In the case Elen, of with the clouds and the atmospheric effects with her round shapes or with Nicole, who brings you up very close so that everything is very flat as opposed to reseeding into depth.

Elen and Nicole assign themselves a set of problems, a set of questions, which they want to ask themselves. They begin both knowing what they want to do but allowing chance and the evolution of the work to help them guide them to moving to knowing to not knowing back to knowing; where it finally coheres and becomes something dramatic and something wonderful. It’s a play between intellect and intuition; between imposing control and going with the flow.

Dr. Christopher With, 3/1/13