Fragmentary visions: Fischer assembles a visionary outlook
When we last left Shelby Fischer, she was excited at the prospect of showing her artwork in Les Yeux du Monde’s new West Main space. The small rooms, she thought, would create an intimate atmosphere for experiencing her collages, which use found images and small items to explore childhood memories, mystical experiences, and the omnipresence of death.
And she was right.
Whereas Fischer’s past shows in the gallery’s former downtown location featured giant mosaic arrangements, where individual pieces often got lost in the sheer profusion of work, her current exhibition, “The Eternal Now,” offers viewers the chance to appreciate each image’s intricate construction and narrative moment. That said, Fischer is nothing if not prolific, and the show’s 118 pieces are a challenge to absorb in a single visit (I was attentive through about no. 47, but the remaining 71 works– with a few exceptions– are a blur).
Meticulously composed, Fischer’s often humorous works visually express her own mental ramblings, which wander through nursery rhymes, emotional quandaries, supernatural experiences, and spiritual speculation. The clipped images and small objects she incorporates are often laden with nostalgia. What emerge are fantastical moments of magical realism, in which humans and animals often interact as equals and the miraculous is commonplace.
Fischer’s technical method is complex. In her two-dimensional works, she pieces together dramatic scenes against backgrounds created from carefully chosen handmade papers, extending the colorscapes into the surrounding frames with tiles or painted wooden blocks. Sometimes she augments these outer edges with found objects or tiny skulls. Although the glitter that characterized her earlier work still occurs here and there, Fischer has become more judicious about where she adds sparkle.
She also now allows her imaginings to extend into three dimensions, sometimes creating sculptural mixed-media pieces (including several music boxes). In “Je Langer,” a memory box-like cabinet of tiled compartments contains suspended porcelain doll appendages, jeweled items, carved blocks, and a small jar of skulls, all surrounding a central image of young boys playing beneath a compass. The meaning is enigmatic, but the way Fischer echoes color, line, and shape throughout the composition is compelling.
Less successful are the five pieces that involve woodcarving. The crudeness of execution seems at odds with Fischer’s otherwise refined technique, even when using rustic elements.
But that’s a small complaint given the dazzling wonders Fischer has packed into “The Eternal Now.” It’s a show well worth viewing more than once.
Shelby Fischer’s exhibition, “The Eternal Now,” is on view through November 1 at Les Yeux du Monde. 500 W. Main St. 973-5566.