Baltimore-based artist Joyce Scott has worked in all kinds of media, from performance art and installation to sculpture. Some of Scott’s signature beaded sculpture is included in a new exhibit at the Second Street Gallery. However, it’s printmaking, a medium she’s only recently embraced, that leaves the strongest impression. In particular, two sets of prints, “Soul Erased” and a second set, reflections on the World Trade Center destruction, form the core of this exhibit.
The beautifully uncluttered “Soul Erased” follows a short narrative in a series of prints. As the narrative goes, a boy kills, is given a chance at redemption, but chooses instead to squirm and lie. Angels come and strip him of his soul. Scott uses a sea of white space and soft colors— gray, pink— which contrast with her occasional use of black, which seems all the more potent when it does appear.
Her characters, the boy and the angels, have been set in classical poses but also come with modern elements: oversized guns for wings, or diagrammed skeletons for bodies. Scott’s series concludes in an inspired, simple touch of symmetry. In the final print, the same print of the boy from the first print reappears with small, skeleton body and oversized, cocked head, thought here without clothing or any other contextual element. Turned 180 degrees, the print leaves the boy hanging at the top of the frame, completely alone. This series manages to resonate with classical and ancient storytelling and images even as it employs modern depictions— a strikingly effective blend.
Augmented with collage, crowded with shapes, and filled out with muddy browns and ashen grays, Scott’s “WTC” series almost looks like the work of another artist. Once again, Scott chooses to work with stark, iconic imagery— the face of Osama Bin Laden most prominently— but perhaps because her subject matter is still so recent and unprocessed, her work in this series carries an ambiguity and an irony completely absent from “Soul Erased.”
“WTC: Chain of Fools” is most representative of this distancing. The cartoonish image of a smiling, docile Osama dominates the center of the print. Flowers appear to grow out of his head, and he is encircled by chains, rope, and scenes of violence. It’s a careful, if not entirely confident, response to an event which looms large in our collective psyche.
“Migrant worker for the Arts: Prints and Sculpture by Joyce Scott” runs through April 28 at Second Street Gallery. 201 Second St. 977-7284