by A. Yanina Gomez, Ph.D.
Since the first time I was introduced to the artwork of Jennifer Cronin and Jennifer Moore, I was intrigued with the bold conversations taking place in their work. Both artists are currently on exhibition at White Rippled Gallery. in Hammond, IN. The exhibit titled “Reality of a Common Fantasy” explores how similar both artists define and portray reality, fantasy, familiarity and mystery. It is on view until June 6, 2014.
As I entered the gallery, I found myself between two powerful life-size paintings created by Jennifer Cronin. I could not help myself but to think about what Sigmund and Anna Freud would refer to as “projection” (i.e., defense mechanism). Is Cronin challenging each viewer to identify something about the self that may be causing some psyche pain? As I sat between Jennifer Cronin’s Untiled (Self Portrait, 2008) and Untiled (Self-Portrait 2, 2008), these paintings reminded me of the internal battles taking place as we pursue self-confidence and fulfillment. As I looked at Self-Portrait 2, I noticed a confident woman who appears to have full control of her life. She is sensual, delicate, feminine and is showing to the world how confident she feels about herself, her appearance, her body. She is letting us know clearly and loudly: “I am in control!” But, what happened to this confident woman in Self-Portrait 1? The artist warns us that this facade can only last so long. At the end of the day, when no one else is around and no one is looking, the real self becomes evident in the darkness of the night. Conflicted, alone, distressed, confused. Exhausted from impressing others and showing the unreal self.
At that moment, she either collapses or chooses to recharge, reflect and question… “Who am I?” Self-Portrait 1 reminds us of that hidden place in the middle of the darkness where reality is uncertain; where comfort and a sense of belonging seem far distant. The artist not only addresses the issue of self-fulfillment but also an inner-struggle where self-doubt becomes so powerful to the point of psychological collapse. In Untitled No. 3 (From the peculiar manifestation of paint in my everyday life), Cronin clearly defines this inner-struggle. Tormenting thoughts invading our psyche attempt to bring doubt, anxiety, turmoil, and feelings of insecurity. It is almost as if we do not deserve to be fulfilled and dark thoughts are constantly reminding us of our misery.
In Untitled No. 2 (From the peculiar manifestations of paint in my everyday life), the artist challenges these negative thoughts and puts herself in a place where cleansing and self-reflection work together in harmony to fade them away. As the clear, clean water comes out of the faucet, it is healing, renewing and re-energizing the soul.
After taking a minute to recharge from the various emotions triggered by Cronin’s artwork, I took a chair and sat in the middle of the room where Jennifer Moore’s photographs are on display. Each photograph tells a story that invites the viewer to enter into the scene, a scene that challenges one’s comfort and urges us to find a sanctuary. They become short-films in your psyche in which the viewer becomes the writer of the story. “What happened before, what will happen next, what will be the grand finale?” are amongst the questions raising in my head as I dared to accept the invitation to take an active role in Moore’s work. In her photographs, darkness is beautifully executed.
She introduces us to a world in which not many will dare to explore; where hope and balance seem distant. The more I immersed myself in Moore’s work, the more I realized how the artist allows her characters to freely demonstrate their inner feelings in their outward behavior even when the consequences may be painful or fatal. Moore’s work portrays daily struggles, traumas, psychological distress, revenge and dark secrets. It invites the viewer to challenge the status of her/his inner thoughts and question one’s secret deep desires. In Birth and Affliction (2012), the artist challenges the viewer’s notion of going above an beyond what is right to find a false sense of temporary peace at all cost.
Through deer skulls, Moore hides the real self of her characters as they become afraid of exposing themselves, their story, and their intentions in an effort to avoid pain, embarrassment or rejection (Untitled (with deer skulls), 2012; Untitled (sun shining through skull, dress and trees). Despite the chaos surrounding many of Moore’s works, she does not discard hope. In Untitled (in fog), 2013 and Untitled (with nest), 2013, the artist encourages us to search for ‘that place’ where one can find inner peace, experience mental rest and restore one’s balance.
As I departed the gallery, I left with many impressions. But one of them stood up: there are circumstances in which an artwork is so powerful that it will threaten our ego. At that point, we use our defense mechanisms to protect ourselves from painful, undesirable memories and socially-unacceptable desires. Thus, we will attribute these feelings and motives to the artwork and its creator in an effort to free ourselves.
About the author: A. Yanina Gomez, Ph.D. is the Gallery Associate and Co-Owner of 33 Contemporary Gallery. She successfully practiced School Psychology for 13 years. She became fascinated with the fine arts and how artists use their art to convey their thoughts, emotions and voices. She holds a doctorate degree in Educational Psychology and a Master of Arts in School Psychology. Gomez has taught at Trinity Christian College, Calumet College of St. Joseph and recently in the graduate program at Valparaiso University where she taught courses in psychology, counseling and multicultural competence focusing on social and cultural basis of behavior.