Shoshana Dentz

For the past eight years I have been staring intently and lovingly at a single still life subject.

My work is a serial repetition, through painting and drawing, of this subject.  As a practice, it continues my long-term pursuit to ground abstraction with the factual specificity of realism.  

The 70+ intimately-scaled pieces in “within without” are all based upon my direct, close-up observation of my subject: a construction of acetate pieces scotch-taped together to form a five-sided, transparent “box.” My still life subject is a physically real object invented solely for the metaphysically contemplative space of art.  It is real but abstract, abstract but real. It actively slips between both experiential dimensions.

This slippage extends into the sheer act of seeing the box over the duration of making a painting or drawing.  It is see-through, reflective, thin and flimsy; barely there as an object in a room. Its direct perception is disrupted and obscured by the many reflections of its surroundings onto its sides and surfaces.  Movement, gravity and settling dust constantly alter its fragile structure.  With my face inches away from the box, each eye sees a different “truth” as the mutability of seeing unfolds.  The facts of shape, space and light – what is knowable, graspable and representable – are constantly changing.  I am enchanted by the complexities asked of me by this object. As an accumulative whole, “within without” is a chase to hold and know something that should be plain and straightforward and yet is always elusive.  It is a challenge of my own creation and one that I revere with incredible intimacy.

I introduced mirrors into my work to optically amplify my set-up.  Placed flat as a bottomless stage or propped object-like towards the picture plane, the mirror expands my subject compositionally and conceptually.  Its reflexive surface brings me yet another fantastic convolution of illusionistic, fictitious space that is also a definitive, objective reality.  The symmetrical mirroring of recognizable details, such as tape or edges of light, reveals a rational, structural architecture in my work. This helps position the image as a discernible volume in space.  The mirroring simultaneously deciphers and encrypts the image’s peculiarity. It unveils just enough intelligibility just as it disperses it away.

Content can be defined as “that which is contained.”  My fragile, elusive and barely there box frames and contains a fragile, elusive and barely there volume.  Something is in there: air or space or metaphorical potential. I try to show the edges and sides that hold that volume within and the tape that holds those sides together.  “Within without” is a practice of repetition, renewal and persistence; a means and space for sustained devotion.


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