Artist's Post -- Karrie Ross
Light & Space Through Time: Karrie Ross Catalog Essay: 2019 Blackboard Gallery
The gouache white of an eggshell. Its surface is not smooth, what should be soft to the touch
is marred by tiny dips and pits in its landscape. The blank slate—like any idea—is rarely even, the thickness
of the shell allowing for pale gradations of color,
exacerbated by whatever light touches it. It’s frail. It’s thin. Protecting the soft yolk inside. Fertilized, in a nest, it is the beginning of life. Unfertilized, on a plate, it’s breakfast. A metaphor for ideas. For love. For female sexuality. It’s our head. It’s our heart. Both easily broken.
The egg is in the center of Karrie Ross’s world.
Especially in her 2019 work.
While the exhibition is a retrospective of sorts, the image of the egg becomes its vantage point. After a crippling 2018 brain/body injury suffered in a fall, Ross’s work in 2019 becomes her celebration of the broken recovered.
It’s a totem of joy, a return to spontaneity and whimsy, an obsessive recurring visualization of time passing aging and the possibilities of new growth and life after trauma.
First, there’s injury.
The Egg Inside canvas splits in two and separates the ovoid shape, as the top dark half rises into the sky like a long malevolent rocket, weaving out of control, abandoning the more colorful, patterned lower half. Climb the Highest Mountain’s damaged egg leaves a deep blue phallic trail behind it, its shell broken into shards and ungainly sharp pieces. As it tries to move upward in its wounded state, it’s stymied in its tracks by the bars above it.
Second, the survival.
Each of Ross’s trio of mixed media on panel pieces—Catch, The Egg with Gingko Tea or A Frog In The Works!, and The Egg of the Golden Veil–suggests the beginnings of healing. The first has a hand bursting from the ground to catch an already-shattered egg in mid-air, preventing further damage; the second shows a pair of hands placing and steadying a haplessly-reassembled egg in a nest (a pair of amphibial eyes poking from one corner), as a lone human figure chained at the neck to the side of the panel, watches without emotion, disassociated from the action; the third ovoid, broken and bandaged, passes through a tricky piece of gold netting, successfully arriving on the other side without snagging its edges in the process. Then there’s the hope.
In What Lays Beneath, the blackened shadow of a buried egg in a hill appears safe and secure from the rain of arrows attempting to pierce it. The ground it lies in stalls and stops their movement, a reassuring statement about perseverance, the hill looking like it’s shrugging off the spikes coming its way. An egg lies comfortably in a soft black crater in Passing Through. As the tips of arrows drop from the sky and bounce off its shell, they collect into a fine-pointed pool of checkered color below. The slings and arrows of the past creating a prickly second nest within a nest. Using similar imagery in That’s a Hard One!, a tree has grown from a still intact egg, a human figure triumphantly in the foreground, on top of a stack of the arrows. In the row of three black hills in Where IS the Egg?, the shape is hidden within one of the hills, a hand reaching to pluck it, as if playing a shell game. Playing with the theme of continuance through adversity, the mixed media on panel Wondering Why the Right Words Never Come reveals a human figure with a black hole where their heart would be, the egg and ensuing arrows fan out over its head like the halo on a saint. In There are Moments of Pretend, an egg rests in the dip of a black canyon: three figures standing inside, like visitors from another planet, as a gathering of other figures awaits their arrival. The softening of trauma and the reduction of fear.
Ross reduces healing to a divine process of balance and elimination, as an egg teeters on the profile of a face in It’s A Balancing Act; another profile, facing down from the heavens, lets an egg spew out of its mouth onto a monolithic black hill, tiny trees lining its surface. In Going Within, the emitted egg is assisted by a hand helping to guide it into place.
Ross takes us back to the comfort of childhood with her Eggs in a Basket, as a flat wood surface and support piece uses wire, paper, paint and cellophane to suggest an Easter gift, the blues and pinks and yellows reading like the wrapping on Lindt truffle candies. Her stuffed fabric versions turn the eggs into items resembling plush ornaments (Lost Eggs), or surrounds them with security, a coiled snake cocoon hugging them safe inside (Egg Rolled).
There’s new growth.
THE EGG!, like Eggs in a Basket, a flat surface with a support piece piercing the middle lower half, sprouts eleven tiny wire stalks, abstracted flower beads budding at the end of the tiny wire stalks. Within the mixed media boundaries of Bougainvilleggs, Ross gives us new life budding from the shells. It’s not the baby chicks you might expect, but wiry green sprouts wriggling their way through the shell out into the open air. The dark ground they rest on is funereal, but made less so by a celebratory spread of loose red flower petals, shorn of the bougainvillea’s thorny branches. Sprouting Egg also offers us new life, again without interference, the seedling blooming into a fan. In Cloud Egglas, two hands reach out to lift and embrace a pair of profiles emerging from an egg, one spitting and extending a hand with a tiny gift, another with legs akimbo; the dreaminess of the gesture gently protective.
Five eggs playfully tumble about in the palm of a hand, the topmost egg raising its hand to collect or support a smaller, legless egg to the sky in You Can Check Out Any Time You Like.
Leaving behind the darker hints of some of the other work, the image in Jumping Off offers the viewer a moment entirely appropriate for a fine art children’s book: A small pink egg perches on a larger crimson egg, both held airborne by the gentle exhalation of a profiled face.
That lone, impossibly surreal image leaves the viewer with a smile, but also with the idea of Ross breathing new, complex life into something that many of us never even notice. It’s not just a memorable image, it’s the artist’s kiss.
Dave Barton, December 2019
Dave Barton has written extensively about art, theatre, and politics for the past twenty years, in a variety of newspapers and magazines. He was the OC WEEKLY art critic from 2009-2019.
Karrie Ross Bio
Creating balance ... Karrie Ross, a native to Los Angeles, CA, is best known for her diverse use of mediums, wire, collage, acrylic-iridescent-minimalism-flow, pen & ink and watercolors. Ross’ artwork grows out of a fascination with being human, the asking and answering of questions about the self in an intuitive manner, and bringing attention to the value of how one’s energy affects living in this world. She calls it a “Collaboration with Nature”. Among her inspirations are from the art of Louise Bourgeois, Man Ray, MC Escher, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miro, Dali, Cy Twombly and more, keep her moving forward into a creative world of art. She continues to search for new ways to see, evolve and reinvent explorations of concept, context, form, process, and medium. She is collected throughout the United States and abroad. Her work has been featured in over 170 exhibitions (since 2010), including museum shows at the NYC Children's Museum of the Arts, Art Museum of South Texas, Torrance Art Museum TAM, and a 6 month traveling show beginning in Italy, next to the Oceanside Museum of Art OMA, ending up at the Riverside Art Museum RAM, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery LAMAG, Kellogg University Gallery CalPoly, USC Keck School of Medicine Hoyt Gallery, San Diego Institute of Art, UCRPD University of Riverside, and galleries, non-profits, to project spaces around the Southern California area. Ross has also been highlighted in several publications including Hollywood Today, EasyReader, the Los Angeles Times, USC online, and the Huffington Post.
Apart from her art, Ross is also an award winning author, and publishes a yearly art-history-project-book spotlighting artists ‘in-life’ stories, “Our Ever Changing World,” Artist ART & Story, which focuses on creating community, and documenting the Art Scene, mostly California and international, over her life time. She also guest curates and organizes collaborations for the art community. Ross currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California.
More of Karrie's work can be seen on her website: https://www.karrierossart.com