Upon my entrance to the Seattle Pacific Art Gallery to view the work of Moriah Westrick and Melissa Ergo, I encountered a cloud of abstractions that created an overall sense of uncertainty. Both artists, post-minimalist in technique and highly conceptual in their approach, consider ambiguity their muse. Appropriately, since Moriah is inspired by “a parasite that infects people,” both shows generate an “infectious wonder.” However, upon closer inspection, some of the works may not be as noble as they aim to be. Despite my sense of ambivalence, I found Melissa’s and Moriah’s show to be a clean and thoughtful compilation of highly personal glimpses into their worlds as artists.
Moriah’s work is undeniably unique and well-conceptualized. Utilizing both glass and paint, she provides the viewer with a snapshot of what we learn to read as a “parasitic” infestation that takes the viewer back to biology class. We find ourselves inspecting a community of microbes unbeknownst to our eyes, displayed as if on a Petri dish under a microscope. Visually, the work holds value from a distance and unites the viewer in the wispy turbulence embodied on these small-scale glass panels.
As pictured in the image below, Moriah’s work has a Pollock-like freedom. The lines and splatters dance on top of the clear surfaces, all the colors and shapes flowing together dynamically. With elegance, and to my eyes, ease, Moriah “peels back the intricacies of life, layer by layer, only to find that there is more for (her) to devour, to seek, to expose.” Her artist’s statement genuinely claims that it is these microbes, these invisible creatures, that invade the human experience, bringing meaning and wonder to a life that is complex and intricate. Her work reminds the viewer that we live in a world that is “confrontational, savage, and filled with sorrow…but resilient, wondrous, and filled with beauty.”
After examining the glass panels, I wandered over to Moriah’s body of drawings, which I assumed function as a closer, more technical look into this parasite’s lifecycle. These drawings, as shown below, depict the more concrete nature of cells in their microscopic worlds. Though I do appreciate Moriah’s desire to give the body of work a supplemental element, I did not feel as though these examinations spoke as strongly as her panels; unfortunately, they did not contribute as powerfully to the overall holistic vision of the show.
Melissa’s work is striking and also puzzling. Incorporating many different media, including photography on canvas and pencil on paper, Melissa’s installation shows the artist’s interest in an overall sense of ambiguity in the world. Twisted and knotted hair is Melissa’s subject. These knots are unified and repeated and yet remain individually unique. While the structure of these hair knots proves to be an abstract entity by nature, I could not help but ask myself if these forms really do tell a story for the viewer.
The largest drawing of the twisted lock of hair (pictured below) is wildly successful, as it reads strong far away and close up. Upon approaching this drawing, one will notice that Melissa follows through in displaying her work as a “meditative” process. Each line is drawn meticulously. Following the lines and curves, the viewer desires to make up something recognizable of the form. We are left to relate this abstraction of hair to our personal experiences and understandings. Whatever the final end or meaning of the work might be, the drawing takes us into a visual space that is evocative and meaningful. The smaller drawings, (also pictured below) maintain this perfection of line, curve and sense of depth. I highly enjoyed the drawings, as they truly displayed Melissa’s technical skill as an artist, and they invited me into a place of wonder.
Aside from the drawings, the photography on textured materials (pictured below) was unique and creative, but unfortunately it did not hold up against the beautiful drawings. These smaller photographs were interesting from a close view, but from a distance, they were indistinguishable from one another. Melissa acknowledges that she is “interested in grey areas, those moments of ambiguity…” and she identifies with the fact that there may be a “multitude of interpretations and insights” regarding her work. Unfortunately, for me, the drawings evoked incredible insight and meaning but the photographs did not.
The work of Moriah Westrick and Melissa Ergo creates a sense of mystery and wonder. Both artists made it quite clear that they want the viewer to leave with more questions than answers. The body of work as a whole was interesting and provided genuine insight into the lives of these artists as they grapple with mysterious questions themselves.