Sunday, May 17, 2009

Identity's Conflagurations: Jenny Toth

[“Homage to Frida,” (2009) oil on canvas. “Identity Theft” (2009) oil on canvas.]

Regretfully, Jenny Toth’s show “Misgivings” at the Blue Mountain Gallery closed on May 16, 2009: I was lucky enough to catch it on its last day. However, do look for the work of this associate professor of art at Wagner College, which focuses on self-portraiture in its variations. By combining animal representations with the human form, Toth creates fantastical narratives. Within these narratives are struggles relating to the concomitant—and Catch-22—fears of commitment and loneliness. Suggested inner struggles, when conflated with Toth’s powerful images, evoke both anger and power. She accomplishes this with aplomb: Humor and imagination come to the fore in the harrowing vehicle for identity she sees as portraiture.

In this, her second, solo show, Toth qualitatively portrays women in ways very different—bringing forth images normally not seen as particularly beautiful such as hairy legs, a deformed toe, and unkempt hair. Beyond openness to a true battery of images, Toth alters forms from life onto two-dimensional surfaces—working from elaborate setups and unusual props to accomplish this. Toth scours cyberspace for taxidermied animals, sometimes including these objects in paintings and assemblages to transcend dimensionality in the hypnotic worlds she creates.

Grounded in painting from direct observation, she works almost entirely from objects and mirrors that she already owns, has acquired in her travels, or has purchased on eBay for that purpose. Recent trips to Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, West Papua, and Mexico have influenced her most recent work. This is seen, for example, in “Homage to Frida,” which references Frida Kahlo’s double self-portrait from 1939, “Two Fridas.” Painted at the time of Kahlo’s divorce from Diego Rivera, “Two Fridas”—with its focus on inner identity and emotional crisis—was believed to reflect the Mexican artist’s feelings at the time.

Misgivings by Jenny Toth

@ Blue Mountain Gallery

530 West 25th Street, 4th Floor, NYC 10001

[Blue Mountain Gallery’s next show, “Storms and Stillness” by Louise Guerin opens Thursday, May 21, 20009]

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