Review | Maggie Nowinski : Drawn wHole
Review | Maggie Nowinski: Drawn wHole
Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor Street, Hartford, CT 06106
Through January 6, 2019
Curated by David Borawski
Inside Maggie Nowinski’s exhibition “Drawn wHole” at Real Art Ways, four large vertical scrolls draped from the ceiling flow onto the floor. The black and white imagery within these scrolls and placed behind them on the walls are “wHoles.” The forms resemble an aerial view of a gourd with heavy cross contour lines to delineate its shape and the centers are removed like a donut. The installation creates a wall of orifices.
Some “wHoles” are so grossly enlarged you imagine squeezing your body through them like a birth canal or a portal to a different time. The shapes allude to time travel—perhaps an escape. Nowinski began to draw the” wHoles” in the summer of 2016, a season of mass casualties beginning at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida where 49 people were killed. (Nowinski titled this iteration of the “wHoles” What I Don’t Remember/in Memoriam.) The “wHoles,” with their looming presence inside the room, feel both specific and nondescript, empty but heavy.
The other walls within the gallery contain eight framed ink drawings that blend human and botanical forms. (There is another framed work on the exterior wall of the gallery.) These Untitled Specimens are scientific illustrations for creatures that do not exist—a gross mashup of pelvises, vertebrae, corn husk, veins, and unnameable fragments that recall different organisms. They are twisted and rife with tension, yet they float on the blank surface of the paper. At first glance, these obscene creatures appear toxic; yet the lasting impression of these specimens is resilience. They are winning their fight for survival.
Nowinski’s specimens are grotesque—not without inflections of humor—and they are rendered with precision. Nowinski’s line work is most successful at its most delicate moments: a spray of spikes from the end of a spinal column, curly tendrils poking out from what resembles a root vegetable. These enhanced details bring these bizarre adaptations into sharp focus for the viewer. On Nowinski’s website, she writes:
“I understand this body of work as abjections—systems or beings we don’t want to look at but are forced to by their hyper-clarity; their beautiful and almost grotesque elements, I identify with, am repulsed by and ultimately am curious to witness these forms emerge.”
Like the “wHoles” on the central wall of the gallery, all of the smaller drawings are without color, and the stark black and white palette points to the severity of the issues that motivated these works.
Nowinski, who lives in Western Massachusetts, considers the impact of the violence we observe and experience as well as the threat of an imminent extinction. While we are making strides to ensure our survival, our progress might not be able to undo the damages. A recent United Nations report stated that we will begin to experience the devastating impact of climate change in as little as two decades. The installation of “wHoles” inside the space conjure the futility. As a viewer, we understand that Nowinski’s haunting specimens have arrived from a future we may never witness.