The work of Judith Schaechter, born 1961, American, at the Philadelphia Art Alliance until November 29, 2015.
These stunning works contain many images: realistic; mythic; floral; faunal; abstract; symbolic. It is a very rich palette. Each image raises complementary images in your mind: churches; altars; massive stone castles; summer fields; gardens; night skies in deep country; sunsets; Venice; Cologne; Merlin; pantomime; lightning; satin; velvet buttons; dwarves; unicorns, Star Wars. On and on.
Images come up in your mind and go out with sympathy or excitement to meet the stained glass images. They are immediately repulsed. You are pushed back. You are here in a world you do not actually recognize. More precisely, you do not think you recognize.
There is a large dissonance between the rich color and light and the threat and dread imprisoned in the glass.
There is a second fracture within the images. Cowering figures, passive bodies, crones, crowds massed in egotistic self-presentation, a young woman fallen off a horse: these are depicted in fields of flowers, floating above seas filled with wondrous fish, and under canopies of stars and planets. The image is often bordered by eye-catching splashes, stars, bubbles, streaks, all brightly colored.
These dissonances, of course, we know. Fear, dread, passivity to the point of paralysis in our lives.
And this inside the gorgeous, complicated natural and imaginary worlds in which we also live: full of color and light and myriad shapes.
And with which we battle the fear and the dread. Acedia overtakes us, the artist says, if we can battle the fear and the dread and do not. Her image of Acedia is horrible.
One image in this exhibition is not of threat, fear, or dread: An Invocation.
Invocation. Here a woman, a crone in the final trimester of her life, wearing the red associated in so many cultures with the female gender, knowing herself to be both male and female in female body – as many of us know ourselves to be – her arms raised among the stars, her head and eyes tilted towards the earth, recites blessings. Invocation: calling us inwards. Or calling us inside from wherever we are among the cars in ugly parking lots or lost in images in deep internet space.
On either side are ladders, red themselves for the lifework they represent. These are for the forward and upward journey we undertake in our lives. The ladders are leaning against trees, the allies and chief enablers of our species. Powerful encouragement and comfort.
This is some of the finest artistic and artisanal work I have ever seen.
Immediately above are three separate works. They could be the arrow slits of castles. Those slits had one function: to allow the firing of arrows.
The three ( Prometheus, Noah, Mary Magdalene, 2011) squeezed into these slits are not awake.
Harpy, 2013, and details
Detail of Birds, 2011, from the Icarus suite
Our Ladies, 2012, and details
Acedia, 2013, and details (acedia = spiritual or mental sloth or apathy)
The Battle of Carnival and Lent, 2011, and details
The Minotaur, 2009, and details
Three-tiered Cosmos, 2105, and details
An Invocation, 2009, and details
(I don’t have the name or date).
The girl has fallen off the horse. A rich and beautiful natural environment. A predator animal is watching on the left.
But she: her right hand is clenched in tension but her left is open in either supplication or openness or both; She is part prostate. But her head is lifted to the sun; she is dreaming; and there is a slight smile about her mouth. Our lives.
From the Snyderman Gallery, Philadelphia; Winter 2015 – 2016
When the Hunter Sings, the Birds Take Wing; 1991