Here and Hereafter – Lydia Viscardi at Five Points Gallery

Lydia Viscardi, Maybe Hereafter, detail, photo courtesy Jeanne Tremel

Lydia Viscardi’s scintillating multimedia tarpaulins festoon the airy, post-retail environs of Five Points Gallery in Torrington CT. This quaint looking old mill town straight out of middle America may seem an unlikely destination for contemporary visual art, but Viscardi’s new work is worth a trip to the hinterlands. Ostensibly Viscardi’s imagery encompasses the weighty notion of life after death, but I was inspired by their joie de vivre.

The cinematic sweep of these expansively dramatic nature-scapes, celebrates the accumulated power of a mature artist who has arrived at a formidable career stage wherein the work speaks for itself. We don’t need to be sold on the playful narrative, their blissful reverie, or compositional sophistication. I do think it’s true that most older artists find references to the iconology of death creeping into their work, however Viscardi’s operatic dramas are not the least bit morose.

Strings of gems vibrate and boogy about in Stellar. This luminous ode to the eternal is underscored by an amusingly goofy, male buck galloping over a fanciful planet obvious to any sort of peril. Glowing graffiti-esque neon script, and shimmying comic book orbs that could harken back to the UFOs of yesteryears suburban movie myth-scapes, inhabit the crowded party scenes seen in Global Profile. The two works on canvas anchoring the show are stretched on the wall using grommets. This seamless maneuver is an effective way of integrating the wall and the imagery. It is almost as though the work was painted directly on the substrate, and gives the viewer a break from the dimensional distraction of stretcher bars.

Stellar, 2019-2020, collage and mixed media on paper, 19.75” x 25.5” , photo courtesy Vincent Dion

Global Profile, 2019-2020, collage and mixed media on paper, 19.75” x 25.5” , photo courtesy Vincent Dion

Maybe Here is the masterpiece of the exhibit, and can be seen as the first chapter in the clockwise grouping. This dusky nocturne exudes a quiet harmony that gains steady volume and impetus in the way Philip Glass builds to his crescendos. We are guided across the ominous undercurrent of volcanism by a trail of coolish stone pavers that vent tongues of flame, and keep passion inflected. The mid and back grounds are stacked in a floating montage reminiscent of the way Rothko would mount his auroras. The midground contains a precarious island sanctuary threatened by the rumblings emanating below. This region could be seen as an earthly paradise, populated by throwback references to paper doll cut out creatures, dancing and prancing through the lost innocence of childhood. Yet all the frivolity is tempered by the distress of other unfortunate inhabitants suffering from some kind of unknowable Bosch-ian sin.
The evening sky backdrop of delicately hand painted cosmic doily patterns exudes a highly refined shimmer, much the way gossamer stage scrims conduct a translucent illumination. Viscardi imbues the surface with a silky gelatinous flatness, transmogrifying starry night nebulae into galactic scale.

Maybe Here, 2020, acrylic, collage, fabric, found textiles and mixed media on canvas, 70.5” x 96” , photo courtesy Vincent Dion
Partial exhibition view, photo courtesy Jeanne Tremel

Overall the artist’s whimsical renditions resonate as saturated sensations reverberating in fairy tale-ish fables, while serving up cautionary metaphors surrounded by copulating pixies and moody atmospherics, contained by extremely well crafted spacial calculations. This potent combination of pictorial dexterity coupled with believable, if indecipherable plot devices activate a picture plane loaded with lively painterly potential.

Ultimately I see heaven and hell as earthly endeavors that define our time in this configuration of the universe. Making the most of our precious talents while present is what art is all about. I hope Ms Viscardi and all the rest of the historically significant visual artists I know reap some measure of the benefits they are due well before they end their journey in our wondrous and terrible world of light and dark.

Five Points Gallery (East Gallery), through October 3rd, 2020 33 Main St., Torrington, CT 06790 Gallery open: Tue, Fri, Sat, Sun 1-5pm and by appointment

Eliot Markell is a well regarded beat reporter for the arts & cultural page (overall). He has fashioned a small but dedicated following on his art observations blog White Elephant On Wheels ; Hates the cliche “everyone’s a critic”.