Long Time Passing – A Campfire Story

Jeannine Bardo at Stand4

In her recent exhibition at the New York Stand4 gallery, Jeannine Bardo displays her art in the wall and on the wall. The Brooklyn artist paints, scratches, plasters, and finds objects from nature that add up to a set of narratives that she titles “Long Time Passing/ A Campfire Story.” The artworks are subtle, with almost no color. The carvings and objects are not clearly visible at first glance. Bardo invites her viewers to take their time, sit by the fire, and listen as she unravels her tales, using shiny spots that glitter along their progression. As the stories unfold, her calm work reveals a sense of menace that continues throughout the narrative path.

Lifelines, 2019; image by Laura Sacks

It takes some time to decipher her recounting and to discover the camouflaged works. The stories begin on a dark wall with a memorial to women who were slain by violence in America during the past year. Bardo squirts parallel drops of silver ink with a pen on the wall, creating narrow stains of paint that extend towards the floor in marks of varied lengths. These tear-paths are all short and, interrupted on their paths, they never make it to the floor.

In other works, by piercing and carving into the plaster, Bardo creates low reliefs that become integral parts of the walls. These installations are like scars or wounds on the wall, but at the same time they look precious, like jewels tattooed onto the white surface. On a narrow wall, between two windows, she sculpts “The Rightless Thing.” This plaster relief mimics the contour of an old tree standing just outside the gallery. She traces the details of its three-dimensional imperfections, leading our gaze from inside out. Transforming nature into plaster, the odd shaped roughness of the tree and the flexure of its bumps tell its history and outline the diseases and harsh weather events that it went through. This carving is reminiscent of ancient historical reliefs narrating a story to be told long after the subject has gone.

The Rightless Thing, 2019, image: Michal Gavish

On the opposite wall, Bardo chisels small holes to create “Depressed Vessels,” an image of a seven-star constellation. The artist pierces each star into a tiny relieved crater, which she fills with silver dots until it glows in the matte surface. The metal reflections create an image of a stellar map of heavenly bodies, reminding the artist of the stars that are no longer visible in the bright New York night sky. The reflections are enhanced by a lustrous foil underneath it, that the artist adds to force light to become an inseparable part of the stellar impression.

Depressed vessels, 2019; image by Mike Clemow

The gleaming craters connect this work to a sparkling speck on a vertical piece of driftwood hanging in a niche, almost out of the gallery. In “The Golden Spike,” Bardo carves a similarly round crater in the center of this found-wood, filling it with pure gold paint. The metallic incision shines on the piece like jewels on a dry limb.

The Golden Spike, 2019; image by Laura Sacks

As our eyes adjust to the dark, we bump into “Adrift and Bent on Growth.” Bardo places this dramatic installation in another dim hallway niche. She leans against the corner this ancient piece of trunk with an odd phallic shape that was carried from the East River. Under this strange scrap of wood, she plants a glass prism that catches a narrow ray of light and disperses it into a rainbow of spectral dots on the wall. The colorful light spots are focused on the wall around the piece. They are not bright enough to clearly reveal its shape that remains masked in darkness. It takes a long look to decipher its strange silhouette, which is both beautiful and frightening. In this complex installation the colored luminescence sends a covenant of beauty and peace while the dark mass above it looks like nature’s remnant of violence.

Adrift and Bent on Growth, 2019 image by Bernadeta Serafin

This association of violence and the connection of man to nature brings the campfire stories back full circle to “Lifelines” and to the women’s tears laid on the wall. It wraps the narrative and echoes the artist’s worries about nature and about the nature of human. It extends the stories in a continuous poetic loop of visual tales in grey scale that is interrupted by reflective light signals of an alarming fear.

Michal Gavish is a visual artist with a past career as a research scientist. She writes regularly in SciArt magazine and other venues.