N. J. ARTISTS
Don’t feel bad if you look at an art work by Joy Kreves and can’t identify it as simply a painting or a sculpture or. . . . “Mixed media” is often the only correct way to describe what this artist has created from the myriad materials she typically uses.
Many of Kreves’ creations can be described as “assemblages” – another form of 3-D art related to sculpture, except that Kreves’ pieces are, well, in pieces. She merges, or assembles, numerous components into one finished product.
A huge example of that is “Solastalgia,” first exhibited at Rider University in her 2010 solo show, “Translating Nature.” A mixed media wall installation about eight feet high, it incorporated ceramic, wire screen, branches, fiber and rocks over a 24-foot wide space.
Kreves’ title word was coined by Glenn Albrecht, a philosopher-linguist she admires. “Solastalgia” refers to the “homesickness you can feel when your environment being degraded around you but you’re still at home.” And that feeling, writ large, suggests how this artist regards the world around her.
Observing that in a sense her body of work is an homage to our environment – “the wonderful things on earth that are around us to enjoy, so beautiful. . .” -- Kreves wants those who view her art to feel the exuberance of being one with it because “physically, mentally, emotionally, people are much more tied to environment than most of them realize.”
Spread out on a large table in her home studio, a current project includes ceramic elements. “Clay is basically the earth, it’s natural,” she says with implicit approval. Then in a nod to reality, she indicates she’ll probably end up including plastic elements too “because our environment is totally infused with man-made materials that will never break down. . .”
To some extent, Kreves’ medium is her message.
Looking around her Ewing Township studio earlier this spring, she said, “I’m envious of people who use the same material each time.” But she quickly added, “I really like materials,” and laughingly agreed she’s a “Material Girl.”
Besides works in progress and finished pieces all around, Kreves’ space also includes quantities of Styrofoam, yarns, found materials, even branches. Rather than using preliminary sketches or maquettes in starting an art work, “I just go straight to the materials,” she says.
Nearly finished, her “waterfall bowl” is only the latest in a series of big ceramic bowls she loves making. For Kreves, they are both symbols of nourishment and a kind of environment. In a sense they also serve as canvases, on and in which she can express her art themes.
Dandelions star in some bowls, first impressed into the clay, then painted. The spiky leaves of this ubiquitous weed are dino-like, the artist says, representing to her the primitive part of the floral world. “They suggest a landscape equivalent to the more primitive part of the human brain, the ‘reptilian brain’ over which we have evolved other higher-functioning brains.”
Picture this: a crawling baby whose back is a domed turtle shell. You’re seeing one of Kreves’ “turtle babies” – a series she created to illustrate one of her art themes: the brain and evolution. “A baby is all potential and can become anything, yet it has that primitive brain. And turtles, around before dinosaurs, are the most primitive creatures you can find.”
Much of Kreves’ work has to do with water, which for her “easily symbolizes” a river, time passing, purity. “The earth is our mother, as Native Americans have traditionally believed,” she says. It’s where we live, our only home – “and if we ruin the water, we can’t get it back.”
Her awareness of threats to the Delaware River and the environmental effects of the BP oil drilling disaster are among her motivations for numerous pieces celebrating water in its many moods, textures, looks. One mixed media wall relief, “Waterfall Bronzed for Posterity,” suggests her apprehensions for the natural world.
Kreves’ artworks are often the physical expressions of her reading. She says, “Philosophy, culture, math, science and nature inspire my themes,” and she reads and writes poetry too. Ruminations on the brain, the landscape and the environment as a whole have prompted many of her recent pieces.