Seattle Post-Intelligencer
December 15, 2006

Grinnell's collages embody life's ephemeral essences

Global-positioning systems guide us across land, sea and air. No such pilot exists to navigate human beings through birth, death and the mysteries in between

Instead, we make our way by stockpiling experiences and crafting personal maps. Like the GPS, humans depend upon relationships. However, instead of resulting from scientific way points, our paths evolve from a raft of tenuous and tenacious bonds.

"Bitter Love," Gail Grinnell's exhibit at Francine Seders Gallery, encapsulates this individual and collective history. In two-dimensional multilayered collages, Grinnell embeds ephemeral essences; silence and clamor, power and fragility, triumph and loss. Each piece reflects a frame of mind, echoing the artist's contemplation of two inspirational elements.

The first, a child's intricately detailed pink dress, spawns a jauntily upbeat mood. On the bubble-gum pink fabric of "Izabella," Grinnell's undulating black-and-white ink lines and deftly cut openings result in a lacey cornucopia of ruffles and flounces. Its 60-by-94-inch contour freeze-frames square dancing's rollicking petticoats.

The second inspiration, Richard Wilbur's 1956 poem, "Love Calls Us to the Things of This World," focuses on life's "difficult balance." Grinnell reinterprets Wilbur's motif, transforming words into visual halcyon joy, disappointment, deflation, defiance, acceptance and resolution. Nestling ashen bones, footprints, centipedes and sea creatures within "Marrow's" icy blue webs of swirling ribbons and ropey curlicues, she alludes to the connective tissues and emotional glue that hold us together and compel us to persevere.

Grinnell accomplishes her ties-that-bind motif by drawing lines that do not stop. They ebb and flow, swell and dive, intersect and beckon. They pulse like veins carrying life's sustenance. Though not representational, the pieces portray personas. "Angel" (120 by 54 inches) struts with the freedom of laundry billowing on a clothesline, of angels and kites floating on air. "Rosie" twists and bulges; curtains catching a breeze or a cheeky girl turning on her heel and dancing off. Grinnell's lines impart the wisdom of an aged creased face, the beauty of a flower's delicate petals and the tranquility of a Japanese woodcut. They speak of entrapment, time, absence, roots and togetherness.

And beneath the surface, they address women's crafts and work. Salvaged fabric, maple-hued clothing patterns, ruffles and thread reference mending, sewing, washing and ironing; hands-on household activities. Metaphorically, the patterns' directional statements and arrows recall decision making, repetition of tasks and strands linking generations. Grinnell's cut, layered and acrylic glued fabric remnants harbor memories that might slumber in an attic trunk. Bursting with bittersweet nuances, they imply the ties that bind and form the fabric of our lives. It is gratifying work that urges us to pay heed to our inner compasses.

— Judy Wagonfeld