Augen Gallery, Portland, Oregon
by Richard Speer
Finessing the line between nature and artifice, vegetation and decoration, Cynthia Mosser infuses her works on panel and paper with luxuriant, vernal imagery. The mixed-media panel pieces layer paint, collage, gesso, and encaustic medium into a kind of geological dig, exposing strata teeming with fossil-like ferns and succulents. In Succulent Puff II, a backdrop of ovular forms in green, brown, honey-mustard, and maroon establishes a matrix of order, while an amoebic white squiggle slithers atop, counterbalancing the geometric rigor with gestural freedom. Interlaced between these motifs are pentimenti that resemble fleurs-de-lis. Swim Puff (cowboy) and Swim Puff (mojito) dispense with the grounding ovals, giving the picture plane over to an unbridled, free-form fantasia suggestive of lakes, swimming pools, thought bubbles, and cartoon-influenced forms. This stylistic mélange updates primordial vegetative sprawl with a sense of midcentury whimsy, one part Paleozoic, one part Palm Springs.
When the artist essays gouache, she loses the visual and metaphoric layering so vital to her mixed-media works, and the swirly patterns read as purely decorative: fanciful on the cusp of cloying, like a confectioner’s handiwork atop a wedding cake. In one of the gouache works, pastel circles pile atop one another like so many scoops of ice cream, rendered in tentative, illustratorly scrawls, but in the two-part study, Puff Paradise I and II, the artist returns to her more self-assured, vegetational motifs. Visually, this body of work is never less than entertaining, although it feels formally and thematically transitional. The contrast between the allusive power of the layered works and the flat, Gen-Y sugar high of the gouache—and the wild blending of eco-rococo with a contemporary, graphic sensibility—point to an exuberance in multifarious styles, poised just short of coalescence.
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