Jane Irish: War Is Not What You Think. A Collaborative Exhibition of the La Salle University Art Museum and the Connelly Library
Introduction to the Library Exhibition
How does inspiration come to the artist? The luxuriant variety of images and artifacts in this exhibition demonstrates the sometimes inexplicable and counter-intuitive sources that body forth the delicate beginnings of inspiration in the visual artist. The viewer may puzzle at how the artist gathers – seemingly at random - visual images that come to her by way of text, songs, film, objects, photos, book covers, even games and pornography. Then the viewer may imagine the process that occurs when these myriad images reconnect, over time, then repeat and reassemble themselves in the mind until a completely new picture imprints itself on the artist’s mind’s eye. Her mind functions as a colored kaleidoscope with all the tiny unrelated pieces being the items arrayed in the cases. Pick up a case, shake it, and what reassembles may be the very image that ends up in a corner of a painting two years later!
Perhaps more importantly, the artist perceives an underlying pattern of images from many sources that suggest a strong subconscious intent, an iconic image or set of beliefs, that literally express the collective consciousness of a people or culture. When the images in these pattern recognitions derive from environments of injustice, depredation, and human trauma the artist cannot escape the disturbing affects. Often, to alleviate the discomfort and confusion of these disturbing patterns or to interrogate the nature of their threat, she must create new art that will confront or illuminate; she will work “against” the old images and patterns.
Artists today also are nourished by the stunning and unexpected inspiration gained from action art, happenings, kinetic expressions of body and object, and performance. Thus, an artist’s palette becomes the physical means by which her imagination reassembles her expertly recalled memories of images and patterns. The result is a sort of reenactment - a reification - of the artist’s protean imagination as it both seeks truth and questions accepted myths. These cases, then, together with the artist’s two pilgrimages to Vietnam, and her successive location paintings of performance events, offer the raw material gathered over a decade that enabled (even demanded) that Irish organize what was arguably the largest most comprehensive exhibits of antiwar art in the northeast region of the America – Operation Rapid American Withdrawal: 1970-2005 ~ An Exhibition. The blue scroll painting that is reproduced in the panels above the cases, and in its original version in the La Salle University Art Museum, IS the living inspiration seeded from the images in front of you now.
John S. Baky,
Director of Libraries, Curator of Special Collections