Esther Traugot, “Natural Alchemy” at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary

by admin on April 15, 2014

Where often large-scale, colorful paintings, grand installations that provide audiences with fully immersive experiences, and an imperative to shock or provoke with subject matter or style pervades artistic practices, Esther Traugot’s “Natural Alchemy” at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary gallery is a refreshing return to the aesthetic sublimity of the commonplace that encourages audiences to stimulate a more intimate connection with the natural world. With minimal manipulation, Traugot’s solo show shows reverence for some of the the smallest organisms and objects on the planet,  providing equally powerful results as many larger, colorful and expressive works. Her envelopment of objects ranging from tree branches, seedpods, and eggs  in hand dyed, goldenrod cotton thread both exacerbate the item’s fragility and reaffirms its shape, inherent nature, and physical properties. Intriguingly, many of her artworks will not completely hide the object from view. The very apex of the egg’s dome shines under the gallery’s lighting, and the cracked crab shells complement small weaving inside, performing a similar task to its muscles that once strengthened its form. In this way, Traugot truly creates a synthesis of the natural and the magical, through an alchemical process of just two basic materials, she makes something precious from the ordinary.

The crochet’s minuscule gauge will certainly illustrate for audiences the artist’s deeply laborious process, which requires an intense focus into nearly a meditative-like state to fashion such painstakingly perfected artwork. Traugot’s artwork assembled in the gallery space creates the ambiance of a natural history museum: many works are situated inside bell jars, others rest on the ground, or are on shelving just below eye level. Knitting as a medium will also bring forward notions of visualizing the passage of time, at once referencing the amount of time Traugot has spent with these objects studying their every curve and texture and the object’s span of life and use. In this way, she lifts them from their forgotten places on dirt trails or among obscurity within the leaves and branches of trees and stresses their importance and significance. Also on view several of Traugot’s paintings, which were actually a part of the artist’s practice before her installations for which she may perhaps be better known, include the similar fantastical landscapes and deferential botanical drawings she creates with her installations and assemblages. “As bandage or cozy, these support structures investigate the relationship between nurturing and controlling nature.  The meticulous act of crocheting mimics the instinct to nurture and protect what is viable, what is becoming precious,” says Traugot. “As in gilding, these false ‘skins’ imbue the objects with an assumed desirability or value; the wrapping becomes an act of veneration.” 

Esther Tragout, “Natural Alchemy” will be at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary, 480 23rd Street through May 29, 2014