The texture of the trees, the rhythms of the vines, and yes, even the discards in the vacant lots—Nancy Eisenfeld is an artist who finds inspiration in the varied aspects her own neighborhood.
A prominent figure on the art scene, Eisenfeld has been a resident of North Haven for over 40 years, and while her studio is located in the city of New Haven, it’s the suburb where she resides that often evokes much of the spirit and essence of her work.
“I walk around a lot in my neighborhood. I love the noises of the wind and the clicking of the trees. I love the crackling of the broken limbs and the sloughing of the bark. They all become visual sources for my art.”
While not easily categorized—a painter, a sculptor ,a draughtsman—the common thread that consistently ties Eisenfeld’s work together is her personal connection to the natural world.
In the current exhibit of paintings, drawings and sculpture entitled “A Twist,” at New Haven’s City Gallery, on view through March 27, Eisenfeld juxtaposes found objects of natural materials, like branches, bark and twigs, with man-made items, like metal, wire mesh, and pigment, in order to explore the connections between the forces of natural life-cycles and the man-made interference that accompanies it.
The sculptures achieve a fine balance between subject and material. While addressing narratives issues like life and death, chaos and construction and design and chance, they also maintain a clear sense of their original essence .
In works like “Bark Bitter and Sweet," for example, in which the organic tangles of twisted twigs and battered barks are interrupted by rusted metal forms or random shards of broken glass, the roughly realized rawness makes one keenly aware of the force of Eisenfeld’s visceral connections to her materials.
A series of mixed media works hanging in a row beside each other also reflect Eisenfeld’s keen connection to her surroundings.
“I’m very much affected by the weather, the seasons, the sky. The blizzard series, for example, is truly based on the last month and a half in New England.”
These lovely boxlike mixed media works, each only about 10 inches by 10 inches, of wintry brushstrokes, irreverent splashes and spatial suggestion, simulate the effect of natural forces, but while nature may set the stage, it's the artist who controls the boundaries of its energy.
A couple of pieces in the exhibit appear as fully opened scroll-like forms. Crafted of white vellum, they are simply tacked to the wall.
In “Oil Spill,”, the title an obvious reference to that catastrophe, viscous passages of black ink curl like rhythmic rivulets down the paper.
“Slip Sliding Away,” a reference, one assumes, to global warming, is comprised of a blend of translucent and opaque abstracted areas of icy whites and greys, with hints of green. Both works are spare, subtle and elegant. Beautifully atmospheric in their resonance, they belie the horror of their reality.
The exhibit includes a number of ink and wash drawings, some in color, some in black and white, some hanging freely, others installed directly behind a few of the sculptural pieces. Although they are titled individually, their proximity to the sculptures lead one to question both their connection to each other and whether they might not have been better off on their own.