Once upon a time, at a Yellow Peril Gallery opening, I had the fortune of meeting an artist named Toby Sisson who happened to be attending another artist’s reception. We had a pleasant conversation, though I’m sad to say that I forgot about what we chatted about. However after our talk, she handed me her business card. Now, in some ways I am a pack rat when it comes to these things. I want to remember people, but I meet so many that it’s hard to recall them all in a prompt manner. That little card has reappeared in so many cleanings of my varied housing situations since I received it (four in one year, if you can believe it!). Yet it did its job well and I have not forgotten Toby and our meeting because of it.*
When I saw that Toby Sisson had the next show at Yellow Peril Gallery, I was quite thrilled! Finally! I could reconnect with this woman who gave me her card and see her art in person! And then I was hit by DISMAY! I was scheduled to work my other job that night and as it is April I couldn’t hope for another snow storm to get me out in time for it (Nor would I want that! It’s almost MAY for Pete’s sake and this is Southern New England, not the North Pole… though I wonder if they even get snow now at this point). While its usually an amazing time attending a YPG opening, I found my late Sunday afternoon visit far more fulfilling this time around.
Toby’s work uses a variety of mixed media that can include graphite, charcoal, beeswax, oil, and ink on paper or wood. She takes inspiration from the poetry of James Baldwin, specifically “Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems”. Emblazoned on the wall are his words: “The artistic image is not intended to represent the thing itself, but, rather, the reality of the force the thing contains.” Certainly a strong statement to channel one’s work though.
The gallery is filled with a myriad of blacks, whites, and countless greys in between, but this leads the viewer to seek that which was familiar in the endless details of the abstractions. Perhaps this action is a bit like poetry in that we seek the aesthetic rhythm (or lack thereof) within each piece. This is especially true in her monoprint “moon” pieces that dance between the line of the lunar or cellular (I swear that they resembled what is seen through a microscope!) and the small piece wall installation. I spent quite some time analyzing each individual piece within the hundreds that clung to the wall seeking out those that spoke to me in voices I understood or perhaps liked. But isn’t that what art does? Speak to our eyes in a visual language we can only hope to comprehend?
One of the more exciting aspects of this exhibition for me was being able to purchase not one, but two of her small works! No longer will I have to rely on the small business card to remember Toby Sisson, but since I am a bit of a sentimental archivist (not a hoarder I swear!), I may just keep that card anyway. It’s got a good story behind it after all.
*Moral of the Story: If Abigael isn’t looking at your art, give her your card so that she will recall you more quickly at your next encounter and write a magical story about it in her blog!