Palmer Gallery exhibit provides a fascinating look at life

Courtesy of Ganesh Pillai/The Miscellany News.

  How does nature impact us and the way we reflexively view the world? How are we molded by the spaces we live in? These are some of the questions that Marieken Cochius’ art seeks to tackle and explore such that even being left without concrete answers feels like an epiphany in itself. Students from Vassar have the opportunity to ponder such issues by stopping by the Palmer Gallery through Sept. 15 to take in the exhibit “Impulse and Stillness: The Art of Marieken Cochius.”

         As you walk into the gallery, the words “Impulse and Stillness” sprawled across the wall greet you, below them a piece of interlocking loops across the canvas. If it conjures up images of tiny cells within the body, or a mass of microscopic organisms, then that’s precisely what Cochius was going for. In a statement from her website, Cochius described how she is fascinated by the depiction of natural processes, and by the energies of the world around us. Specifically, she noted on her website, “My sculpture, drawings, and paintings capture such fleeting moments in an organic world dominated by chaos and change. The energy that natural forms temporarily contain yet inevitably transform particularly inspires me.” As viewers of her art, the mind cannot help but wonder about these processes, considering the universality of them and the connectedness of our world, chaotic as it may be. Regarding opening the exhibition, Associate Director of Campus Activities Ed Cheetham said, “Amy Manso and I went to Marieken Cochius’ studios and were blown away by her breadth of work and infectious passion for art! All kinds of art.”

         Continuing through the gallery, Cochius’ other abstract, curiosity-piquing works come into view. While she did have her inspirations for the work, each piece serves as an exercise in the imagination for the viewer. Does a piece remind one of a group of flamingos standing upright, or the paint drippings of a frustrated artist, or perhaps a series of electrical circuits? Containing a mix of drawings as well as sculptures, this openness and thematic malleability stood out in this collection of pieces.  

         Additionally, the exhibition’s themes and takeaways are a perfect complement to the values and staples of life here at Vassar. On a basic level, one of the most appealing aspects of campus is the abundance of green spaces and emphasis on cohabitation with nature. Cochius’ wonder with the intrinsic energy of organisms echoes this reverence for the outside world. It’s the same wonder that draws students to the quad when it’s sunny out, or to the Shakespeare Garden when a band is performing. Furthermore, gallery visitors are encouraged to consider the essential question of what impacts the outside world has on us, and vice versa. Students at Vassar are particularly attuned to the impact that we have historically had on the planet, and Cochius’ work encourages thinking along a similar vein. The mass of abstract, thoughtful work preaches a kind of universality, of a shared chaos and confusion among the inhabitants of this planet. The process that inspired one drawing could apply to any number of other pieces, places or beings.

Speaking on the exhibition and her art as a whole, Cochius told me, “My work is about energy, and a respect for it, recognizing it as a life force and seeing if I can hold some of it in my work.” Suffice to say, Vassar’s Palmer Gallery is the perfect spot in the soil for an exhibition whose message, and visitors alike, share in an equally appreciated wider community of life.   


“Impulse and Stillness” will remain in the Palmer Gallery until Sept.16, featuring a closing reception that evening.


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