Pinocchio Opens at the Glovinsky Gallery
By Don Eron
Pinocchio, the marionette who undergoes a turbulent journey in realizing his dream of becoming a real boy, has long been a subject of fascination for artists, perhaps most notably the pop-artist Jim Dine. Denver artist Janet Glovinsky joins their ranks with her exhibition “Pinocchio,” which opens May 1 at the Glovinsky Gallery, one block off Santa Fe at 8th and Inca. Those inclined to investigate First Fridays in the Santa Fe art district will find “Pinocchio” to be a remarkable show well worth walking the extra block to Inca.
“Pinocchio” represents a departure for Glovinsky. She has often explored personal obsessions, expressed in explosions of vibrant color, dense texture, symbolic language (Glovinsky is also an accomplished poet) and recognizable images, presented through a series of conceptually conversant paintings—“Life above the Line” (living an above-average life); “Crossing Borders” (political liberation); “Lost” (mental illness). While the 12 paintings in “Pinocchio” retain the quality of narrative puzzles, they also represent Glovinsky’s transformation as an abstract artist, as if in “cutting the strings” to imagery and language her artistic exploration acts as correlative to the marionette’s journey.
Indeed, cutting the strings that provide us with safety, but that restrain us from striving after our dreams, is a theme that is everywhere in this exhibition. “If You Don’t Have a Dream, How Do You Make a Dream Come True?” features numerous layers of color and texture that overwhelm Pinocchio, evoking his vulnerability but also his resolve. In another (as yet untitled) painting, a tiny Pinocchio, in a kayak on the surface of a vast sea, unwittingly rows toward turbulent waters. In another, Pinocchio rows out of the turbulent waters and, intrepid, continues his exploration, as if accepting that turbulence is a necessary component of his journey.
Not all the paintings in “Pinocchio” contain the image of the marionette, but each expresses the anxiety and hope that cutting the strings might inspire. “How I Wish Upon a Star,” presents a woman lying on a deserted beach, crumpled and discouraged, who notices a single star looming in the remote sky. In what may be the exhibition’s masterwork, also titled “How I Wish Upon a Star,” a phalanx of reds and whites drip from the top of the canvas to create a flat color field—in contrast to roughly textured browns, blues, and blacks. This painting is entirely abstract, save for a conspicuous Star of David. Here Glovinsky, who often draws upon Jewish themes in her painting and poetry as vehicles for merging the personal with the political, seems to express the inevitable—some journeys are smooth, others rough. In a time of increasing global anti-Semitism, Glovinsky accepts that hers might be rough.
The last two paintings in “Pinocchio” are pure abstract presentations of feeling, evoked entirely through color and texture. No symbolic language or recognizable images guide the viewer toward a context, beyond the inspiring context established through the other paintings. I couldn’t help but feel that with these two abstract works the artist, cutting the strings of the familiar, has culminated her identification with Pinocchio’s quest.
For anyone interested in the complexities of the human spirit, this is work to savor—and that will enhance any collection.
For “Pinocchio” Janet Glovinsky will also show several bronze sculptures that comment on the paintings. One wall of the Glovinsky Gallery will be a dedicated “Wishing Wall”—visitors are encouraged to write their dreams. “Pinocchio” will show first and third Fridays and by appointment. At the May 1 opening, there will be free food and drink, with live music by David Burchfield. Request: “How I Wish Upon a Star.”
Don Eron, who recently retired from the CU-Boulder faculty, is a writer and activist.