A World of Light, Color and Exuberance

“Ananda” by BMCC Adjunct Professor Joan Thorne
November 1, 2013

“It’s hard to believe a painter can rein in such color and make sense out of it,” art critic Stephen Westfall writes about Joan Thorne, whose recent work is currently on view at the Sideshow Gallery in Williamsburg.  The one-person exhibition opened on October 12 and will run until November 10.

An adjunct professor in BMCC’s Music and Art Department, Thorne has collected a vast array of awards and honors over the course of a career that spans more than four decades.  Her work has been featured in numerous one-person gallery shows, two Whitney Museum Biennials and major group exhibitions in Europe and the Americas.  In addition, many of her paintings are part of the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Albright Knox Gallery, the Houston Fine Arts Museum, and the Dallas Museum of Art.

Colors that produce their own light

In reviewing Thorne’s last solo exhibition at the Sideshow Gallery in 2010, New York Times art critic Ken Johnson described her paintings as “optically captivating—the work conveys a state of visceral and cosmic ecstasy.”  Douglas Manson, writing in Art in America, said that Thorne’s colors “seem to produce their own light.”  To sample Thorne’s creative vision, you needn’t look past the cover illustration of the 32-page catalogue that accompanies the current show—her 2013 painting Ananda, a mesmerizing, multilayered array of colored lines, bands and swirls.  

“I consider myself a metaphysical abstractionist, making images which come out of my life experience,” says Thorne, who joined the BMCC faculty in 1993.  “The images in my paintings are not only drawn from visual inspiration, but from memory, and dreams as well as the intuitive process of painting.”  Notwithstanding the trend toward placing artists in neat categories,  “Joan’s art is unique,” says painter Thornton Willis. “It comes from a highly personal vision, as does all moving art.”

While her work is striking in its originality and the singularity of her vision, Thorne is quick to note that “artists don’t hatch out of thin air” and places herself in “a long, amazing and beautiful continuum” of artists, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, and Joan Mitchell.

“We’re always influenced by the artists who came before us,” she says.

Decoding “spatial conundrums”

The paintings on view at Sideshow are as exuberant as ever, Westfall says,
“posing a renewed, vital, imaginative, phenomenological pictorial space.”  The dimensions are generous, with many canvases measuring at least four or five feet across. “We look through levels of color and decipher spatial conundrums…and experience color and brushstrokes as psychologically suggestive,” writes Westfall. “Every formal element is a vehicle for emotional content: anxiety, tenderness, and joy.”

The Sideshow Gallery is located at 319 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11211. Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 12 noon-6pm.   You may see Joan Thorne’s work in the 32-page catalogue that accompanied her recent Sideshow Exhibition, and on her web site at www.joanthorne.com.

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  • One-person show at Williamsburg’s Sideshow Gallery will run through November 10
  • Images are drawn from memory, dreams and intuitive creative processes

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