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A fusion of cultures

Niagara Falls artist melds two worlds into personal visions



Jay Carrier, Gold, mixed media on paper

image courtesy of the artist

 

January 24–March 6

Jay Carrier: We Took Things With Us

Buffalo Arts Studio

buffaloartsstudio.org, 833-4450

 

Jay Carrier is known as a landscape artist, but don’t expect rolling hills and shady forests. Although land does make its way into some of his complex, layered artworks—often literally—Carrier’s pictorial terrain passes through emotional and psychological territory. In creating his multimedia works—let’s call them enhanced drawings and paintings—the artist typically combines paint, collage, various drawing media, and anything else he finds laying around, including products of the earth itself: sand, leaves, ashes, wood, rust, and detritus. His willingness to mix diverse materials, echoes a similar penchant for merging sundry art styles and subject matter. This may sound like a recipe for artistic disaster, but, in Carrier’s deft hands, it generally works.

 

An exhibition of new work titled We Took Things with Us opens January 24 at Buffalo Arts Studio (BAS). In describing Carrier’s prolific and diverse output, BAS curator Sherry Verrico says, “He draws and paints with an honesty and directness that cuts through the digital media noise that seems to surround us today.” Indeed, set against the backdrop of contemporary visual culture, where artistic expression is often laced with absurdism and mediated through new technologies, Carrier’s oeuvre appears refreshingly direct and earnest. “He focuses on the rituals of preparing oneself to work,” says Verrico, “the power of making, and the truth of each mark.”

 

Jay Carrier, Jump

 

Cultural crossover

Carrier calls his work autobiographical in that it reflects his “personal ideas, moods, emotions, perspective, and history,” which are informed by a duel cultural identity. He was born on the Six Nations Reservation to Onondaga and Tuscarora parents, but raised in downtown Niagara Falls, an area that’s suffered from ill-conceived 1960s urban renewal efforts. With one foot in each world, Carrier draws on multiple influences from the diverging cultural forces. As he puts it: “The dichotomy of these opposing societies constantly clash, intermingle, and become one throughout the making of my art.” What results are visceral impressions, infused with oddments of popular culture and blended with a distinctive visual and emotional fluency.

 

Jay Carrier, Tree Dreaming

 

Stylistic synthesis

Carrier also deftly combines abstract and figurative painting styles, ranging from naturalistic to expressionistic, usually instilled with obtuse symbolism. His interests span such diverse themes as Native American life, sexuality, pop culture, and spirituality. Bits of evocative text contribute to the poetic tone of much of his work. Some large pieces, like American Landscape (eight-by-twenty-seven feet), span multiple panels, forming impenetrable narratives. In examining the full arc of Carrier’s work, his restless nature is clearly evident. He is that rare artist who grants himself license to explore multiple ideas, techniques, and styles, freely following his muse wherever it leads.

 

Also on view with Carrier

Mary Rouse is a self-taught artist who draws influences from her Navajo Nation father and Jewish Orthodox mother. Rouse’s experience of living largely off the grid gives her work a directness and poignancy that cuts through the cacophony of contemporary media, paralleling Carrier’s art. Both exhibitions open with a reception Friday, January 24, 5–8 pm.

 

 

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