By Mark S. Porter | via NorthJersey.com
Henri Matisse sets a swirl of topics. Janet Taylor Pickett embellishes the colorful discussion.
The Montclair Art Museum’s "Janet Taylor Pickett: The Matisse Series" is an array of Pickett’s images and artistic creations influenced by the French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954), both of whose artworks burst forth with vivid images and recurring themes.
Her scores of collages and four handmade books are "my own personal conversation with his work and my journal as an African-American visual artist," Pickett said during a tour of her exhibition.
The title of an upcoming discussion with Pickett explains it: "A Private Conversation Made Public."
Amid their radiant colors and symbiotic overlays, Pickett’s collages contain oft-repeated symbols such as dresses and doorways. Whether tucked in corners or centerpieces of her canvases are Matisse’s similar motifs.
A MAM release provides details:
"In many of her dresses, Taylor Pickett juxtaposes images of African sculpture, textiles, and cultural elements, with details from Matisse’s work, typically procured from exhibition catalogue reproductions. This multicultural dialogue is at the heart of her complex, archetypal creations, which often feature portraits of the artist herself. The artist’s interest in light, color, and multiple perspectives is also pervasive in some of her recent works, in which she combines elements of Matisse’s work with tripartite spaces evoking medieval altarpieces, unifying past and present."
"I use the dress as a metaphor for identity," noted Pickett.
Spread across two walls are 66 of them. "Sixty Six Dresses: An Odyssey, 2014-15," are small collages of paper and acrylic, each created in the outline of a dress, and each containing layers of design and meaning. The number and title reflected her age during their creation.
Her 2015 artwork, "Indigo Blue Dress — Charms & Inspirations 2," is a 3D collage of acrylic, twine, glass, charms, and watercolor, and several bottles. "Each of the bottles has a message in it," she said.
Inside a display is a fold-out, handmade book from 2002, "Me and Matisse." According to Pickett, the book literally illustrates "how I’ve insinuated myself into Matisse’s interiors."
A former Montclair resident, Pickett had been MAM Board of Trustees member and an instructor at MAM’s Yard School of Art. She was co-founder of MAM’s African American Cultural Committee. Now residing in Pasadena, CA, Pickett’s first MAM show was "One Way Home" in 1997.
She’s in Pasadena to be near her daughter, Samantha. Samantha’s portrayed in the exhibit’s art, such as "Addressing Her Point of View." Atop the collage, noted Pickett, is a "Matisse star," with piercings of light slicing through a night-blue sky. Pickett said the light also represents the North Star, which served as a nighttime guidepost for escaped slaves seeking freedom.
"The work is very layered," acknowledged Pickett. "Hopefully, you’ll come back and peel away another layer."
The Pickett exhibition is co-curated by Imlay Gallery director Kathy Imlay, who is Pickett’s gallerist, and MAM chief curator Gail Stavitsky.
On Thursday, Oct. 13, at 7:30 p.m., Pickett, Stavitsky, and Imlay will be the panelists in MAM’s annual Julia Norton Babson Memorial Lecture. It’s open to the public, but attendance requires advance registration and a ticket purchase. Call the MAM store for tickets: 973-259-5137.
Pickett is returning to the Yard School of Art on Oct. 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., to teach a master class. There’s an admission fee.
The Montclair Art Museum exhibition "Janet Taylor Pickett: The Matisse Series" continues to June 18, 2017.
According to MAM, "Taylor Pickett will also be represented in two concurrent complemen-tary exhibitions, Matisse and American Art and Inspired by Matisse: Selected Works from the Collection, opening February 2017."
For more information, contact MAM at 973-746-5555, or montclairartmuseum.org