by Mike Roberts via pnj.com
On the heels of the opening of Pensacola State College’s new art wing is “A Drop of Water, a Grain of Sand,” an exhibit of paintings by New Orleans artist Jacqueline Bishop. Her lauded works are inspired by the environmental destruction she’s witnessed during her 30 years of global travel.
“She is so meticulous in her execution,” said Vivian Spencer, director of PSC’s Anna Lamar Switzer Gallery where the show runs through Oct. 6. “(Her work) is thought-provoking and intelligent. The ecology is important. She has incredible talent.”
Bishop is this year’s “Switzer Distinguished Artist,” an annual honorific applied by the PSC art department to an established artist. Spencer sifts through the art world and presents a candidate to the art faculty for confirmation.
“I do extensive research of local, regional and national artists,” Spencer said. “I follow their exhibitions, teachings, lectures, and appearances.”
Recipients are granted an exhibit in the PSC gallery that serves as a teaching tool for its art students. The 2013 show presented a photographer whose images of Florida landscapes — especially the more sensitive subjects like the state’s trademark subterranean springs — has a slight relation to this year’s show.
Bishop’s work stems from those visits to fragile areas like Brazilian rainforests. She came away as an eyewitness to industrial encroachment and subsequent lack of ecological conservation. A native Californian, she studied for two years at the University of Kansas before relocating to New Orleans to earn a bachelor’s degree in painting from the University of New Orleans in 1978 and a masters in fine art at Tulane University in 1982. Thus, the proximity to the water strengthened her tableau.
“I am a New Orleanian for over three-quarters of my life and have been shaped by my tropical landscape here in the Gulf Coast with the swamps, wetlands and feel that the Louisianan landscape is the most misunderstood landscape in the world,” Bishop said.
The cover of the show’s catalog, a painting titled “Apple Tree,” is an unsettled Eden with an intricate mangrove surrounded by restless water. A deer reaches up to the tree’s abundance in a balanced composition of leaves, apples, other animals and waves. In a smaller work titled “Edge” the scene is a cat’s cradle of random tendrils entangling plants, birds and a human embryo. Bishop was labeled in the early 1980s as a ”visionary imagist,” a movement of artists characterized by obsessive detailed techniques.
“In my case, the focus was environmental which was not considered important at that time,” she said. “I also have been referred to as neo-romantic, neo-surrealist, and neo-mannerist.”
More site specific is her painting “Louisiana Mountain” where a mound of detritus is topped with a religious connotation of power poles. That work, from 1990, foreshadowed the later disasters like Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the BP oil spill five years later, stimulating Bishop’s oeuvre even further.
With this show however, Bishop’s personal accounts come across as gentle polemics where the art comes first. She has a particular interest in birds that she memorializes in small sculptures or with a series called the “Wooden Diaries” where she scribed her personal entries on site.
“I collected the carved birds in the Brazilian Amazon from the Ticuna Indians who carved the birds from their environment,” she said. “I wrote my diaries on them at night by flashlight in my tent while camping in the jungle. I love that poetical connection.”
Coincidentally, Bishop has shown previously at PSC in the late 1970s when she met Allan Peterson, the gallery director at the time, through mutual friends. Since then she has developed into a fixture in the New Orleans’ revered art scene having taught at Tulane and Loyola universities and is represented by Arthur Roger Gallery. She’s currently in a group show at Staple Goods Gallery in the city’s Marigny district.
Meanwhile, PSC is about to christen its Charles W. Lamar Studio featuring a new lecture hall, the largest open gallery in Pensacola, and a hallway exhibition space featuring five gifted prints by Robert Mapplethorpe.
Want to go?
WHAT: Jacqueline Bishop: “A Drop of Water, A Grain of Sand, Work from 1986-2017”
WHEN: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday; through Oct. 6
WHERE: Anna Lamar Switzer Gallery, Building 15, Pensacola State College, 1000 College Blvd.