[Jacqueline] Bishop’s long career in working at the intersection of environmentalism and visual art includes not just Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, which inspires much of her work, but a longstanding relationship with Central and South America and the rainforest conservation work of the late Brazilian rubber-tapper Chico Mendes. Close to home, Bishop’s imagery has always focused on native flora and fauna, painting them with a mixture of close, attentive realism and wild, exuberant surrealism, not unlike a latter-day Hieronymus Bosch. And similar to The Garden of Earthly Delights, in much of Bishop’s work, looking at her paintings is like reading a sentence in which we recognize the words but don’t understand the grammar.
Jacqueline Bishop practices a kind of unnatural naturalism, fantastical in its imagery even as it concentrates on the natural world. In fact, Bishop tends to be faithful to the rendition of actual animals – especially the fish and fowl that populate these meditations on aqua-ecology – while elaborating their surrounding conditions, including flora, weather, and water itself, in a surrealistic manner that effectively dramatizes their situation. Bishop comments pointedly on ecological conditions, but what she stresses is the sensation of nature itself and the delicate yet vital role and presence within it of its sentient creatures.
Does anyone seriously doubt global warming anymore? Some people who used to ask why we live in such a vulnerable place had a rude awakening when Hurricane Sandy made it clear that vast storms are no longer confined to the tropics but now threaten even New York’s financial district. Perhaps climate change is a reminder that we have become alienated from our origins. Jacqueline Bishop has been addressing such questions in her paintings and mixed-media work for many years, and her new show at Arthur Roger Gallery is startling, not simply for its meticulous virtuosity, but also for its scope.
John Kemp discusses Jacqueline Bishop’s exhibition “Against the Tide” at Arthur Roger Gallery on Steppin’ Out.
Jacqueline Bishop’s paintings, installations, and works on paper probe the complex relationship between ecologically fragile systems and humans. Similar in tenor to the poet and philosopher Ponge’s close examination of “things” her works are intimate observations of the world around us with strong political and social dimensions. Bishop’s depictions of nature and close analysis of flora and fauna recall 16th and 17th century Dutch and Flemish still life paintings with surrealistic and often exotic overtones.
WWNO’s Fred Kasten speaks with artist Jacqueline Bishop.