Jeanne Willette2

by jeanne willette, ph.d.

Haus is a residential property used as a gallery, and therefore it is a gallery where certain kinds of installations have a special resonance. It is here that Jane Brucker has placed a collection of objects that vibrate with hints of past lives. “The home,” as she explained it, “is a vessel for life, full of mundane activities, a place where we feel safe.” Brucker’s career has long been intertwined with themes of domesticity and the repetitions and rhythms of the lives of women. This installation is more a collection of objects and less the recreation of an environment, but the works of art are visually and formally connected through the pale, bleached, and faded colors favored by the artist.

Each piece of art is carefully placed: the soles of pairs of shoes, made of cedar, leather and felt, are placed near the entry; a white pristine dress in the living room contrasts with a dress, found mended by the artist and placed in the office. An iron crib, located on Craigslist and stripped of its mattress, is entangled with crochet work and placed in the main room. Nearby, on separate pedestals are wallets and coin purses, spilling out credit cards and coins. Brucker has bronzed and commemorated the credit card and has refashioned the coins into a Daliesque melt.

In contrast to the adult activity of spending money, is the child’s way of passing time on a hobbyhorse. Inspired by a childhood poem, “If wishes were horses, beggars could ride,” the wooden steed supports, not a child but a wooden cloud-like framework, a triangle on top of a square. This hovering structure is the way a child draws a house, with simply geometry. The artist meditates on the poetry of meaning residing in personal belongings, carrying traces of the owner. The viewer is drawn into the mystery of memories and the stories that we tell to ourselves. The scale, from a set of encyclopedias used by the artist when she was a child to a strange cloth with a burn mark on the corner, is intimate and demands a close and meditative viewing from the visitor.

The exhibition will be augmented by a performance, based upon a woman’s travel journal that turns out to be a journey into loneliness. The fact that all might not be well in Brucker’s home is indicated by the recurring theme of money that “doesn’t grow on trees,” the association of credit cards with “thief,” and the artist’s connection of the volumes above the fireplace to bankruptcy. The mood of the art is one of sadness and loss, and the installation is an elegy to memories that cannot recover the time that has been squandered or the lives that have been spent.

Perhaps the most famous description of memory comes from Marcel Proust who took a bite of a madeleine and a sip of tea. Suddenly, the writer was overwhelmed by an echo from his childhood and began a search for lost time. Seeking vanished passages of his life Proust wrote, “But when from a long distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”

This very special installation by Brucker uses the “tiny” Proustian objects and their “essence” to usher the viewer over the threshold of lost time.

JEANNE WILLETTE, Ph.D is an arts writer and wrote about Jane Brucker’s work in Haus Gallery, Pasadena for ArtScene.