EACH YEAR DURING THE HOLIDAYS we look back to the Catholic traditions with which we grew up. Through the iconography of the church, we try to identify some universal truth or cultural relevance that goes beyond our personal experience and instruction and create an installation to celebrate the season. This year Curious Matter presents an icon of the Madonna and Child. Upon discovery at a flea market booth, the icon instantly appealed to us — a handmade devotion, cobbled together from bits and pieces. The wood, brass, glass and printed elements are aged, weathered, worm-holed and patinated to a nearly indecipherable darkness. While the icon is a modest ruin, it has dignity. The thoughtfulness and precision of intention is apparent in its bejeweled and gilded remnants. The seller informed us that it hadn’t left the care of its creator for over 30 years, but who that might have been remains a mystery. Homemade devotions captivate us. If your very salvation is at the heart of your work, it’s not a leap to imagine the maker has put all they have into its execution; their ownpetite voie. For us, that can make a work transcendent. Every detail is significant and wrought with care.
The gestures, colors and compositions of icons are codified and have specific meanings. Most commonly this type of icon depicts the child Jesus seated on Mary’s left as she gestures to him with her right hand. This is her ‘”speaking” hand and she is communicating that he is the salvation or “the way”. The gestures of our icon are unusual. Mary’s lowered hand, held out with her palm up, communicates that she is open to God’s will and accepting of His grace. Her face belies the sorrow of her knowledge of the future — the tragic fate of her son on her lap. The hand of the child is missing, but judging by the position of the arm it was held up in blessing in the traditional pose of the Prince of Heaven and the Savior of Mankind. Most icons are based on originals that were said to have divine creation stories and purported to possess miraculous properties. These icons are venerated as holy relics.
In the Catholic tradition, we turn to Mary for comfort and guidance. She is the compassionate Mother. At this time of year, the qualities of Mary become increasingly apparent in all of us regardless of faith. In venerating the Virgin and Child, or with the lights we hang outside our homes, we declare aliveness and hope in the face of fallow winter. We declare it to ourselves, our families, our friends and neighbors — good will among all. Whether or not the icon of Mary speaks to you, there is grace in attempting to manifest a symbol of nurturing, forgiveness and acceptance. The Virgin endures for many as the symbol of perfect grace. For us, we celebrate the flawed, the imperfect, and the ruined evidence of our glorious attempts to manifest a vision of perfection in the face of our limitations.
Arthur Bruso is an interdisciplinary artist. His work incorporates, variously, three dimensional construction, installation, photography, drawing and painting. He was born in Albany, New York and holds a MFA from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his MFA, he moved to New York City and served as Exhibition Director for ArtGroup. His studio is currently located in Jersey City where he co-founded the exhibition venue Curious Matter. Bruso has been a teacher, curator, critic and lecturer, and exhibits widely.
Solo Exhibitions 2009 A Lesser Doxology, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ 2008 ÆTHER, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ 2007 Into the Magic Space, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ 2004 Association Sublimation, The Gallery-Studios, Jersey City, NJ 2000 Open Studio, The Gallery-Studios, Jersey City, NJ
Invitational Exhibitions 1999 Remembering, Responding, Renewing, Visions Gallery, Albany, NY Invitational Exhibition of Small Works, New Arts Program, Kutztown, PA 1998 Post PENNism, Meyerson Gallery, Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA Flights of Fancy, 24 Hours for Life Gallery, New York, NY
Group Exhibitions 2010 The Ecstatic, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ 2009 Nyktomorph, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ Poison, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ 2008 Between Worlds, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ Hocus Pocus, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ Soho Show-off, Penn Design New York Alumni Show, Louis K. Meisel Gallery, New York, NY 2007 Apparition, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ Minnie’s Message - Steroscopic Views, The Gallery Studios, Jersey City, NJ 2002 Fine Arts Alumni/ae Virtual Exhibition 2002, www.upenn.edu, University of Pennsylvania Hallowed Ground Fertile Ground, The Gallery-Studios, Jersey City, NJ 2001 Recent Work/Sketches & Plans (The Alchemist’s Garden), The Gallery-Studios, Jersey City, NJ Photography Exhibition, Howland Cultural Center, Beacon, NY, juried 2000 Altars and Other Sacred Sites, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, New York, NY Universal Diversity 8 (ATE), Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, New York, NY 1999 Universal Diversity 7: We Create, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, New York, NY. curated by Devorah Sperver 1999 International Juried Show, New Jersey Center for the Visual Arts, Summit, NJ; curated by Lisa Dennison, Chief Curator/Deputy Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum The Landscape, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, New York, NY New Works by Members, New Century Artists, New York, NY
Lectures 2005 Mystical, Jersey City Museum, Jersey City, NJ 1998 Life After Your MFA, Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, Slide presentations, ArtGroup, New York, NY
"Q&A with Managers of Curious Matter, a Downtown Jersey City Art Gallery," Jersey Journal, May 14, 2010 Who’s Who in American Art, 30th edition 2009 WMBC Nightly News, New Jersey, Nyktomorph exhibition, aired 10/6/09 “Photography for the Heavens,” The Jersey City Reporter, Jersey City, NJ, 7/19/09 edition WMBC Nightly News, New Jersey, Poison, aired 4/22/09 WMBC Nightly News, New Jersey, The Line Holds, the Space Beckons, aired 2/13/09 2008 WMBC Nightly News, New Jersey, Between Worlds, aired 10/16/08 WMBC Nightly News, New Jersey, ÆTHER, aired 7/3/08 WMBC Nightly News, New Jersey, Hocus Pocus, aired 4/7/08 WMBC Nightly News, New Jersey, Work of the Penitent, aired 1/8/08 2007 “A Matter of Creativity,” Current, Jersey City, NJ, 6/21/07 edition 2005 New York Times New Jersey Edition, April 3, “Putting Down Roots in the City” Edition Who’s Who In America 2006 Edition Who’s Who in America 2004 Edition Who’s Who In America 1999 November Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA), Minneapolis, MN 1998 December Pen In Ink; “Alumni News,” Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA September Berkshire Art Association 1998 Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture catalog; The Berkshire Art Association, Pittsfield, MA 1996 Summer Ignite magazine 1995 April “David Wojnarowitz,”ArtGroup Newsletter June Vice Magazine. February “Hugh Steers”ArtGroup Newsletter
Bibliography Bruso, A and Mingst, R. E., The Ecstatic. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, 2010, exhibition catalog Bruso, A Structure of the Church. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter 2010, a monograph of photographic art work Bruso, A The Line Holds, the Space Beckons. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, 2009 a monograph of photographic art work Bruso, A and Mingst, R. E., Nyktomorph. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, 2009, exhibition catalog Bruso, A and Mingst, R. E. Poison. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, exhibition catalog Bruso, A Into the Magic Space. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, 2008 a monograph of photographic art work Bruso, A and Mingst, R. E. Between Worlds. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, exhibition catalog Bruso, A and Mingst, R. E. Hocus Pocus. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, exhibition catalog Bruso, A and Mingst, R. E. Apparition. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, 2007 exhibition catalog
Research 2009 Venice, Italy to study Titian and Florence, Italy to study the wax models in La Specola 2008 Amsterdam and Haarlem, Netherlands, to study cabinets of curiosity 2007 Paris, France, to study gothic sacred space in Chartres and Notre Dame 2006 Rome, Italy to study the Garden of Monsters, Bomarzo
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