Like water for the desert, New Media for New Mexico

Chris Twomey: Fountain Art Fair

"Triumph of the XX"

Normally when titling a post from our trip to New York City in March I would have put the Fair or Museum’s name first, and then the artist. This time, however, Chris Twomey (b.1954) gets first billing.

The Fountain Art Fair was at the Armory (68 Lexington Avenue @ 25th Street) in New York March 9-11, 2012. I felt very fortunate that this event coincided so nicely with our visit. We had also been to the SCOPE Art Festival earlier in the week; both Fountain and SCOPE were supporting “emerging” artists. Of the two, SCOPE seemed higher up on the food chain. I was, in fact, puzzled by the “emerging” definition of the artists at SCOPE, since most seemed very well represented by galleries. When I spoke to a gallery representative there, she told me that “emerging” meant that the artists were not household names. OK. I actually really enjoyed both fairs as part of our whirlwind art-gasm in New York. The SCOPE Festival seemed more like where I could aspire to be ten years from now, the Fountain Art Fair, maybe five or less, with a little luck.

Thus I was a little confused after I started researching Chris Twomey, the subject of this post. Her work was displayed at the Fountain Art Fair, the more “emerging” of the two festivals. When I saw her work, I couldn’t help but walk up to it and gaze at it. The works on display were from a series titled “Triumph of the XX,” which are 2D wall pieces with aluminum foil as a substrate and images of a couple locked in embrace. The foil is crumpled, the images somewhat indistinct. The female in the images has red hair. The artwork is compelling, dreamlike, and sexual. The artist’s statement describing her work  is worth quoting in its entirety:

“’Triumph of the XX’ evokes the passion of the XX chromosome (female) in its ability to heal a flaw or mutation in the DNA by recombining and backing up since there are two X’s.  A red haired woman is the metaphor for this concept, as she recombines the genes of the world, healing division.  Aluminum foil, a simple substrate found in the kitchen and commonly used by women for domestic labor, is elevated, along with this concept, to an articulation of the divine.”

What puzzled me about her work appearing at Fountain was that the more I read about her, the more I realized what an accomplished artist she is with a very diverse and widely recognized body of work. Many of the artist’ work  there had a very rough vibe to them, but Twomey’s was clearly that of a thoughtful and skilled professional, not of a young artist looking to make a break.

Twomey has had a long and illustrious career, one I would feel very lucky to have. She has worked in a wide variety of media: film, television, installation, sound, photography and paint. “Triumph of the XX” was part of a series that also was an installation, and was inspired by the knowledge she gained of genetics while fighting breast cancer. She lists origins and self-identity as themes she often explores in her work. She has had many major exhibitions in the last several years, and consistently works with new media that includes a variety of digital components.

I believe her work was at the Fountain Art Fair to publicize an upcoming exhibit at the “AC Institute,” a non-profit whose mission is “to advance the understanding of art through investigation, research, and education… We support and develop projects that explore a performative exchange across visual, verbal, and experimental disciplines.” Aha! Now this all made more sense. The more deeply I get involved in the art world, the more I realize how important these journeys to the edge are.  Art is, essentially, a way to communicate ideas, and the most exciting aspect of art (to me) is always expressing new ideas. Chris Twomey, it appears, is at the forefront of expressing new ideas, and it seems as though this is not a unique position for her in terms of her career. Now the appearance of her work at the Fountain Art Fair makes sense, and I am very grateful I had the chance to see it.


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