On the night we hold the Micrographia event at the prestigious french gallery Ceysson & Bénétière, I am late. Very late. My flight from Dallas was six hours delayed and upon arriving, I race through the airport to the train. I arrive in Grand Central and twist through the maze of hallways until I find myself finally at the subway. I run up the subway stairs. Leap onto the six train and then eventually scale another flight of stairs, run across two avenues and arrive with just two minutes left to spare. The first guest is already there. Shit.
As I shrug off my coat and slip into a pair of heels, I find myself comforted by the gallery. It’s on the second floor, uptown, and awash in perfect light. As guests stream in, my breathing calms and eventually, we all gather and walk into one of two exhibition rooms that anchor each end of the space. Francesca Pessarelli, the curator of the show, holds court in a dark black robe, long dark hair and funky glasses, she’s explaining that the exhibit took months to put together.
“When we started talking about doing a duo show, we already knew who one of the artists was and so it became a matter of matching her with another artist. It involved a lot of searching and a lot of people who just didn’t quite fit the bill. That is until I went to Elise’s studio.”
Elise explained that they met at SPRING/BREAK, a contemporary art show focused on highlighting cool curators, which is coincidentally where Francesca and I also met. I was showing work I had done in conjunction with the Floral Heart Project and she was showing art by Ben Blaustein, an artist who has also become a friend.
“When I saw her work,” Francesca started. “It just felt right. And then we started to see a lot of quirky similarities.”
“It was strange," continued Elise. She’s tall, chin length dark hair, and a thoughtful face. As she looks at the work, hers and others, you get the sense that she really sees it. “LIke I had this piece which is rose and taupes and browns and the shapes really mimic the work by Stephané.”
Stephané Conradie is a South African artist who makes sculptural pieces out of found objects. Whereas, Elise makes paintings focused on strategic obstruction, layering and visibility. Her glossy vinyl pieces layer architectural, organic, and translucent forms.
The more we see the pieces together the more obvious it becomes. There are pieces that have similar shapes. They have similar tones and colors. They seem to exist together without ever having been influenced by each other.
“Sometimes there is a sort of magic in bringing together disparate things,” Francesca continues. She’s the curator from whom I have learned the most about contemporary art. “You just know things belong together.”
In this way, she seems to be echoing what I learned from a previous Micrographia event: a lot of time knowing why art works together isn’t rational, it is about feeling. But, Francesca said something as we moved from the first space to the second that provides even more color into how she thinks about and finds meaning in art.
“I’m not an artist,” she clarifies. “But, I have things to say. Sometimes the way to say them is to create a space where people must experience those thoughts.”
In the summer, Francesca held an exhibit that was focused on hyper-feminity. A topic she’s also written about in detail. In that show she brought together artists who were exploring what it means to be feminine and why/when femininity became evil. Now, she’s moving on to something else.
“I’m interested in parasocial relationships,” she shares. “They pervade our society and yet we don’t really talk about the relationships we have with personalities, characters, Alexa.”
The group is enthused by this topic, in part because Thompson’s paintings lend a sort of futurist-landscape aesthetic to the room. In this space, with this art, and this topic, our minds begin to expand.
“I’m curious how our relationships change with the expansion of para-social relationships,” someone adds.
And, then Francesca said this. “I’m also interested in how our non-parasocial relationships change. I think that as more and more things become digitally immersive, we will actually crave more and more things that are not. Like, it's so interesting how seeing Elise’s work in person is different than online...”
One woman keeps looking at the art from below, from the side, even getting down to her knees.
Elise’s work has depth. Depth that is most obvious when you see it in person, look at it, see its shadows. And, that I think is a lesson about people too.
Online I am a flat thing. In person, I have depth. I move. I can go on long rants about one idea. I can say nothing. That is true also of groups and experiences. We don't have the same depth online as we have in real life because it is hard to measure depth in an experience that is itself flat.
Our depth, I think, is where we find meaning in our experience of being human.