May 10th, 2011
BARBARA ENSOR’S PRIMORDIAL HYBRIDS ON VIEW IN THE GREAT ROOM GALLERY AT THE OLD STONE HOUSE THROUGH JUNE 22, 2011
Creatures part human and part animal gaze out from carved frames in Primordial Hybrids, an exhibit of three dozen new silhouettes on paper by Barbara Ensor. “He had climbed out of the primeval muck,” “She was not like the others” and other wry comments are written below in civilized antiquarian hand, but with enough tics and ink splats to suggest a chaos lurking just beneath the surface. No stranger to folkloric imagery Barbara Ensor is author of Cinderella (As If You Didn’t Already Know the Story)? and Thumbelina, Tiny Runaway Bride, both published by Random House Children’s Books. She makes the pictures for these books, as well, cutting them out of black paper with a pair of sharp scissors in a style that is part history, part magic. “Even a child who had never heard these stories before will sense they are familiar,” says Ensor, “because they echo the way it feels to be alive.”
The same could be said of the hybrid creatures in this exhibit. “I immediately felt like I was looking in the mirror,” says Ensor “when timidly these odd creatures began to show up in my work.” At first, she admits, “I thought it was just me.” Ensor speculated that maybe she identified with the creatures because of a sense of not fitting in as a result of frequent moves when she was growing up. When she began to realize how wrong she had been, “It was comical,” says Ensor, “ how suddenly I couldn’t get away from them. I’d turn on the television and there’d be Mickey Mouse with those human hands in the white gloves or I’d glance up at a building and see a winged lion with the breasts and face of a woman staring down at me.” Even the earliest cave paintings mix up humans with animal parts it turns out, “and don’t forget the devil has horns,” says Ensor.
The process of making the art for this solo exhibit (her third in as many years) “was like searching for something that was already there—almost like an archeological dig,” says Ensor. “With the paper cut-outs I’m literally removing (with scissors) what isn’t the picture, like sifting through the sand to find a skeleton.
The Old Stone House, a modern reconstruction of the Vechte-Cortelyou House, a 1699 Dutch stone farmhouse, is an active, not-for-profit cultural site and presenting organization dedicated to creating a strong sense of community through place-based history, environmental education and the arts. It is located in Washington Park, mid-block on 3rd Street, between 4th and 5th Avenues in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The House is accessible by the R and F trains, as well as the B63 Bus. Gallery hours are 4 pm – 6 pm on Friday afternoons, or by appointment. A reception will be held on Tuesday, June 7, from 6-8 pm.
For more information, visit www.theoldstonehouse.org or call (718) 768-3195.
Barbara Ensor’s website is BarbaraEnsor.com; she can be reached at (917) 604-8732