Vanessa Marsh show reviewed in SF Chronicle

The cosmos stars in Vanessa Marsh’s haunting artworks

February 2015

San Francisco Chronicle
by Nirmala Nataraj

Vanessa Marsh’s “Mt. Baker” (2014): Archival pigment print from photogram. March uses multiple techniques to represent the vastness of nature and the night sky.Artist Vanessa Marsh considers herself a bit of a physics-documentary junkie. “I am fascinated by the workings of the cosmos and the history of the planet,” she says.

Marsh’s new show at the Dolby Chadwick Gallery, titled “Everywhere All at Once,” offers a series of drawings that evoke the haunting, moody and often personal associations we have with cosmic phenomena. The drawings, which include photogramic techniques, summon themes of memory, isolation and the incredible vastness of nature.

Marsh says the title of the show refers to her attempt to create landscapes that aren’t easily locatable. “I often layer together drawings of different locations to create a new space,” she says. The title is also a reference to the vastness of the night sky and her use of various photographic processes to create a single image.

The show comprises over a dozen pieces, including works from her “Everywhere All at Once” series and a selection of pieces from her “Constellation” series. All of the works share a common interest in the relationship between the landscape and the night sky.

“For me, more than anything, the night sky provides a sense of space and infinity that is at once the essence of possibility and also terrifyingly complex and unfathomable,” says Marsh.

That Marsh’s works aren’t purely photographic only emphasizes their dreamy, layered quality. She employs a process that combines drawing, digital printing and photograms (images made without a camera by placing objects on light-sensitive paper and then exposing that paper to light). “The layered effect is created by literally layering drawings together and exposing each drawing at intervals in the darkroom,” she says. “And of course, the stars help convey a dreamlike effect.”

Marsh says making art, for her, is a constant mining of memory and experience, especially with respect to landscapes. “I’ve always had a deep connection to natural or man-made landscapes, and I can be hypersensitive to my surroundings,” she says. “Sometimes the drawings are about reconnecting with a landscape that you miss and long for, which is part of why the mountains of western Washington appear in my work over and over.”

She is also interested in evoking the sense of isolation in her works, which seems appropriate given the sublime scope of the pieces. In the past, she says, isolation was expressed by the presence of one or a few individuals in a seemingly vast landscape, but the new work has evolved in two ways: “The figure is removed entirely, and the compositions are considered to allow the viewer a place within an image. In a sense, the viewer becomes the figure and they can place on the images their own story, memory, or dream.”