Greenpoint Gazette

“Portrait of a Soul” Showcases the Spiritual Element of Art

BY Kylie Jane Wakefield

Some people express their spirituality through prayer. Others meditate, and some sing songs. Jay Pluck connects with G-d through art in which he finds spiritual meaning.

Pluck, an art curator and handler, showed the pieces he felt best conveyed a connection with G-d at “Portrait of a Soul,” an exhibition that’s up until the end of October at Nurture Art on Grand Street. “The premise of the show is basically I make a couple of statements, which are personal,” he said. “For me, a very helpful criteria with visual art has been the level at which I can perceive spiritual transmission in individual artwork. I can see where the artist, at a point of pure creativity, [wasn’t exactly] guided by G-d but maybe where G-d and the artist were engaged in the same act, at the same time, together.”

“Portrait of a Soul” was inspired by Hans Memling’s “Portrait of a Man,” a 15th-century painting that Pluck felt “explicitly transmits spiritual energy.” Contemporary pieces were chosen that showed the process behind the work, which was something Memling didn’t have the capacity to accomplish, said Pluck. “If I could isolate characteristics of Memley’s paintings, maybe I could find visual artists who also satisfied one or several of those characteristics and arrange those visual works to form a portrait… The idea is that if these contemporary works are arranged it might be even more obvious, that moment of spiritual transmission.”

In one of the works, a painting by Milton Resnick, Pluck said the viewer can see the individual brush strokes and imagine the work’s progression. Zoe Nelson’s piece, “Gone Fishing,” includes visible stretcher bars, also showing how she put it together. All of the works on display are personal, and clearly representative of the artist who produced them.

On Saturday, October 15th, Pluck brought together musicians and performers whose work he also found to be divine. He said, “These musicians all to me have an element of their work that’s very meditative. That’s where the artist opens [him or herself] up to some sort of other energy field to inhabit them.”

Kylie Jane Wakefield / Jay Pluck

Robert Pepper, also known as PAS, an international audio artist, showcased a piece that focused on the theme for “Portrait of a Soul.” “For me, creating artwork evokes a spiritual state,” he said. “Usually when I perform a live set, about half way in, I feel somewhat lost, in a different state of mind. I believe that to be some sort of spiritual meditative state. I also felt that when I used to paint for long hours at a time. At the show, I tried even harder to achieve [this] by revolving the show around various processed synth drones with textures. I wanted to try to give the audience a similar intense meditative state while also being entertaining by using various sound producing devices.”

While some of the artists perceive themselves as spiritual, Pluck also chose ones that don’t necessarily think of themselves that way. Ed Askew, a musician and painter, said he never thought of his work in that context. “On the other hand, my songs have narrative content that deeply is felt, by me anyway,” he said. “And the music carries that out to the world to connect with the experience of other people. So the performance may have a certain resonance.”

To Pepper, making any type of art means connecting with a higher level of existence. “I think the true creative process for any artist is a spiritual state,” he said. “It has something to do with the connection to your inner self and translating that into art.”

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