Constance Pierce exhibits unique talents in two-dimensional media, figure drawing

The Harlan Gallery at Seton Hill University (SHU) is currently exhibiting the work of Constance Pierce, entitled Ecce Con Meum (Behold my Heart). The show runs from September 23-October 22, 2010 mixing the biblical world with that of modern sufferings in our culture.

By: Stephanie Wytovich

Senior Staff Writer

The Harlan Gallery at Seton Hill University (SHU) is currently exhibiting the work of Constance Pierce, entitled Ecce Con Meum (Behold my Heart). The show runs from September 23-October 22, 2010 mixing the biblical world with that of modern sufferings in our culture.

Constance Pierce has worked as an artist for over thirty years, specializing in two-dimensional media with an emphasis on figure drawing. She is currently a faculty member in the Visual and Performing Arts Department of St. Bonaventure University. She graduated from The Cleveland Institute of Art as well as The Hoffberger Graduate School of Painting. Additionally, Pierce served as a Visiting Artist-in-Residence, Research Fellow and Faculty member at several institutions including The Divinity School of Yale University and The Henry Luce III Center for Arts and Religion of Wesley Theological Seminary.

While at Yale, Pierce had the pleasure of sitting in on a few classes taught by Peter Hawkins, a well-known Dante Alighieri scholar. Dante’s works alone have greatly influenced Pierce’s artwork, as she strives to include the themes of ministering spirits and metaphorical angels. These themes show how the angels have bared witness to the world’s suffering.

Her monotypes are done primarily in woodless pencil with thick shading that seems to represent an intense anger. This is contrasted by the gestural marks of angel wings in the background. Here viewers are introduced to the abstracted form, where there is no actual face, but rather the abstracted face of expressionism. In these pieces, one is introduced to a Christ figure that is typically naked and bound, exhuming tones of hopelessness and strife.

Pierce commented that she was most moved by the story of the massacre of the innocents and that it influenced this series quite a bit. However, in both her monotypes and her larger acrylic pieces (The Betrayal, for example), one can see curvilinear lines combined with a sporadic drip method to achieve a three dimensional view of bodies that are typically shackled and hung.

J.W. Mahoney, an independent art critic, commented on Pierce’s work: “The monotypes of Constance Pierce are responses to a genuinely compulsive-and at times-convulsive demand from an ultimateness, that it’s fierce and consuming drama be given form and breadth.”

Pierce stated that in doing these pieces, she tried to understand each character’s stories through imagery. Since the characters are mostly allegorical crucifixion pieces, the imagery serves as her attempt to understand biblical principles. Personally, I find that her artwork has a definitive aura of a prophetic voice. At the same time, viewers experience emotions with such depth that they cannot help but be moved.

Aside from monotypes, Pierce also dabbles in watercolors, inks and acrylics. Her favorite aspect of design, however, is recycling scraps of old pieces and materials laying around the house to use creatively in her current artwork.

Her dance series, done in watercolor, is intended to portray dance as a prayer or an epiphany from memory and imagination. The larger of her pieces in the series was originally intended to show only three figures, but the other two were added later in the creativity process. This series was inspired by Alighieri’s literary piece, Purgatorio. While her figures are androgynous, their bodies imply a movement that signifies the sweetness of the souls trying to help each other to paradise. Now while this was her biggest influence, most art enthusiasts wonder if Matisse’s dancers inspired her as well, minus the fauvist color patterns.

While these pieces mainly derived from the pages of Pierce’s sketchbook, one cannot deny the organic and biomorphic forms contrasted with her geometric recycled shapes. She has truly encompassed a collection that combines both the biblical world with the modern. Though her artwork is done in a steady stream of consciousness, never knowing where or how things are going to end up, her audience can always trust that her work will be done both powerfully and beautifully.

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