On Exhibit: Occhiogrosso’s art reflects pandemic, women in her family

Some of the works by Niskayuna native Gina Occhiogrosso in the exhibit “Surfacing” include “Tomorrow Will Be Different," left, and "Morgan Avenue."
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Some of the works by Niskayuna native Gina Occhiogrosso in the exhibit “Surfacing” include “Tomorrow Will Be Different," left, and "Morgan Avenue."

It’s the perfect time to visit Gina Occhiogrosso’s exhibit, “Surfacing,” which recently opened at The Arts Center of the Capital Region.

Sure, it’s a timely exhibit, with works created over the last five years, some of which reference the pandemic; others focus on the lines between fine art and craft, and the feminine in contemporary painting.

On another, simpler level, the vivid and bright colors Occhiogrosso uses are exactly what the eyes of those living through a bleak Capital Region winter crave. Even when the context of the pieces is dark, or touches on a harsh reality, the tactility and vibrancy of her work are a grounding force.

Occhiogrosso, a Troy resident and Niskayuna native, covers a lot of ground in “Surfacing” through a wide range of mediums including painting, assemblage, sketches and video.

One of the first pieces viewers come across is “Cascade,” an abstract painting made from sewn-together pieces of polyester. The stitches create boundaries between the white tube-like shapes and the lime green backdrop of the work, referencing the tension between fine art and crafts.

In another painting nearby, titled “Tomorrow Will Be Different,” the lines between each piece of muslin making up the canvas are even more defined and uneven diamond shapes are scattered throughout the foreground of the piece.

Close by, another painting features sections of grey and white muslin stitched together with dark red thread. Circles of thickly layered paint hover throughout the work.

“I have been greatly influenced by the work made by the women in my family,” Occhiogrosso writes in an artist statement. “My parental grandmother, an Italian immigrant, was a seamstress, and my maternal grandmother, an Austrian immigrant, created very intricate lacework [tatting] for tablecloths and other linens.”

Elsewhere in the exhibit, the artist reflects on her experiences during the pandemic. In one of the larger assemblages, called “December 5-February 7, 2020,” painted grocery bags are layered together in a geometric pattern. Pick-up labels are visible on each bag, some with the word “fragile” scrawled across them. In a similar work nearby, Occhiogrosso repurposes to-go boxes from various restaurants, unfolding them and painting them in shades of greens, yellows, reds and whites.

Toward the center of the exhibit are two accordion sketchbooks, both of which are fanned out on curved platforms. In one, called “Morgan Avenue,” Occhiogrosso depicts the interior of her childhood home and the experience of living in it during the pandemic, with a television displaying the number of total cases. It’s an intimate piece and it’s easy to identify with the nostalgia and the sense of cabin fever elicited in the rough sketches.

“Surfacing” will be on view through March 11 and there will be an artist reception during Troy Night Out on Friday, Jan. 28, from 6-8 p.m. Occhiogrosso will hold an artist talk on Wednesday, Feb, 9, at 6:30 p.m.

On Thursday, another exhibit titled “Screenbathing” by Adam Tinkle opens in The Arts Center’s foyer and black box theatre. It explores the lives we lead on and off screens and the light that screens cast on our lives. It’ll be up through Feb. 12.

Gallery hours are 10-5 p.m. Mondays, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturdays. For more information visit artscenteronline.org.

Categories: Art, Life and Arts

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