Essays & Reviews

Review: East Bay Monthly, Shimmer

Lavender Bloom Kiln formed glass and mirror, 22x22 inches

Jenn Shifflet’s New Paintings Incorporate Solid Liquids


Review by DeWitt Cheng, East Bay Monthly, October 2018


During the past century, art has steadily withdrawn from the spirituality or transcendence central to traditional art. Contemporary art is ostensibly above old-fashioned mythology and illusionism: a rational, material art for scientific people, according to the logic of the Bolsheviks a century ago, and, half a century later, ‘formalist’ art theorists. Postwar art banished perspective, space, narrative, and illusion; the realm of the sacred, mysterious, and metaphysical that had preoccupied artists for millennia was declared an aesthetic dead zone.


In the real world, however, the transcendental impulse persists. One can even discern a certain irrational cultishness is the adoration accorded to various art gurus and nabobs; and does anyone seriously discount the inspiring images of the past (although we revolutionaries may treat them as mere selfie-fodder)? The East Bay painter Jenn Shifflet has pursued a poetic, Romantic vision of the sacrality of nature and the mystery of life for twenty years, creating ambiguous watery realms—water traditionally symbolizes the unconscious—animated by mysterious waves and currents; serpentine coils of smoke and cloud; and jewellike orbs, either real (bubbles, eggs, pearls) or optical (lens flares, reflections, afterimages). She recently wrote: “My work is an exploration into the inner dream like experience of time, fleeting moments of perception, and abstracted reflections of the natural world. It rests in the pause between: movement and stillness, the internal and external, micro and macro, emergence and dissolution. Time unfolds slowly through subtle interplays of color and shifting light. Ultimately I am interested in a visual language that speaks to how the beauty of life is held within a profound fragility of impermanence.”


In Shimmer, Shifflet shows new paintings made with transparent oil glazes, as before, along with wall-mounted works of kiln-formed glass composed of thousands of brilliant glass droplets, aqueous yet crystalline; glass, “beautiful and dangerous, fragile, yet very strong[,] ...is an alchemical material made from earth, transformed by fire, water, hand, breath and time.”


Shimmer runs through October 25;

Chandra Cerrito Contemporary, 480 23rd St., Oakland, CA 94612; 510)260-7494;