When we think of transition, we usually imagine something temporary, even ephemeral to the event that comes before or after it. So transitional moments may strike us as even less than ephemeral —nothing more than snippets of time between the bats of an eye. Yet artist Malloury Dagon's transitional moments do just the opposite. They hold our attention with something that, while fleeting, is both memorable and momentous. In fact, we can't help but gaze into the meticulously textured shapes and colors of each canvas as if there were something even more wondrous waiting behind them.
Dagon is not trying to make our wondering complicated. But there are multiple layers of understanding to be gained from her art. We can choose to see only the top layer, or we can search beneath the surface and find meaning that might otherwise remain uncovered. The layers reveal the physical geography, historical period, particular culture or people, and their behaviors that overlap at the moment when before becomes after in her personal experience. The overlap is the moment of transition, and that is the part of the experience she wants to illuminate for us.
"Different cultures, geography and history— they all fused with my mission." That mission is to show the moments of interaction from the end of one thing to the beginning of another.
As an artist who has learned through extensive travel and communication with artists from disparate regions and cultures, Malloury has built an impressive repertoire of moments. "Savannah was one of those moments, "She explained. Starting her journey in the southwest, she discovered quickly that her calling was to bring more of the country into her art. "Different cultures, geography and history— they all fused with my mission." That mission is to show the moments of interaction from the end of one thing to the beginning of another.
The moments, while eventful within themselves, don't have to be groundbreaking or complex in their effect on history, culture, or even the individual experiencing the moment. A transitional moment can be a seemingly ordinary occurrence. For example, the "moment when someone can't find a particular pair of shoes they've always worn, so they start wearing something else." The experience of that moment might be "a feeling of some discomfort, of blisters on feet, but that moment is lost because something else takes over."
A more complex moment might be "when indigenous people meet developers and what that means historically and for the future. "Whether the moment is simple or complex, its transition is expressed when disparate events connect, overlap, and evolve into something new."
"Sometimes the transition can be more than one culture or region overlapping or connecting simultaneously, "Malloury noted. That overlap results in a multiplicity of interactions that define the transitional moment. As if there is any doubt, the objective is to let us truly see and feel the transitional moment. Malloury reiterates that each of her paintings "affirms clearly that a transitional moment has taken place." However, our ability to fully discern those moments is dependent upon our "reading the texture and movement of the piece—there are clearly objects on the canvas, but you have to read the whole painting to understand what you are seeing, "she contends.
And while the paintings may at first present a somewhat whimsical or fanciful impression of what happens when disparate moments collide, that impression can and most certainly will change once you actually read the painting. This is because the artist makes sure each piece is substantively connected with the people, culture, and history it represents. This is especially true of Malloury's Southeast Series of paintings. "My pieces are a way for people to feel and experience what has happened on
the ground they stand on." Of course, to do that requires a huge investment in researching, organizing, and distilling documentary evidence even before it becomes visually articulated on canvas.
Asked if there was a defining piece in the series, Malloury answered, "For a general audience, I would say History's Patina. Because it does sum up the area and how people treated one another in that region at that time. But each of the pieces reflects a different aspect of the Southeast region. Depending on the viewer's background, each one of these pieces would affect each person differently. "
Like many artists, Malloury prefers using oil on canvas; but she notes the medium is often not an option because her subject matter is so intimately tied to her experience of traveling. Her choice of mixed media seems otherwise optimal for balancing the need for complexity and clarity in her work. "My choice of the available media often depends on the period, style of the history, and culture that the piece needs to represent. "If I'm representing transitional moments from the 1930s, I might combine art nouveau with something modern, and even though it's an abstract piece, those particular styles represent the eras well. I try to use the styles of the period I'm painting. And I also choose the media to represent best the style I'm using to communicate. "
One example from this collection (shown below) inspired by the 1930s Depression Era is The Hemm of Consummation. This piece uses the period's media to capture the "hardship and struggle" associated with the time while still articulating the people's feelings of joie de vivre and hope for the future. "So while you sense the dark undertones reflecting the period. It's a pretty piece on the surface." Malloury added that "fairness was hemmed upon a more rigid/concrete under-painting in order to create a softness within the sorrow."
Apart from expressing rich and often complex historical and cultural perspectives, each of Malloury's pieces from the series represents an extraordinary composition of carefully selected creative materials. And although the results can be exhilarating, the creative process is not without challenge. Malloury recalled a piece called Unfrosted Reverie as her artistic tour de force. "I wanted to do a pastel piece in the style of cubism. That's my nemesis—something that still challenges me. "She cautiously showed the piece to me, adding, "Someday I will flourish in it. Even now, long after it's completion, I have to keep looking at it, because I still can't believe I did it!" And although the result was not a fully realized cubist painting, the expression of cubism was implicit.
Malloury believes, "Art is another form of communication—just as we communicate with music and literature, it's important that art connects and interacts with people." As long as it connects with someone, it has fulfilled its purpose. She suggested that the meaning and impact of that connection will depend upon its audience's particular experience and point of view. "Maybe you see the colors of a particular region and see those colors as belonging in your home." So, when we say art communicates, we also imply that it connects people with ideas, words, feelings, and events. These things live behind, and inside the art, she explained.
Communication is itself an art, and Malloury attests to the fun of just exploring how to connect people to the artwork they belong to. The communication and the connection that results is deeply personal, even if what attracts the viewer to the art is as vaguely simplistic as "It makes me happy."
In a completely different series about roosters, Malloury shares her love for families and farms and the child-like curiosity she developed for a creature that most of us probably associate with that unwelcome wake-up call long before we are ready for coffee. "Roosters have such a vast personality," she insisted. They exude whimsy and warmth that make you happy to wake up to them. And looking at her exquisite renderings of them on canvas, you can readily empathize with the bird that just has to crow.
Having bypassed the academic path in favor of learning through personal connections with other artists and through her own research, Malloury has deftly mastered the craft of storytelling in her art. She applies a detailed layering technique combining different materials and media, resulting in an intricate composition made to look elegantly simple. "As I grew as an artist, I tried to learn one medium and become as fluent as possible in that medium before I combined it with something else. At this point I am combining all the media I have explored to date-- expanding my ability to layer different concepts, achieve different designs, even express different period styles by mixing all of these materials together," she said.
She also assured me that she wasn't stopping with pastel cubism. Her next challenge will be to tackle Dadaism using the layering technique she employs in her other mixed media compositions. We have no doubt there will be transitional moments in them–moments as compelling and memorable as what came before and what will come after.
CorkHouse Gallery Coordinator Carol Anthony sat down with Malloury Dagon at CorkHouse Gallery for this interview.