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Sunday, March 02, 2014

Memorial for Joan Gardner Sun., Mar. 9, from noon to 2 p.m.

John Slade Ely House Center for Contemporary Art
51 Trumbull Street, New Haven, (203) 624-8055
Memorial for Joan Gardner
Sun., Mar. 9, Noon—2 p.m..

From Anna Broell Bresnick and Paul Clabby, director and curator at the John Slade Ely House comes an announcement of a memorial event for Joan Gardner, a gifted local artist who passed away Feb. 16:
The John Slade Ely House is hosting a Memorial Event for Joan Gardner on Sun., Mar. 9, from noon until 2 p.m. We hope that many of you will attend and that some will share a memory or two of your mutual friendship. Her husband, Frank, will join us and will most surely enjoy seeing a number of friends again. We look forward to seeing you there.

From Anna Broell Bresnick's announcement of Joan Gardner's passing:

It is with great sadness that our cultural community has lost one of its most vital artists. Joan Gardner passed away on February 16th at Hospice. She had been living at The Grimes Rehabilitation Center in New Haven for the past year and a half with her husband, Frank Gardner. She and her husband lived and worked in East Haven, and also maintain a loft on Bowery St. in New York City for many years.

Joan Gardner has been making art for over 40 years, and her primary interests have included painting, printmaking and bookmaking. Her creative ventures also included explorations in film and shadow puppetry. A puppet production of "Rooms" by Andrew Drummond was performed at the 42nd Street Theater in New York. She had been a member of 55 Mercer Gallery in Soho since 1973 until its closing at that location in early 2000.
Joan Gardner at Erector Square during City-Wide Open Studios, 2007

Joan Gardner’s prolific career as a painter has focused primarily on the world of fantasy and parody. The unrestrained creative energy of her work is achieved through the use of playful and whimsical imagery interspersed with the darker side of fantasy. Her vocabulary is grabbed in bits and pieces from all over the art world as well as from her own autobiography. This material is brilliantly painted, colored and collaged into large and small theatrical allegories. Medieval imagery, Bruegel, Rousseau, the artist’s friends and lovers, Indonesian tales and chimeras (like the monkey and lion) all find a place in Joan’s richly painted narratives. Her profound love of paint, vigorous gesture, rich psychological content and art historical references were the sources and inspirations of her remarkable work. Vibrant colors and whimsical imagery lure us into the paintings—they capture and delight us with their enticing, nightmarish humor.

"My images come from many sources including a large collection of masks and puppets from around the world. I have developed a style of intensity with color, form and gesture, which enhances the mood, mystery and ambiguity in my work. Humor plays a major role in my work as well. It must be subtle. I would like evoke a smile but never laughter."

Joan Gardner’s education included a B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the University of Illinois, and a Yale-Norfolk Summer School fellowship. She taught at Connecticut State University, The University of New Haven, Kent State University, Lane College, Jackson, Tenn. and The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Not only was Joan Gardner a highly imaginative, gifted painter, she also explored to great success various other mediums such as printmaking, bookmaking, installation at and film. Her two dimensional work has been shown in solo and group shows in New Haven, New York and in many museums and galleries across the United States including The John Slade Ely House (a solo retrospective, and one in conjunction with her husband), Artspace, Real Art Ways, Clock Tower, Tuthill Gimprich Gallery and 55 Mercer Galleries, all in NYC, as well as the New Britain Museum of American Art, the Akron Museum, Akron, OH, and the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH.

In the late 60's and early 70's Joan and her husband, Frank, made a number of experimental films. Her own stop motion animation films as well as those made in collaboration with her husband were shown and won numerous awards in many film festivals across the United States including Yale (three), Monterey, Harvard and two Ann Arbor Film Festivals. Lawrence Alloway praised Joan's film, "JigJag," in The Nation and ArtNews, and it was mentioned again in a review of her work in Art in America 20 years later. is a website-in-progress created in remembrance of Joan as well as in preparation of a documentary about their film making process.

A Connecticut Commission On The Arts Grant, Yale Law School Film Grant and a N.E.T (New Hampshire) Film Grant are among Joan Gardner’s awards, and her work is in many private collections as well as those of Franklin Furnace, Lyman Allyn Museum, Yale University and The Museum of Modern Art.

"Hers (Joan Gardner) is a deeply original and inventive art." Michael Rush – Art New England and The New York Times.

"Joan Gardner has been producing an accomplished, diverse, and innovative body of work for almost four decades. She deserves a place of prominence in the annals of Contemporary American Art." Lawrence Campbell

We will very much miss Joan's vibrant contributions to our art community. She leaves behind her husband, Frank Gardner, and condolences may be sent to him at Frank Gardner, Grimes Rehabilitation Center, 1350 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06511.

Joan Gardner: "Virgin and Chimp"

 In 2010, I reviewed a retrospective show featuring the works of both Joan and Frank Gardner at the Ely House for the New Haven Advocate. As the corporate owners of the now-defunct Advocate haven't bothered to maintain an online archive, I will quote here from what I wrote about Joan Gardner's works in that show:

Joan Gardner's work pulses with emotional immediacy. Her paintings overall are characterized by darker subject matter and a darker color palette. Many of her drawings and mixed media paintings set figures and landscape against a black background or sky. Like fever dreams in a spooky children's book, her images feature trickster figures like anthropomorphic monkeys and cats, barking dogs, wild-eyed birds. In one painting, corpse-like face float in a steamy sea. Dragons, demons, bizarre masks, chaos haunts many of her tableaux.

In "In the Soup," the meal of two diners -- possibly the Gardners themselves -- is disrupted by one monkey chasing another across the dinner table, knocking over a wine bottle vase filled with flowers. Like many of her paintings, the pleasure of "In the Soup" derives from more than just the absurdity of the scene. Using a combination of paint, oil stick and crayon, she layers shade upon color shade, investing the static moment with vigorous energy. Similarly, in "Virgin and Chimp," the marks and colors seem to dance within the frame. It's mysterious and beautiful, rife with intimations of the unconscious.

Joan's passing is a tremendous loss. She was a truly gifted visionary artist. My condolences go out to her husband Frank Gardner.

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