Art Urges Viewer to Find His Own Meaning


By Marianne Levine

As one walks up the pretty curving staircase of Sag Harbor’s historic John Jermain Memorial Library, it’s hard not to notice the simply pinned paper works by locally based artist Jesse Pasca. “Pages from History” is the exhibit currently on display there until August 31, and is a body of work specifically created for the library. It is Pasca’s way of giving something back to a community he cherishes for its serenity and history. When asked what inspires his work, he states, “human creativity is the most important force in the world. The creative force is about constructing – the sequencing, the patterning together of a something, and for me personally the visual is the safest way to construct.”

His mixed-media collages are studies in the co-habitation of this force with its uneasy companion, destruction.

The pieces have provocative titles such as “Buchenwald (or in this case) Dreaming of Butterflies”, and “Mid-Atlantic Slave Trade (following the light of the moon through time).” These are subjects that are dark and disturbing yet the pieces themselves are often light and inviting through the contrasting of delicate figurative collage and drawing with brightly colored, expressive brushwork. He plays with lines that define and contain space. In the piece “How Shall We Live,” he draws lines that could be read as defining the floor and ceiling space of an enclosed room, and yet the clear blue paint and white fluffy clouds that overlay it suggest the sky and its endless horizon instead. In several works there are precisely drawn leafless trees growing out of or beside ancient monuments thereby contrasting the ever-fluctuating creation of nature with the crumbling presence of man. In the show’s every piece there is some form of conflict or harmony depending on how one sees it.

Pasca attempts to get the viewer to “construct a meaning for themselves” by slowing them down and having them look carefully into his images thereby becoming more “aware of one’s heart and one’s participation on the planet.” Having to stop and read the thought-provoking titles and then re-view the art, arrests the attention of the viewer enough to “interface” with the work – a word that Pasca uses along with other technical and scientific terminology to describe his work.

A lot of Pasca’s work is painstakingly put together, and has a mathematical or scientific basis to it. His solo show at the Mehr Gallery in Chelsea this past spring, entitled “My Heart as a Stock Market”, included mathematically drawn graphs and charts logging every emotional response he had on a certain day. “We are all technological systems. We have chemical firings in our bodies that determine our behaviors and habits” he relates while explaining his inspiration for the spring show. He also created a series of technically drawn pieces called, “Moore’s Law” which is named after one of the founders of “Intel,” Gordon Moore. The term Moore’s Law is a technical term used to describe the doubling of a chip’s processing ability every two years. Pasca is intrigued by the idea that perhaps we humans could double our capacity for good every two years and counter the destruction that humanity has shown it is capable of in the past.

Despite Pasca’s love of technological phrases and ideas, in the end he returns to crafting a piece carefully by hand. In fact he feels living in Sag Harbor perfectly harmonizes with his desire to be “mindful and slow things down.” He moved here permanently about four years ago, and has been involved in the community as a teacher as well as an artist. “Sag Harbor is my favorite town in the Hamptons. I love the history embedded here. I feel I have inherited some of its stories. The town holds onto its stories quite well and I feel the library is a definite part of them.”

“Pages from History” resides nicely with all the library’s manuscripts and children’s books. Cathy Creedon, the library’s director, started exhibiting work by local artists in February of this year, and was very pleased to have Pasca create this show for the space as they both share similar ideas on art and its purpose.

“I am really committed to the idea of artwork as documentation. A piece of art is as much an information resource as a book,” Creedon explains. She was familiar with Pasca’s work and was excited to have someone of his artistic reputation exhibit at the library.

The show’s opening last Thursday brought a lively, younger audience to the library, which was very satisfying to Creedon. “Our art openings and exhibits have drawn new faces to the library, and once they see our beautiful space and what else is available here they return to use all our other resources.” She hopes that the success of this new program will lead to a juried June art show for Pearson High School seniors with a college scholarship as its prize. In the meantime she is pleased that people are enjoying Pasca’s work in the library’s lovely gallery space.