ORANGE, NJ — During the pandemic, many have felt that they are in an in-between space, waiting for normal life to resume. Artist Rachel Arturi Pruzan, of Maplewood, leans into the feeling of in-between in her first solo exhibit, “Liminal Spaces and Nowhere Places,” which opens at Valley Arts in Orange on Friday, Sept. 10, and closes Sunday, Oct. 3.
“My current work reflects transitional states/spaces — personal, collective and physical — along with the emotions and dualities that can accompany them,” Pruzan told the newspaper. “Many paintings have portals as primary elements, and incorporate properties of the Earth’s topography and nature. There is a sense of being at a threshold in solitude, looking from the inside out — or the outside in.”
But Pruzan did not start out with liminal spaces in mind when she began painting the pieces displayed in this show. According to Pruzan, she goes where the paint takes her, ultimately creating a dialogue between herself and the artwork.
“I work intuitively from start to finish — I’m rarely intentional with my work. There’s something very untethered, very primal and messy, that arises in me when I make art,” Pruzan said. “Curiosity is the guiding principle and primary motivator for my art. Each painting I create begins with curiosity turned inward: ‘What wants to move through me this time? What needs to be expressed?’ And I allow the questions — the uncertainty — to exist, without pressure to know the answers.
“I also turn my curiosity outward and wonder: ‘What will happen if I do this?’” Pruzan continued. “My process is a constant back-and-forth between what forms on the canvas and what my intuition wants to channel.”
This allows for complete freedom in the creation process. Through her work, Pruzan is able to explore her thoughts and feelings organically, without forcing answers or pathways. Looking at her current work, it is clear that liminal spaces and that feeling of in-between were on her subconscious, ultimately being channeled into her art.
“Because I work intuitively, I can only identify themes after looking at groups of completed paintings,” Pruzan said. “My current work reflects liminal spaces, or thresholds — transitional spaces between states of consciousness, phases in life or physical places. My paintings communicate the growth, transformations and insights that occur in these in-between states.
My paintings also explore the powerful emotions and dualities that accompany growth and transformation. The interplay of love and rage, pain and joy, confidence and uncertainty, stillness and movement, darkness and light, all come through in my art,” she continued. “My work expresses and evokes emotions and aspects of the human condition that can’t be communicated in words. My art is my truth.”
For Pruzan, however, art is not only about expression, but about community. Pruzan will be donating 5 percent of her profits from the show — “all I can do at the moment, but it’s something,” she said — to the nonprofit organization Rising Tide Capital, which is based in Jersey City and works to transform lives and communities by supporting entrepreneurs.
“In recent years, they’ve been working to expand their programs in Essex County and northern New Jersey,” Pruzan said. “I selected Rising Tide Capital because of its potential to positively impact the trajectory of an individual, their communities, their families and future generations. I’m happy to give to this incredible nonprofit that serves the same community supported by Valley Arts. And it’s a reminder that even small contributions can be part of something significant.”
Valley Arts is also getting in on the action and has pledged to donate 5 percent of its earnings from the show to a local public school art department to help fund supplies. Valley Arts did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
“I feel it’s important to give back to the community in whatever small way I can,” Pruzan said. “That’s always been a part of my business model and ethics.”
Community is clearly a force in Pruzan’s life, from where she lives — a haven for many artists — to where she works — a collaborative for artists.
“I live in Maplewood and, like many others, moved here from New York City 12 years ago,” Pruzan said. “I’m part of 356 Artgang, a cooperative of art studios at Manufacturers Village in East Orange. It’s a 19th-century industrial complex with a rich history.”
For fans of Pruzan’s work, Manufacturers Village will offer another opportunity in October to see her work and her workspace. Manufacturers Village Artist Studios will open its doors to the studios of more than 60 artists, including Pruzan, on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 16 and 17, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The enclave, just minutes from Thomas Edison’s original workshop, houses artists working in a variety of mediums.
An opening-night reception for “Liminal Spaces and Nowhere Places” will be Sept. 10 from 6 to 9 p.m. and a closing talk will be Oct. 3 from 3 to 5 p.m.; due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in this area, in-person visits beyond opening night and the closing talk are by appointment only. Valley Arts will make the exhibit available online through its virtual gallery at www.valleyartsnj.com/gallery/liminal-spaces. For more information on Pruzan and her artwork, visit www.rachelpruzanart.com.
Photos Courtesy of Rachel Arturi Pruzan