Post-Classical: Nicola Ginzel’s Obscure Objects of Desire by Lilly Wei
Nicola Ginzel sees significance—aesthetic and otherwise—in bits and pieces that others overlook or matter-of-factly discard. And while she is certainly not the only artist who pounces on found objects and re-cycles them, her interpretations and responses are more autobiographical than most, the works invested with idiosyncratic, diaristic, even talismanic import. It’s also a rescue mission “to extend the life of things on their way to being destroyed,” she said. Or more accurately, Ginzel wants to focus awareness on the things that comprise daily life and experience; she wants a “slowing down,” so we are more present and in the present. “People tell me,” she said, “that after they see my work, they look at ordinary things differently.”
Thus, she randomly collects the detritus of our urban existence in her daily comings and goings: wrappers, plastic bags, boxes, even food, shards of soap, and much more. She also saves receipts, her own and others, a custom form, phone cards, a swatch of fabric, but nothing intrinsically valuable. It’s up to her to give them value. From the mass-produced and damaged, from the ephemeral, Ginzel—who thinks of herself as a mixed media artist but whom I think of as a mixed media poet or just simply a sorceress—creates delicate, hand-made and very beautiful objects that suggest reliquaries, amulets and archeological fragments, distillates of memories and feelings.
What catches Ginzel’s eye could be anything: an ordinary plastic shopping bag, for instance, that she gilded with 23k gold, resplendently transformed as if by the mythic touch of King Midas. Or a Wendy’s chicken wrapper—if you can believe that’s what it is. Ginzel applied a first layer of gold leaf to the wrapper, then carefully embroidered it until it resembled richly textured brocade, a remnant of a medieval tapestry perhaps, framed, floating in a white field. It is this kind of transformation that she is after, that changes the commonplace into something ravishing.
The earliest series that she showed me in her Williamsburg studio in December was a line of little objects hung on the wall, called, appropriately enough, “Gold Line.” The tiny sculptures—charming, improvised—are impossible to identity, their original semblance gently overwhelmed by Ginzel’s magic, by her solicitude. Spoiler alert: one little jewel of a piece is half a lemon rind, the interior scooped out, dried and dipped in wax.
Ginzel labors intensively over her miniatures, stitching, painting, frottaging, collaging, applying pastels, pencil and so on, whatever the work might require, all techniques that deliberately avoid new technologies. Her very intuitive practice requires great attentiveness, an unmediated collaboration between mind, hand and material. The constant solacing repetition of touch also bespeaks of love and healing, warming the work with their invisible presence.
The recent series are flat, a form of relief. She still thinks of them as objects, as sculptures and makes them in series, even if they are intended to be individual works when completed, repeating the essential motif. That motif, that found object, is less hidden in the current work, although clues were always present as to content. But in the end, it never really mattered to Ginzel if the identity of her materials were ambiguous or if it was easily decoded. One sequence was inspired by a small soap box which she flattened, embroidered, and used as a template to make rubbings from. Afterwards, she re-embroidered them, altering the composition, adding more layers of meaning, adding energy. Essentially, her work is based on the human factor, in some ways a branch of “philosophical anthropology,” or equivalent to a “shamanistic” ritual, Ginzel explained, its visual language both rare and ecumenical, her offerings something to be shared.