Venus' Looking Glass, "Gardens", Slide-Installation, exerpt In Mary Fernety’s color slide installation, “Venus’ Looking Glass (Triodanis Perfoliata),” there blossoms a provocative intertwining between house and garden, internal and external environments, published words and built space, the botanical geography of one continent and the biographical landscape of another. The title, which refers to a flowering plant of the bluebell family is drawn (as are all the text elements seen in the artwork) from a somewhat arcane source: The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers.
Venus' Looking Glass, "Crevices", Slide-Installation, exerpt Our entry point to the installation, the enclosed garret-like space above the main gallery, possesses the magical quality of a secret attic room, or, as the name suggests, a looking glass worthy of Alice’s curiosity. Here projected against a bare concrete wall are images that detail a domestic interior (Fernety’s present home in Austria, parts of which date back to the 11th-century). Individual snippets of text, excised faithfully by the artist from the Audubon guide, are physically placed in the compositional space of the photograph before each shot is captured.
Venus' Looking Glass, "Valleys", Slide-Installation, exerpt What transpires in the images are remarkable marriages between two seemingly incompatible subjects that are both amusing and penetrating. In an image of the bathtub, for example, lies the text “bed of dried ponds.” A photograph of the artist’s daughter, dressed in green and laying on her bed, is combined with “grassy places.” “Moist meadows in the mountains” resides within a picture of the artist’s bedroom. On the dresser one can see a photograph of the artist and her husband kissing in an alpine meadow.
Venus' Looking Glass, "Thickets", Slide-Installation, exerpt Perhaps one of the most telling occurrences is the word “Roadsides” imposed on the artist’s refrigerator, covered with photos of friends and family in the United States held up by magnets that bear the shapes and names of US states. For Fernety, who grew up in California and frequently enjoyed its outdoor pleasures (the New World), “Venus’s Looking Glass” is an exploration of her ongoing sense of place, displacement, and replacement that characterizes her life in Europe (the Old World). The Audubon guide, then, is like a magical telescope, a conduit that connects memories with the lived experience of the present. The lyrical phrases are markers that circumscribe a life that grew up vigorously in one soil and now continues to thrive and multiply in another. “Venus’ Looking Glass” is characterized by the USDA as an “invasive weed,” and that is a fine point of entry from which to consider this meditation on a transplanted soul.
Venus' Looking Glass, "Lawns & Fields", Slide-Installation, exerpt Looking back to the artwork’s title, Venus (whose references are innumerable), a planet that is sometimes referred to as Earth’s sister, was once thought to be two different bodies, identified separately as a morning star Eosphorus and an evening star Hesperus. Like the Greek astronomers who first corrected this misunderstanding, Fernety melds two worlds and harvests a hybrid garden of visual poems. (Brent Zerger)