If the old saying remains true that not everything that glistens is gold, it is also true that not everything that glistens is just glitz. Mery Lynn McCorkle’s “Cell Biology,” at Marcia Wood Gallery through May 25, restores mysterious depth to reflected bits of light.
The exhibition title is more literal than it might seem; McCorkle derives her seemingly abstract imagery from what the gallery press release describes as “grainy black-and-white electron micrographs of cell structure published in the 1970s.” The resulting canvases — or more accurately, glitter and acrylic on paper mounted on boards — replicate an evocatively complex geometry, but as much as the form, the color and the alterations of light are the point. The largely concealed layers of the collage create additional dimensions.
It might be thought that the palette of these works is unalterable, but in fact the colors change when viewed in different lighting conditions and at different angles. Unexpected shades and hues emerge.
A speculative conversation about how these singular objects would look under moonlight led to a proposal (which the gallery wisely will not act upon) for a full-moon viewing party; this led in turn to the notion that, as with certain works of James Turrell, perhaps there are aspects of these pieces that can be appreciated only under natural light, and for only a few minutes of one day each year. This probably isn’t true, but the idea suggests why, when you have seen photographs of McCorkle’s work, you have gotten only a partial glimpse of what it actually looks like.
This artist’s talents are as multi-layered as her collages. Although it is unrelated to this exhibition, her novel Last Judgment is both an entertaining suspense story and a look at life in the art world that insiders can confirm as essentially accurate.