The Boston Globe, April 21, 1993

"Disturbing Visions of a Planet Besieged"
"Environment: New Work,"  Starr Gallery, Jewish Community Center, Newton, MA


The current show at the Jewish Community Center in Newton is a matter of life and death — of the planet. “Environment: New Work,” which is in the Starr Gallery of the JCC, 333 Nahanton St. in Newton, thorough June 4, deals with the destruction and salvation of the natural world. It’s a common theme in art nowadays, and an artist has to be particularly inventive in order not to come across as just another Save the Whales enthusiast, spouting platitudes. The four artists at the JCC — Lois Tarlow, Prilla Smith Brackett, Sally S. Fine and Claire Spellman — do manage to elude the facile artist/environmentalist stereotypes, making work that is both disturbing and vigorous…

Brackett's paintings and drawings are obsessive and exquisitely rendered views of trees — trunks, branches and roots — gnarled and twisting. The black and white drawings are the simplest. One depicts a Japanese maple, its branches in white silhouetted against the darkness. The tendrils of a "Weeping Beech" really do look like streaming tears. The paintings are more complex, and here Brackett offers art-whithin-art, painting images of rectangles on the larger rectangle of the picture itself. Both feature images of trees, and to heighten the dizzying effect of image-on-image, Brackett combines black and white images with trees in color, and trees from the tropics with those of New England's frostier clime. She also uses a worm's eye perspective that gives the sense of trees towering over the viewer. In "Rupture" a black and white view of a tree is superimposed on a vividly colored one, and across the monochromatic tree falls a lyrical ribbon of purple. The colored version is lush, heated, aggressive; the version in grissaile sinks inward. Brackett makes you see what color does to the world, and what color does to you emotionally…

©Christine Temin 1993