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Artist Jessica Mallios exhibits in digital gallery at Lyco College

March 25, 2012
By BRIAN BUSH ( , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

"For an Experience of Wholeness," an exhibition of new photography, video and glass paperweight works by artist Jessica Mallios, is on display from March 29 to April 13 at the Digital Media Gallery, Lycoming College.

Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Mallios earned her master of fine arts degree in photography from Bard College in 2005. Her work has been shown in numerous galleries, including the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, the Texas Biennial, the Jen Bekman Gallery in New York, the Vox Populi Gallery in Philadelphia and the Mobile Archive Project in Tranzit, Poland.

Mallios has lectured in photography at the University of Texas at Austin, St. Edward's University and Texas State University. She lives and works in Austin.

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“For an Experience of Wholeness,” an exhibition of new photography, video and glass paperweight works by artist Jessica Mallios, is on display from March 29 to April 13 at the Digital Media Gallery, Lycoming College.

"For an Experience of Wholeness" is part of Mallios's ongoing project to examine the relationship between spectacle and artifice. Mallios's work fuses elements of photography and installation art. She is not strictly a photographer in the sense that she walks around taking pictures of the observable world. Rather, much of her work is comprised of taking photographs of arranged tableaus: painted table tops, carefully-arranged planks and chairs, stacked stone tablets.

Mallios uses found and constructed objects to focus the viewer's attention on form and texture and to emphasize the conflict between the real and the artificial. Mallios studied painting and sculpture before switching to photography. She said her interest in texture and dimension persisted through her transition from one medium to the other.

"I've always been interested in the physical and tactile qualities of paint and materials, so the transition to photography had much to do with a fascination with the marks of light," Mallios said. "I was intrigued by the clarity of direct rendering offered by photography."

In 2008, Mallios was an artist-in-residence at Can Serrat in Barcelona, Spain. It was here that Mallios made her first experiments with photographing constructed objects.

"I started working with objects and paper to construct readymade illusion," Mallios said. "This was a new way to think about context and it was a wonderful opening to subject matter because it was less specific, less reliant on narrative and place."

By creating her own objects and arrangements to photograph, Mallios is able to focus on material aspects more often associated with painting and sculpture.

"My interest in rendering expanded to a preoccupation with the surface and materiality of objects," Mallios said. "I used the camera to record texture and detail, but also to fabricate it. By paying close attention to surfaces, forms and texture, my work focuses on how a photograph can simultaneously record implausible detail and create pictorial illusion. I'm interested in the physical space around photography as much as the photographic object. This misrepresents the subject and keeps the viewer in a suspended state of recognition."

Mallios said her most recent work is influenced by her reading about kitsch and illusion. After reading "The Kitsch Experience" by Celeste Olalquiaga, Mallios has been enamored with the history of kitsch.

"The book gives a historical and philosophical examination of the spectacle of viewing," Mallios said. "It traces the Victorian era of the 19th century and the origins of kitsch (conflicts between the real and the artificial)."

This exhibition will be a first for Mallios in that it is the first time she will exhibit objects and photographs together. Taking her cue from "The Kitsch Experience," Mallios worked with a glass fabricator to create handmade paperweights.

"They're the scale of an average hand," Mallios said. "I'm interested in engaging with objects of consumption and spectacle, especially those traced to the Victorian paperweight craze."

Mallios's paperweights are three-dimensional reproductions of a photograph entitled "Star Drawing," which will also be on display.

"This image is an abstracted composition of marks that merge both analog and digital traces," Mallios explained. "The paperweights reuse the composition, but I paint and collage the mark that's then fused by the rounded shape of glass. The paperweight dome acts like a lens or diorama."

"For an Experience of Wholeness" also features Mallios' video works, which are equally interested in artifice and reality. "1:1, 2011" is a video shot at an Austin discotheque using a process camera, placed in the middle of the dance floor. "Surrounded by television monitors, mirrors and a circling cast of dancers, the process camera doubles as subject of spectacle and object of artifice," Mallios said. "It was instantly regarded and forgotten."

When she's not exhibiting her solo work, Mallios is part of an Austin art collective called Lakes Were Rivers. Following her show in Williamsport, Mallios will start gearing up for the collective's upcoming exhibition at the University of Texas's Harry Ransom Center.

"For an Experience of Wholeness" is Mallios's first exhibition at the Digital Media Gallery, and it will be her first visit to Williamsport - two exciting prospects, according to the artist.

"I'm thrilled to be able to present new work to a new community," Mallios said.

An opening reception will be held from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Digital Media Gallery, located in the Mass Communications building on Franklin Ave. Mallios will lecture about her work from 1 to 2 p.m. Thursday in the Fine Art Lecture Hall, Lycoming College. Both the lecture and the exhibition are free and open to the public. All other exhibition viewings are by appointment.

For more information about Mallios, visit



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