R O U N D W E A T H E R
Daniela Naomi Molnar: CHORUS rings out from Round Weather, and we’ve timed Molnar’s first solo exhibition of sorrow-forged cyanotypes and wonder-foraged watercolors in concert with the release of her first book of poems CHORUS, winner of the Omnidawn 1st/2nd Book Award. Molnar lives in Portland, Oregon–or, through her eyes: the Cascadian bioregion atop a buried headwaters confluence. She created the Art + Ecology program at Pacific Northwest College of Art and was a founding board member and backcountry guide with Signal Fire. Her teaching focuses on (or, more accurately, blurs) poetry and pigment, and already other art instructors utilize her profound lyric essay from 2022, “Chromophilia.”
CHORUS the show and book are written in the key of interdependence, centering around the tonic of climate grief. The satellite-gathered shapes in Molnar’s New Earth series map newly exposed ground revealed when specific glaciers melt and the states of spirit found there. She infuses these bereaved yet lovely shapes with resonant watercolors composed of pigments and waters she collects from places like the Great Basin high desert of Oregon and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska, laying the shapes and colors over each other to form a chorus, a chaos, an awe. Sing of Kennicott River copper and Elk Bone black. Sing of Jemez Mountain ochre under fingernails. Sing of glacial meltwater huddled in a thermos. Of such your eyes may drink.
Molnar, all of whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors, writes “climate justice, climate grief, and intergenerational trauma are topics I’ve focused on in recent years. These intractable issues tend to break hearts closed—my work aims to pry those breaks open so that we can [...] transmute grief to wonder in order to help shape and nurture generative new questions, feelings, and ethics about what it means to be human at a time of socio-ecological crisis.” To see Molnar’s paintings is to be them. You can imagine your own body making them: placing the paint’s entry, tilting the paper, letting water and color flow. One feels the process of “working with river water, rain water, rocks, and photosynthetic compounds–and the way that these entities reveal their memories through my playing with gravity and allowing them to form rivers and ponds.” Molnar’s works are a place we can weigh the most immediate and deeply timed of makings–a visitation of the world spirit. Her New Earths, with their magisterial materiality, form harmonious and/or clamorous ecosystems where geological, physiological, and transpersonal processes intertwine. We are each of us choruses of minerals and elements, and we take in Molnar’s paintings as the Earth’s song of itself.
The exhibition also includes cyanotypes from the series Desire Lines and Light / Remains. These roving series were made in wild places of the American West as well as towns and cities in Transylvania and Poland. They document Molnar’s travels through geologic and intergenerational time using light, pigment, and found forms. Their intricate shapes reminiscent of ribs and organs occur in a medium that often looks like radiography; thus, each forms an x-ray of a place. Each is the record of an artist serving as a site of vast temporal and spatial relations. Ancestors and their landscapes often come through us in a flash.
In Molnar’s latest series echo)zero(stone, she paints roundnesses that stream into and through each other. The powdered-stone-and-wild-water circles are each an ecosystem in flux, the painting their ecosystems linked. The circles also read as stone shapes. Stones are the material embodiment of Jewish mourning–where a stone placed on a grave depicts one’s visit–and Molnar’s repetition of the shape is a trace of her process of reliving and mourning trauma. Her painted stones remember the countless dead in her lineage who do not have graves, whose bodies were tossed into heaps in concentration camps and pogroms. The moving and placing and regenerative powers of water transform her lamentations to beauty. Her wavering circles are also full zeros. A twist of the zero is infinity, a space from which our capacity for logic fails and something else takes hold. “Call this something else god or call it the pattern of the uncreated,” Molnar writes. “Call it nondual reason, a lucent well with no bottom, or a wheel pegged to nothing, spinning. These zeros teem with multitudes, grief, and love.”
Daniela Naomi Molnar will read from CHORUS at Round Weather alongside Brenda Hillman on Thursday, February 23, 5 PM. Hillman also has a new book of poems to celebrate, In a Few Minutes Before Later. Both poets would love to leave no stone unsung. 30% of proceeds from the exhibition will be donated toward the climate crisis mitigating work of nonprofits Honor the Earth, Oil Change International, and Sunrise Movement.