BY NINA ROSSI- Montague Reporter, March 23, 2016. TURNERS FALLS – “I don’t know why I like clover so much,” Greta Svalberg mused. We were talking about the paintings she is currently showing at the Loot store in Turners. She’s used dried and pressed clovers in several of her paintings, obviously collecting and carefully preserving many hundreds of the tiny trifoliate plants.
“It’s a meditative thing. I’m making a compression puzzle. I’m taking a pile of clover, and arranging it, composing it, and – it is endlessly satisfying to me.” Clover is lovely fodder for fattening grazing animals, and enriching the soil. It carries luck on it;s shoulders like hay carries the sun. Greta is certainly open to letting good luck have its way with her work, but the work also progresses with a good dose of intention.
Her exhibit is titled “Zuihitsu (随筆)” a style in Japanese literature “consisting of loosely connected personal essays and fragmented ideas that typically respond to the author’s surroundings.” She read The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, a detailed diary of court life in 11th century Japan that reflects on many subjects.
“I was trying to conceptualize a framework for what I work on, and I thought The Pillow Book, which is quintessential zuihitsu, was the literary equivalent of my artistic meanderings: quixotic, poetic, introspective” explained Greta.
Her meanderings in the studio include using colorful grains of rice to build textured areas of modulated color, pressed clover, quinoa, pills, and porcupine quills. Some of these collaged works are representational, such as the blood root plant portraits inspired by learning plant identification from an herbalist friend.
She also meanders into realism: there are paintings, like Steve’s Foot based on a photograph taken on the road with Steve Gunn. The picture shows Steve back and legs with one bare foot as he digs through the stuff in a van (looking for the other shoe, perhaps). “We rush through the landscape in our van, and it’s just so full of all this stuff – and experience – and people – crammed into a Ford Econoline – it’s such a compression. You just want a patch of grass to sit on somewhere.”
Greta might also show a book at Loot that she did while sitting at the merchandise table at a show. “Being on the road is sort of a field study. I was in this rock-n-roll place, drinking a cheap beer, and I really wanted to be doing something healthy.” The result was a little book called “Asana” featuring yoga and smoking.
The isolation of the art studio drives her into more collaborative situations with musicians and writers and actors, and she enjoys doing curatorial work at Rozz Tox Art, a gallery in Florence, MA. Greta also works at the Five Eyed Fox cafe in Turners, which is how she connected with Loot shop owners and frequent Fox customers Erin and John.
She came to live in the valley four or five years ago, having visited it frequently while she was . studying art at the Boston Museum School. Graduate studies at UCLA and teaching art to children came next, and five years later she moved back east. In an area saturated with artists and musicians, Greta feels it’s fertile and nurturing place to grow her own and other’s art, with breaks for road trips and other adventures.
The opening reception for “Zuihitsu” on Friday March 18 will feature a specially made bar on wheels, beer from Turners Falls’ Brick and Feather brewery, and music curated by Sunburned Rob Thomas. The festivities are from 5 to 8 p.m. at Loot: Found and Made, 62 Avenue A. Greta Svalberg’s
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