TJ Mabrey’s journeys have taken her from Oklahoma to Dallas to Panama to the marble quarries of Pietrasanta to Singapore and Cairo and most recently to Taos, NM, where she has a buoyant installation—made almost entirely of paper— that fills the gallery of the Taos Center for the Arts. Pale ochre sheets of Manila paper, folded into accordion-like pleats and threaded through with snatches of poetry by John Campion, line several of the walls. A big bouquet of translucent blossoms floats from the ceiling. And columns of cut paper, which appear to trap light like low-burning lanterns, march across one of the windows.
I see the sculpture as a ouroboros
that also presents a larger manifestation,
a metaphysical boat.
Flying above and fulfilling the contours is
the suggestion of a sail in action,
the strips of text float side by side,
repeated at various numbers and intensities,
gathering in places, occasionally
to a complete thought.
I see this text as a displaced spirit of the figure below
— a yogi forming the ouroboros with his own body —
then moving through it. This vessel carries with it
— its own means of going forward
and the means of deriving
an appropriate direction
in the process of doing so.
You cannot have what isn't yours.
– John Campion
I turn into
and go through
once a line
(caught in the stream of heat)
yang embraces yin
organizing form about the forces
that make the curve of the line our tao
– John Campion
It’s a shell, a foregone conclusion
waiting its chance to be shattered, perhaps,
by something as graceless as luck.
It lands softly and with little fanfare,
a goddess with her apple inside.
Fecund, maybe. Encircled by pulp.
The sculptor’s made one of marble,
bright and sensual; it glistens. It cracks
in changing weather, and is no longer itself
but rather something else: broken apart.
The light loves it. Moths shroud it at nighttime.
What does it take to move this slow heart, this stony larva?
The day unfolds, and the sun, and the change of seasons,
today’s traffic passes and is gone forever.
Still, an urge for outside intervention,
for anything, anyone better than this
cramped and brittle potential, and though
the nights come and the sculptor sighs
and lays down her tools, it rests too, but uneasy
on a bench: the blind compulsion of everything
that strains, again and again, to be born.
– by Laura F Walton
Work by TJ Mabrey
by Joe Kagle (artist, museum consultant and professor)
On seeing TJ Mabrey’s new work, I am reminded that there is a story that I have heard for years about a beggar and a wealthy merchant in a marketplace in India. It is the essence of how I see the struggle for meaning taking place between an artist and her audience.
Of Seed and Stone
by Brandon Reasoner
Humanity has been subject to the ebb and flow of the natural cycles of Earth since the dawn of our species. From that time, our destiny has run parallel to that of the humble yet ever important seed. However, In today’s chaotic and self destructive “society”, dominated by the grizzly specter of war, corporate greed, and governmental restriction; we have lost our connection with nature and with it, our understanding of the importance of the seed.
by Denise Gamino, American Statesman staff, February 2010
The first time a wild seed sprouted in T.J. Mabrey's clothes dryer, it irritated her.
Seeds were bothersome tidbits that caught in her shoelaces or in the hem of her skirts. They were a nuisance to be brushed aside and forgotten after walks around her rural home in Lampasas County.
A peek through a magnifying glass corrected her vision. Seeds and pods burst into her artistic imagination and have been lodged there for 17 years. They're objects of architectural beauty and bounty.
Now she is a pod person.