Press_Sue Scott

Sue Scott on Marilla Palmer’s “Reluctant Melancholy”

A thread of reluctant melancholy runs through Marilla Palmer’s installation, particularly “Silver Lining,” a floating stainless steel mobile in the outline of a cloud. Strings of rhinestones and fiber optic beads anchored by letters spelling O-P-T-I-M-I-S-M and interspersed with dried tree fungus anchor the sparkling threads. A lone tree twirls slowly in the center of these frozen raindrops. LED light projected from below runs through the spectrum of colors–pink, green, orange, blue, white — a metaphor for changing seasons and the passage of time. Though beautiful, the tree appears embalmed, trapped in memory and frozen in time. Palmer’s use of light is disorienting in the way it creates a theatrical space that is both nostalgic and technical, like the inside of a computer screen.

The dichotomy in Palmer’s work is that we see one thing but feel another. She visually conveys a sense of fragile beauty and hope while playing with the darker side of emotion. There is a dichotomy of materials too in which the whimsy of Alexander Calder meets the mood of James Turrell. The hand wrought, crafty aspect of her rhinestones, mirrors and beads contrasts with the high tech effect of the LED lights. Artifice collides with reality, optimism with despair. Palmer’s work exists somewhere in-between. But isn’t the promise of hope in adversity the essence of a silver lining?