Roslyn Fassett is a white woman from Brooklyn with salt-and-pepper hair and freckles. Somehow, though, shes always feeling like she should have been African.
In her upcoming Chelsea exhibition, Dark & Light, that dichotomy will be writ large on the walls. The show will primarily feature her interpretative landscapes, inspired by walks around the marshes and lakes that charge her artistic batteries. One series comes from a late November stroll around a very Scorpio marsh in a bird sanctuary near her home. She takes pictures, traces them onto transparent sheets, projects the sheets onto a canvas, and in fantastic colors, renders the landscape using oil paints thinned out so they resemble watercolors.
Three oversized canvases will be unlike the others. Figures of darkskinned women recline or dance behind curtains of black-and-white patterns that suggest the intertwined woven layers of African mud cloth. Roslyn painstakingly copied some of these symbols out of art journals; others are from textiles she picked up in Mali and Nigeria.
Thats why I named my exhibit Dark & Light, says Roslyn, in the two-room studio she rents on the second fl oor of an offi ce building in downtown Warwick. I thought I could somehow pull it all in. She shakes her head at the diffi cult task of explaining Pine Island and Mali into a single artistic theme.
Fassett studied at the prestigious Cooper Union, married young, and – aside from freelance textile and wallpaper design – put art on hold. It wasnt until her kids were on their own that her husband built her a giant easel and she picked up where shed left off . At 60, she remembered that she was in love with African art.
Fassett got her masters in nonwestern art history at City College, and has become something of a regional authority on African art. She has taught tribal art history at SUNY Purchase, SUNY New Paltz, and Marist College but no longer. Now I want to use my energy for my own work.
Dark & Light November 1-26 Prince St. Gallery, 530 West 25 St. New York City