Marika Thunder, Texas / Yeshiva
By Mark Westall
Nina Johnson to open Texas / Yeshiva, a new solo exhibition by artist Marika Thunder in the Main Gallery. The new body of work in the exhibition looks to explore the subject of duality and facing binaries, as well as its role in the artist’s self-formation by placing two seemingly unrelated series of paintings in conversation, together representing the power of a community united under a common objective.
Interested in the human psyche and subjects of community, faith, and spirituality, Thunder incorporates her personal lived experiences, as well as the internalization of these experiences, into her practice. Born in New York City, the artist spent formative years living in several states including Texas, California, and Pennsylvania, with each location creating a split in her personal identity. Building upon internal and external observations in disparate environments and social groups, Thunder reflects on the shared collective drive to seek purpose, passion, and fulfillment.
In her exhibition at Nina Johnson, Thunder draws inspiration from photographs taken at a street parade in Corpus Christi, Texas, and at an all-boys Yeshiva boarding school in Westchester, New York, for two new series of oil paintings. Speaking to contrasting themes, the paintings are both visually and aesthetically distinguishable: vibrant and crowded, solemn and deserted. However, both series share fundamental similarities in concept and portray communities congregating under a shared belief or understanding. Fascinated by the energy generated by intentional gatherings of people, whether it’s a street parade or a religious boarding school, Thunder explores this elevated frequency of experience and synergy.
For the first few works in the Yeshiva series, Thunder utilized heavy impasto layering and sanding techniques. As the works developed and progressed, she took on an architectural role and incorporated the same organic compounds found in the school buildings such as industrial paint, granite, and wood putty, further adding a feeling of a human—and a divine ethereal—presence to the depictions of seemingly empty interiors. The Yeshiva series serve as an escape from the works in the Parade and Cotillion series, which center around materialism and contemporary social culture.
“As someone who spent their formative years in two drastically different communities and environments, it felt natural to investigate these two subjects simultaneously. It’s been a journey for me as an artist to embrace this ‘split’ in my identity through my work and begin turning inwards for information while creating rather than relying on it externally. While these paintings are referenced from real places I’ve been, how I recollect and recreate them to later share with an audience is where I had to use my intuition to tap into something bigger than myself that can speak to the audience and collective consciousness.” Marika Thunder
Marika Thunder Texas / Yeshiva, January 12th 2023 – February 18th 2023, Nina Johnson