Lisa Lackey "Grocery Aisle '
Lisa Lackey "Grocery Aisle '

Lisa Lackey’s fabrics feel domestic. She works with sheets of soft cotton as yielding as the felt given to children, patches reminiscent of summer dresses and bow ties, ribbed arcs of textile that you could throw on your dining room table and eat on. Everything that Lackey stitches into her canvases looks like it might have been retrieved from a stack in the back of a pantry, or from a wicker basket stashed atop a shelf in a foyer closet.

The images she fashions out of thread and tucked fabric are awfully homey, too.  She likes doors, which are generally, but not in all cases, open, tabletops, treats.  In “Grocery Aisle,” Lackey presents us with a high-angle depiction of the back of a shopping cart, abutting shelves stocked to suburban Shop-Rite overflow with canned goods; “Theme Shmeme,” another aerial view, shows us the kitchen surface, complete with a coffee cup and crossword puzzle, where those groceries might be served.

All of this sounds pleasant enough.  But there’s also a curious power that Lackey’s fabric scenes radiate: a force that’s more than a bit disquieting, and suggests that our domestic spaces aren’t always the inviolable psychological refuges that we imagine them to be. In “Common Threads,” a trio group show at the Majestic Theatre Condominium (222 Montgomery Street), Lackey’s six pieces take a candid look at the interiors where our lives mostly happen, and examine the permeability of the barriers between what we shut out and what we welcome home.

Curator Kristin DeAngelis, who has been hosting strong shows at the Majestic for years now, presents Lackey’s work alongside textile pieces by two younger artists. Sarah Garcia embroiders snapshot-like images of rows of houses, geological features, sand dunes, and at least one ornery-looking vulture. Jessica Ward’s own stitchings are more abstract: sometimes they’re pure washes of color reminiscent of midday skies or the surfaces of mood rings. Both Garcia and Ward use circular and ovoid hoop frames, just like the embroidery sampler patterns that might hang on your grandmother’s wall do. They’re portholes into soft and melting parallel worlds. Some of Garcia’s better pieces — “Joshua Tree” stands out — feel like they’ve been captured from the window of a low-flying Cessna.  Even her cassowary seems fairly friendly and unlikely to kick.

Garcia and Ward approach Lisa Lackey’s virtuosity with needle and thread. But neither is the illusionist that Lackey is. Lackey’s canvases often look so much like paintings that it takes a few moments to understand how she’s generating touchable (but don’t touch!) texture and malleability. Her interiors are always inviting, even when they’re oddly spooky. Things on one side of the divides — and her pieces are full of divides — always

seem like they might slip to the other.  That includes groceries, and beams of sunshine, and animals, and human beings, and there is always the looming danger that the leap will be transformative. Even the most superficially pleasant of the six canvases is full of destabilizing undertones. In “Ivy,” a farm animal slips its head between the slats of a barnyard fence; it appears to be smiling, but its neck is quite literally on the block. The implied warmth of the room behind the red door in “Exit 11” is unavailable to the umbrella-toting pedestrian, who has been reduced by cold and snow to a hunched-shouldered silhouette. Daylight, too, is prone to metamorphosis. The beams breaking through the glass door of the “Sunroom” land on the floor in pink make-up case rectangles. The outside wants in; the inside wants out.

Lackey’s medium allows her to emphasize and reinforce these divisions. A folded or tucked piece of fabric provides as soft but definitive line. Small but impeccably rendered details of stitchwork enhance the permeability of the pictures, and help to draw you in to these scenes: tiny black slashes on the wall of “MS839 Up,” suggestive of the shadow of a handrail, the speckled linoleum squares on the floor of the “Grocery Store,” tickled by the edges of the price tags, the trampoline-like tightness of the outdoor patio in “Sunroom.” It’s all detailed, and warm and weird, and filled with love and fastidiousness, and quite a bit of hovering fear.  In other words, it’s just like home.

trismccall@gmail.com

(“Common Threads” will be on view at the Majestic Theatre Condominium through October. Visit silvermanbuilding.com for more information.) 

Feature work: Lisa Lackey “Grocery Aisle”

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Tris McCall

Tris McCall has written about art, architecture, performance, politics, and public culture for many publications, including the Newark Star-Ledger, the Bergen Record, Jersey Beat, the Jersey City Reporter,...