by Elizabeth Johnson
Corinne “Coco” Pulsinelle has numerous creative outlets. She was “the other woman” in Hot Bijouxx’s recent video for their debut album I’ve Found a New Baby. Along with working full time for a major fashion label, writing artist profiles for Doylestown’s Radius magazine, playing percussion, she makes fine art. When I first met her she was working weekends at the Schmidtberger gallery in Frenchtown. (Corinne, can I borrow $20?)
I’m drawn first to the pieces made from a time when she was having difficult dreams. Waking up disoriented, she would ground herself by gazing at her hands. Dream Arms I and Dream Arms II come from this uneasy period, forging a bridge between art and sleep. She imbues the delicately shaded pencil portraits of arms and hands with a somnolent, surreal mood, as if she’s watching herself from outside her body. A secure draftsman, she avoids the common pitfall of pressing down too hard onto paper, which would produce shiny, rigid images. Her gentle, earth-colored renderings allow the images to breathe, reminding me of Georgia O’Keeffe’s methods and style. In the portraits her arms are decorated with cryptic, Aztec tattoos–patterned messages to herself—and her fingers, clenched and curled with emotion, communicate embarrassment or, perhaps, fear. Resembling long opera gloves ready to be pulled on, the arms are mannequin-like, cut off above the elbows, and they reveal their inner, empty contours with abject coolness and skill.
The rough, frenetic, charcoal-and-ink drawing titled Infinity Glass puts me in a completely different, more cerebral mood. Its curving, mechanical shapes are imbedded in a geometric scaffold. The composition barely holds itself together, and I feel like I’m watching a slow motion, black and white explosion or that I’ve been plunged into a Julie Mehretu painting. Pulsinelle’s stated intention for this piece is to create a space that both welcomes you in and thwarts your gaze. Being attracted or repelled is the crux of this drawing, and it parallels the concepts of Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors Even, (The Large Glass) in two ways. The word “glass” in both titles refers to looking, separation and longing. Also, the piece fits with Duchamp’s idea that the spectator–in this case their gaze–is more important than the artist.
For a model, Pulsinelle keeps a deer skull (Bambi, beware!) inside a lit glass cabinet that refracts light and casts haunting shadows. “I’m as much about Walt Disney as I am about Salvador Dali,” she says, when we’re discussing the dead deer. Lately, she is folding postmodern ideas into her personal dream world, making portraits of flying trucks on plywood, emphasizing the wood’s grain much in the way of artist Tilo Uischner. 1964 andahalf Mustang I references Los Angeles Car Culture, the low riders and auto body artists who unite smooth, colorful curves with mechanical feats and fast engines. Using reddish paint on a warm, wooden surface, she works up lights and darks from a middle tone to suggest a visionary story of escape, travel and death in the desert. She repeats the message car companies tell consumers and uses the Mustang as a container for human emotion and desire; but the deer skull in the background changes everything, making a slick generic advertisement into something authentically rough and personal. I’m also reminded of Matthew Porter who photographs model cars as if they are flying, in the manner of 70s TV shows: Starsky and Hutch, Bullitt, and The Streets of San Francisco.
Arms. Glass. Skulls. Trucks. Pulsinelle’s subjects are vehicles for her human presence, objects she turns into second skins, tools of symbolic self-transformation.