Article: Mendelson

We are in a blasted landscape of craggy outcroppings and leafless trees, lit by a ochre sky edging toward night. In this God-forsaken setting, a lone figure reclines on the dark, oily earth. Naked, with green-blue skin, and illuminated by an eerie light, this strange soul holds what appears to be a fragment of an animal’s skeleton.

This is the dramatic scene that Peter Granucci has conjured forth in Mourning the Loss, his recent series of paintings. The series is comprised of five groups which explore loss and grief, with an immediacy that is vivid and visceral. We are confronted by images that speak to us directly of suffering, contemplation, and the slender hope of redemption. The artists peaks eloquently in the language of the body: the torso that twists, the arms that embrace the self, the back bent low in surrender. Hands clasp in aguish, gesticulate against the sky, or tenderly cradle a poor creature’s remains.

It is left to the viewer to enter Granucci’s apocalyptic world and come to terms with the same tragic mystery with which the figures struggle. A key lies in the figures themselves. Solitary, naked, without hair, and strangely tinted, they have morphed into embodiments of loss. They are earless, seemingly in response to a world where nature has become silent. These mostly female figures, holding reminders of life extinguished, are archetypal in their monumental mourning. It is as if nature has fallen victim to a massive ecological catastrophe, that has rendered it toxic and withered, its species succumbing to extinction. The figures, simultaneously abject and nurturing, through their bodies give voice to nature’s cry.

Granucci has taken to heart the environmental warnings that threaten to become a global emergency and has rendered them in almost shockingly human terms. The painting Intimate Loss #6 shows a figure with its head hidden in its arms, sitting in the sharp ruins of a great tree that looms before a cloud-filled sky. In one hand the figure holds a heron’s skull. The image is both painful and somehow exalting. The human presence seems to imply an ongoing witness to the world. For all its fantastic grotesquery, the scene bespeaks an urgent moral consciousness.

Granucci’s paintings mourn not just endangered nature, but the human condition itself. Vulnerable and yet persisting, humanity is honored even in its darkest hour.

John Mendelson