‘Tracing the Paths Between Sprout and Rot’ art exhibit explores resilience and decay

Tracing the Paths Between Sprout and Rot: Work by Emily Jalinsky and Frances Cannon

The Paper Nest — through Apr. 29; hours: Wed.–Fri. 1–6 p.m. and Sat. 12–4 p.m.

"Rosehip" by Frances Cannon
“Rosehip” by Frances Cannon
Iowa City artists Emily Jalinsky and Frances Cannon have cross-pollinated a collection of scientific curios that will be on exhibit at the Paper Nest until Apr. 29. Their work demonstrates a deep, harmonious appreciation of the minuscule, the delicate and the arbitrary boundary between germ and gem in the organic world.

Meeting at an open studio show at Public Space One, they noted a parallel between their practices. Cannon’s Leeuwenhoekean prints resonated with Jalinsky’s soft lichen watercolors and insect boxes. Both artists work between the media of paint and print, with Cannon often incorporating her literary inclinations and Jalinsky’s batik-esque delicacies enhanced by stitchery, seed beads and bottled specimens.

Their work is spread across three walls at the Paper Nest and coexists in cozy ecology with the space. Two walls feature the artists’ separate works, while a third cascades pieces together in groupings of similar pattern, color and subject matter. Their works exist in symbiotic clusters, in complementary yet discernible styles.

Below the collaborative wall, Jalinsky has a small array of jarred biological knicknacks: twigs, seeds, algae and strips of lichen-coated bark submerged in a sealed container of half oil, half water. The artist described a curiosity about the restorative properties of the different substances upon the dried lichen, a hardy composite organism of fungus and algae or cyanobacteria, which the artist sees as a symbol of resilience. The submersion is a study in how the different liquids will affect its life and rot throughout the exhibition, and it invites introspection on the myriad rejuvenating forces in life.

"Absinthe" by Frances Cannon
“Absinthe” by Frances Cannon
Peppered among the strangely beautiful images of decay, bacterium and abstraction were pieces from Cannon’s newly released book, Tropicalia, from Vagabond Press. The volume features illustrations from a recent trip to Martinique, as well as collaboration-through-translation with Filipino writer Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta. Also displayed is a poem, “Epanouissement” (a French term referring both to literal blossoming and to self-fulfillment), vibrant with images of fruits, herbs and experiences of Martinique and its residents.

From wood-violets to maracudja studies, to tongues and snails, cacti-faces and outlines of chemical compositions, Cannon draws a delicate and sensitive line around the grotesque rendered beautiful, calling into question typical delineations between what is illness and what simply is. And admiring a large tri-piece of Jalinsky’s (works originally intended to be distinct and homogeneous but which now combine into a beautiful hybridization of splattered black ink, tea filter shapes of foil gold and turquoise, threaded and penciled in patterns), one can begin to discern the unspeakably elegant patterns of nature as recreated through a well-honed artist’s hand.

Cannon and Jalinsky’s work leaves the viewer with a sense of the ineffable, of elegance in mold, rot, and growth, and the promise of rejuvenation in decay.

The Paper Nest is located in the rear of Beadology on 220 Washington St. Both artists offer work for sale, including copies of Cannon’s co-authored publication, and can be reached through their respective websites: and

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