Juxtapoz Journal – Samantha Pleasure Groff: True Riches

“And in case you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will belief you with the true riches of heaven?” Luke 16:1

Raised in a small Pennsylvania Dutch neighborhood surrounded by farms and the Mennonite religion, Samantha Joy Groff’s work options animals, vegetation, and feminine topics enmeshed in a knot of competing wishes. Her observe pits the conservative values of the Pennsylvania Dutch towards modern beliefs of wealth, household, and want by the feminine expertise. Drawing on the historical past of rural painters like Andrew Wyeth and Grant Wooden, her work resist their austere shade palettes, stoic figures, and ubiquitous pastoral panorama compositions. As a substitute, the work indulges in excessive emotional have an effect on, off-kilter colours, and sensual physique/land entanglements. 

In True Riches, Groff investigates conventional Mennonite suspicion of worldliness, a time period used to designate attitudes, tendencies, and conduct influenced by the “world”––the evil system of life and conduct against Christ. The thought of the world is used regularly on this sense within the New Testomony: Paul (Galatians 1:4) described Christ’s saving work as a deliverance “from this current evil world.” Jesus mentioned (John 17:16) that His disciples “will not be of the world, at the same time as I’m not of the world.” Groff explores this resistance to fashionable influences inside her prolonged Mennonite household, and the way over the past 20 years, she has seen the world slowly seeping into an in any other case closed neighborhood. 

Impressed by a current journey to Kentucky to go to her cousins, the works in True Riches are based mostly on Groff’s expertise throughout a working vacation spent on their farm to ease the burden of caring for his or her land in alternate for meals, high quality time, and collaborative portrait periods along with her household. Groff noticed how her cousins, now younger girls aged 18 and 21, are starting to make choices that can influence the remainder of their lives, whereas below the confinement of their spiritual upbringing.

Groff’s work really feel unusual as a result of there is no such thing as a precedent, that she is aware of of, for representational artwork in Mennonite custom. Her figures dwell concurrently in a previous, current, and someplace in-between; a push/pull between a contemporary existence and conventional modes of Mennonite expertise. The historical past of Mennonite artwork has largely been non-representational and strictly practical, typically relegated to the class of craft––quilts, furnishings, ebook making, and bible folks artwork. Groff attracts from conventional depictions of divinity, whereas resisting ornate iterations of Catholic saints which might be typically forged in opposition to Mennonite religion. True Riches contends with creating modern Christian paintings inside a historic tradition that refuses idolatry of any sort. 

Impressed by Mannerist figuration, Groff’s topics’ elongated limbs and brittle-thin necks take pleasure in an ambiguity between who these younger girls are, the place they arrive from, and what they need for his or her futures. Their downcast stares, coquettish sideways gazes, and refined sexuality bump up towards the modesty of their neighborhood and a notion of working-class survivalism, the place the physique is used to make a residing by guide labor. For Groff, the neck turns into an invite into indulgence, regardless that her figures don’t meet viewers’ eyes. The rubbery limbs and false nails point out a fantasy set in opposition to the realism of the figures portrayed, to represent the will for sure female qualities which might be negated by the bodily labor required in an agriculture business. Even the animals depicted have an elastic high quality that might make them unfit to maintain on a working farm. 

Right here, Groff alludes to an undercurrent of want for true riches, no matter they might be, to discover the clashing of worldliness and particular person expression with purity and religion. The work investigates striving in direction of an unknowable future (heaven), and a confrontation of the truth of the world with its infinite temptations. Groff gives us an intimate glimpse right into a neighborhood, regardless of nonetheless herself missing entry that comes with being a religious member of the Mennonite religion.  What’s revealed is the artist’s personal ambiguous but emotional relationship to her shortcomings of religion, set towards a backdrop of works which might be grounded in earthly existence.