The patience, the acceptance, the attention bordering on reverence required of an artist working directly with natural phenomena must focus attention not on what is, but on what is happening. Knowing and feeling exactly how little to participate is crucial. Orpheus leading Euridice up into our world was required not to look, or lose everything. The crux of this artist’s journey is nearly all in the act of looking, of seeing, of making visible — but the risk is there.
Looking into the pale feather-stroke flares and swirls of his mushroom drawings feels like looking through eons of time. The eager spores’ passionate wings and curls seem to waft limitlessly in the dark spaces of the papers. This continuous, graceful eagerness, of course, is actually procreation.
In Jim Toia’s more immediate, enigmatic networks of spiderwebs brought to stillness, there is the mystery of order, of the infinite repetitions in the patterns of lines and movements of almost invisible delicacy captured, stopped. He is the trapper’s nemesis — and glorifier.
Now, with the inky-cap mushroom panels, Toia hits more expressionistic notes. The very liquidity released — its staining, running and pooling — and the cruder, more ungainly shapes of the caps themselves — has provoked the artist into a more active relationship. The elegant, silent resolutions of the earlier forms are replaced by nearly anthropomorphic, individual presences and by an active give-and-take between artist and material. The awe of the earlier forms is replaced by gutsier, earthier shapes extended or modified here and there by the artist’s brush. This engaging theatre of “characters” have their own verve — and, perhaps, tragedies.
Naomi Spector, September 2012