Juxtapoz Magazine - Samantha Joy Groff: True Riches

“And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will rely on you with the correct riches of heaven?” Luke 16:1

Raised in a tiny Pennsylvania Dutch neighborhood surrounded by farms and the Mennonite faith, Samantha Joy Groff’s do the job features animals, vegetation, and feminine topics enmeshed in a knot of competing wants. Her practice pits the conservative values of the Pennsylvania Dutch in opposition to contemporary ideals of prosperity, family, and want by the woman experience. Drawing on the historical past of rural painters like Andrew Wyeth and Grant Wood, her paintings resist their austere colour palettes, stoic figures, and ubiquitous pastoral landscape compositions. As an alternative, the operate indulges in serious emotional impact, off-kilter colors, and sensual overall body/land entanglements. 

In Real Riches, Groff investigates classic Mennonite suspicion of worldliness, a expression utilised to designate attitudes, tendencies, and habits influenced by the “world”––the evil process of everyday living and conduct opposed to Christ. The strategy of the planet is used commonly in this perception in the New Testament: Paul (Galatians 1:4) explained Christ’s conserving do the job as a deliverance “from this present evil environment.” Jesus reported (John 17:16) that His disciples “are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Groff explores this resistance to fashionable influences inside of her extended Mennonite household, and how over the final two decades, she has observed the earth bit by bit seeping into an if not shut neighborhood. 

Influenced by a latest journey to Kentucky to go to her cousins, the functions in Accurate Riches are based mostly on Groff’s experience in the course of a performing holiday break expended on their farm to ease the burden of caring for their land in exchange for meals, high quality time, and collaborative portrait classes with her relatives. Groff noticed how her cousins, now young women aged 18 and 21, are beginning to make selections that will effects the rest of their lives, even though beneath the confinement of their spiritual upbringing.

Groff’s paintings experience strange mainly because there is no precedent, that she is familiar with of, for representational artwork in Mennonite tradition. Her figures dwell simultaneously in a past, existing, and somewhere in-between a drive/pull among a modern day existence and standard modes of Mennonite working experience. The record of Mennonite art has mainly been non-representational and strictly purposeful, generally relegated to the classification of craft––quilts, furnishings, e book generating, and bible people art. Groff attracts from conventional depictions of divinity, while resisting ornate iterations of Catholic saints that are generally solid in opposition to Mennonite faith. Correct Riches contends with developing present-day Christian artwork in just a historical society that refuses idolatry of any sort. 

Influenced by Mannerist figuration, Groff’s subjects’ elongated limbs and brittle-skinny necks indulge in an ambiguity amongst who these young gals are, exactly where they arrive from, and what they want for their futures. Their downcast stares, coquettish sideways gazes, and refined sexuality bump up in opposition to the modesty of their local community and a idea of functioning-class survivalism, exactly where the body is used to make a living by way of guide labor. For Groff, the neck becomes an invitation into indulgence, even while her figures do not fulfill viewers’ eyes. The rubbery limbs and false nails suggest a fantasy established in opposition to the realism of the figures portrayed, to symbolize the desire for sure feminine attributes that are negated by the bodily labor expected in an agriculture marketplace. Even the animals depicted have an elastic good quality that would make them unfit to retain on a doing the job farm. 

In this article, Groff alludes to an undercurrent of want for legitimate riches, what ever they may well be, to investigate the clashing of worldliness and person expression with purity and religion. The get the job done investigates striving to an unknowable upcoming (heaven), and a confrontation of the fact of the entire world with its infinite temptations. Groff offers us an personal glimpse into a group, regardless of still herself missing entry that comes with becoming a devout member of the Mennonite religion.  What is unveiled is the artist’s personal ambiguous but emotional relationship to her shortcomings of religion, established against a backdrop of performs that are grounded in earthly existence. 

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