by Anna Warner

Artist turns inspirational stories into visual depictions of endurance

Art is often open to interpretation. Viewers must throw preconception away in the case of Jill Mongelli’s expo “Amber Waves of Inspiration.” It calls for no interpretation. It calls for no prior artistic knowledge. It calls only for your attention and an open mind. “Amber Waves of Inspiration” is a celebration of the accomplishments of single mothers everywhere.

As I talked to Mongelli, she told me that many people ask her, “What’s with the name? Amber?” The title was not chosen for the sake of poetry. Instead, it is a symbol of the single mother who started it all. Amber Wilkins and her son were involved in a car accident when a dump truck ran a red light. The accident left Amber seriously injured. Amber survived and after much progress, she is able to talk about where she is now.

Stories like this struck a nerve with Mongelli and she felt compelled to shed light on the stories of other single moms like Amber. Her goal was to gather at least 10 single mothers that could give her their stories in order for her to express them artistically. In her exhibition, Mongelli features 38 paintings that stand as living proof of the struggle of single mothers everywhere. I find it very interesting for an artist to have paintings that appear as if painted by several different people. Each stroke was derived from the other. Some were made by the hand of tranquility. Another by the fist of rage.

There is no possible way to walk through her exhibit and not become overwhelmed by the pain in the painting labeled, “Torn.” Mongelli paints a portrait of a woman screaming with her hands scraping the scalp of her head. This tells the story of a single woman who faced decision after decision to the point of insanity. The colors of the woman’s blouse are gray, black, and white.

These colors give the viewer a sense of misdirection as well. If you look long enough, you can even hear the shrill of the woman’s loneliness.

“The Shadow” tells the story of a trip taken by a mother and her daughter. This woman expressed to Mongelli that in a moment when she and her daughter were looking up the beach, she noticed that their shadows held more beauty than the ocean view. Mongelli expresses this with great emphasis. The colors of the water are the type of blue that make you feel as if you are in a Freudian trance. On the other hand, the unique blend of gray and black painted in the shadows fights for your eye as well.

“A Mother’s Embrace” is more abstract than the rest. The viewer must decide which is more important: finding the shape of the mother and her child within the strokes of ambiguous lines and colors, or understanding that the concreteness of the painting is irrelevant. Just knowing that the mother and child are there together is enough to satisfy your feeling of curiosity.

“Amber Waves of Inspiration” was featured at Irving Park Art & Frame. Although it was taken down on Friday, Mongelli’s paintings are still up for sale. All the money goes to the Women’s Resource Center of Greensboro. While the purpose of this was to tell the stories of endurance and perseverance, the “ripple effect” emphasizes the idea of everlasting life. Mongelli urges viewers to retell these stories. With every story told, a new one will arise. !