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Queens Chronicle

Dazzling detail and realism in a world of beads

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Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:56 pm, Thu Sep 26, 2019.

Now you see it, now you see it differently.

Resting atop a windowsill at the Voelker Orth house museum in Flushing, my favorite sugar-coated old-fashioned licorice candy, Allsorts, beckons from inside a large glass contemporary apothecary jar, a tumbled array of cut licorice circles and chunks coated with candy dots. As I mention to a woman working at the exhibit there how much I remember loving it as a child, she smiles. Turns out the “candy” is part of the art exhibit!

I look closer and see the intricate, dense network of the display, made all of beads.

Art that’s indistinguishable from food at a brief distance? I’m all in.

Linda Rettich is a Queens artist whose beaded and textile creations cleverly combine surrealism, perspective-bending and extremely accurate texture and product mimicking. From a beaded black-and-white striped parlor chair to a leather jacket to the aforementioned Allsorts bead candy, Rettich infuses her work with whimsical humor and astonishingly lifelike and in some cases still-lifelike precision.

I spoke with Debbie Silverfine, the Voelker Orth Museum’s director, to find out more about its decision to feature Rettich. “We feature local artists whose work reflects Queens’ families and cultural heritage, and Linda fit that bill well” she says.

The collection titled “Beaded No Calorie Delicacies” is displayed delightfully in the museum’s dining room cabinet. Atop six beaded petit fours, four beaded mice hold wedges of Swiss cheese while kittens on their hind legs explore the bottom section of the cubes. There’s also a plate of chocolate sprinkled rainbow bead cookies, edibly beautiful even if not technically edible.

In “Thank you ancestry.com,” Rettich’s first diorama, three figures clad in beaded tartan kilts, along with an adorable beaded dog, take a selfie standing in front of an ancestral painting.

Beaded dioramas in glass boxes depict family scenes from Rettich’s childhood. One of the most touching pieces, reproduced from a photo and using five figurines, shows Rettich’s family. Her grandmother, wearing a gold beaded dress, holds Rettich’s mother on her lap sitting on a wicker chaise, her aunts as children also in the room. All the dolls are outfitted in dresses from the era with soft chestnut brown beaded hair, some done up in Princess Leia-esque double buns.

In “Coming Home,” a bandaged World War II soldier convalesces under a glass dome, his crutches at his side.

“Mom & I” features a glass dome enclosing a figurine of Linda’s mother. Pregnant with Rettich, she gazes at herself in a cheval mirror dresser, small sepia-tinted pictures of her father tucked into the frame behind the glass. Her pink chenille beaded robe are decorated with a teal peacock and turquoise backless beaded slippers completing her attire. A deep rose red circular floral beaded rug adds further visual texture and a swath of red lace trails from the cheval mirror’s open dresser, giving it the quality of a moment frozen in time.

“Some people working in beads like to make their work appear like a mosaic. I like mine to appear like a textile,” Rettich says. Her ability to seamlessly (pardon the pun) create the visual illusion of real fabric, textiles and desserts of all kinds is memorable for its perspective and cognition-bending qualities. The pieces are a labor of love for Rettich and aren’t for sale.

Offering layered perspective and perception experiences, Rettich’s technique builds the element of visual surprise into the DNA of the exhibit, and is something unexpected and something frankly spectacular.

‘Moments: Sculpture & Textiles by Linda Rettich’
 
When: Through Sun., Dec. 22
Where: Voelker Orth Museum, 149-19 38 Ave., Flushing
Entry: $2 suggested. (718) 359-6227,

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