W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie
I Szczebrzeszyn z tego słynie.
Wół go pyta: „Panie chrząszczu,
Po cóż pan tak brzęczy w gąszczu?”

In the town of Szczebrzeszyn a beetle sings in the reeds
And Szczebrzeszyn is famous for it.
An ox asks him: “Mister beetle,
What are you buzzing in the bushes for?”

—Jan Brzechwa

Jan Brzechwa’s famous Polish tongue twister speaks to the stubborn and often compulsive rhythm of making art when there are so many more practical and important things to do. Indeed, it is occasionally hard to remember why we do buzz, especially when we are in the weeds—and, in this day and age, it often seems that we all are.

With THE BEETLE SINGS IN THE REEDS, John Gnorski presents works on paper and sculptures heavily influenced by textiles, as well as by the hundreds of roadside shrines he saw over the course of a recent 5,000-mile trip around the United States. Glimpsed for just a few seconds, they are a rare outward acknowledgement of mourning and mortality in a culture that tends to avoid those topics altogether. They are often also very beautiful messages in the wild—small bursts of unfamiliar color in the roadside reeds and undergrowth, decorated with fake flowers, strings of plastic beads, and hand-painted messages. The objects attached to and depicted in Gnorski’s newest work are intended as notes or milagros, little remembrances placed on his own improvised shrines, which are meant to be as celebratory as they are elegiac.

And so to answer the Ox in Brzechwa’s poem, one could say that we buzz in the bushes because sometimes it’s the best we can do with what we are given. And because a world without buzzing would be too heartbreaking. 

John Gnorski (born 1983, Virginia) received a B.F.A. from Bard College in 2005. He has had solo exhibitions in Portland, OR, at Lowell and Stumptown Division. This is his first solo exhibition at Nationale. John Gnorski lives and works in Portland, OR.

On view November 30–December 30, 2017
Opening reception Sunday, December 3 (3–5 p.m.)