Vanessa Thill


Brooklyn, NY

Deli Gallery is pleased to present Balsam, Vanessa Thill’s first exhibition with the gallery and our first exhibition since closing due to the current pandemic. The gallery will remain closed to the public and open by appointment only until NYC on Pause restrictions have been lifted.

Balsam is a thorny shrub, and the name of a resinous tree sap that creates a sweet aroma when burned. The “dew of the rivers of pure balsam” is a metaphor used in the Zohar, one of the primary texts of Kabbalah that refers to divine emanations of the world that is constantly creating itself.

Thill’s practice is one of material and spatial transformative encounters. The sculptures are created by submerging paper in a bath of pigments and other found materials sourced from her growing library of ingredients. After the pooled liquids evaporate and crystallize onto the paper, Thill coats the long paper strips in resin, creating a kind of earthly dermis. These flesh-like membranes are framed by blackened tree branches which act as a partition—or a portal—to a more expansive and unknowable universe.

The artist imagines relationships to materials that swirl between object and subject, abject and sacred, symbolic and somatic. Her work highlights value-laden dynamics of contamination, purity, safety, and desire for transcendence. The process of creating this work involved researching texts such as the Zohar and other mystical writings. The artist is drawn to them for their feminist, pantheistic approach to conceptualizing the universe, and forms of divinity that are not grounded in domination.

She says, “now, and always, we need resistance against becoming habituated to death, we need language and forms that bring our own experiences closer to us. That’s what this work has been for me. Another world can start to unfold, right here, right now. Our reality is constantly creating itself, although it sometimes doesn’t seem that way. There is panic and pain, dizziness and longing, struggle and contemplation, tenderness and awe. We live and will always live in the midst of other life. No matter how alone we may feel, we are intra-connected, ever-becoming. Creatures are darting to and fro with the appearance of sparks.”