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Ginny Zanger, a Jamaica Plain Original, Responds to the Gulf Oil Spill with Otherworldly Art

“Body and soul,” says the scuba diving artist, “I am drawn to the magical qualities of water.”

Growing up in New York, Ginny Vogel Zanger’s art education began early when at the age of five she attended art classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  During high school, she lived in Argentina as an exchange student, and became a fluent Spanish speaker.  She also studied at the Art Student’s League, and subsequently went to Harvard where “she was thrown out two days before graduation” for her participation in political activities and student strikes.  The time, as she explained, was “the Cambodian spring.” 

A Jamaica Plain resident since 1971, her socially engaged career has taken many turns. After receiving her diploma via mail, Zanger worked at Boston City Hospital where “she received the rest of her education.” Later, Zanger was a bilingual teacher at the John Winthrop School just prior to the period of desegregation in the Boston Public Schools.

Following her involvement in the Viet Nam antiwar movement, Zanger was active in JP COCA (Committee on Central America.)  “I used to stand in front of the old Woolworth’s” that was once on Centre Street “with a petition.”  Her efforts were rewarded, she said, when U.S. policy was changed. The committee was instrumental in transforming “Joe Moakley from a meat and potato guy from South Boston to a national leader on Central American issues.”

Among her other many other accomplishments, Zanger received a doctorate from Boston University in Cross Cultural Issues, and was president of the Mass Association of Bilingual Educators.  Until one year ago, Zanger worked at the Boston Children’s as Vice President where she led a collaborative community effort called the Boston Waterfront Learning Project to “introduce school children to our waterfront.”

At last, she said, she is fulfilling “her dream to work as a full time artist.”  During the ebb and flow of her eventful life, there has been one constant.

“Body and soul,” says her artist statement, “I am drawn to the magical qualities of water.”

For years, Zanger found aqueous inspiration on long walks on Cape Cod and around Jamaica Pond, and on scuba diving expeditions in the Caribbean.  Zanger created an acclaimed body of work that she has shown from Provincetown and Framingham’s Danforth Museum to local venues such as Open Studios, the , , and recent “” show. 

All of that changed around one year ago when the Deep Water Horizon rig exploded and disturbed what she calls her “private refuge of peace and serenity.

“I was afraid that the coral reefs were going to be poisoned,” she said. 

Entitled “,” Zanger’s current exhibit at JP’sis her heartfelt response to the Gulf oil spill.  Curated by Vivienne Frachtenberg and Arlene Snyder the new body of work required Zanger to think in a new way.  “I’m a political person,’ she stated, “But I’ve never made political art.”

The thirty works that comprise “” were created at a space that Zanger calls “the cellar dwellers,” a shared space used by a group of Jamaica Plain women printmakers.  While some of the prints explore the beauty of the deep, the artist was compelled to explore new perspectives and media to express “the graveyard on the ocean floor.” Previously a watercolorist, Zanger now works in a printmaking process called “monotypes.”  “Monotypes are sometimes known as the painterly print for their ability to capture the luminous quality of light,” she explained.  She also discovered “Yupo,” a nonabsorbent plastic paper that resists paint.

Zanger continues to challenge herself, and explore the deep in new ways.  She has experimented with using motor oil in her work, and is presently working on new prints concerned with “Corexit,” the oxymoronically named dispersant used in the Gulf.

Despite its potential destruction, Zanger’s bond to the sea remains unbroken.  Uncertain whether her fascination with the ocean is “prenatal or primordial,” the articulate artist described the sensation of weightlessness that she has achieved while scuba diving.  “It’s deeply meditative,” she stated. “Almost like yoga.  When you achieve perfect buoyancy you can control your body’s movement with your breath.” 

” is part of the “Music and Art” series of programs at the .  The exhibition runs through June 2 and may be seen by appointment.  For more information, please e-mail v_frac@yahoo.com or vzanger@aol.com.

[Editor's note: The original posting of this story omitted the name of one of the curators.]

Wagner Ríos May 23, 2011 at 09:14 PM
It doesn't get any better Ginny! And there couldn't have been anyone more qualified than James to cover your art. Best to you and your family.
Karen May 24, 2011 at 12:01 PM
Nice story Ginny! Hope to see the show.

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