I'm grateful to have done work in philosophy, as well as literature. One thing I don't have the capacity to do, which I wish I did, is to discuss Abs and Mary discursively in a high maintenance aesthetics context. I probably have 50-60% of what I need to do the job thoroughly and with authority- but the big chunk of nuanced knowledge which only serious art critics and historians have, and which I do not, assures me that my attempts (and there have been some already) could veer dangerously close to wankery and disrespectful presumption. The little, compressed dialectical pieces I've placed into circulation about Abs were set in place just to get the proverbial ball rolling, and the ball is rolling, sideways/forewards; but, for now, one set of brief aesthetic surmises in Abs' direction is enough.
There are a few foreshortened arrows I wouldn't mind shooting into the air, in this more casual context. I created the Purification Chain as a "compressed matrix" expressing my value judgments about what constitutes both importance and durability in serious art; and the way I configure things, what I call "formal rigor" is ranked above, and adjacent to "invention," in dichotomous balance. Art that is formally rigorous tends to be grounded in history, and art-historical narratives of form and theme; aesthetic forms gain, rather than lose, rigor from intense, ecstatic/agonizing relationships with the forms of the art which precede it; competing histories, and historical narratives, build rigor into artistic forms; and worthy artistic forms embody, comfortably or uncomfortably, both dialectics and "anxieties of influence." Invention is ranked as a Secondary Mode on the Purification Chain, and by a spirit of pure inventiveness serious artists purify their engagements with the rigors of formal and thematic history, as well as add magnetism/interest to their creations.
What I do want to say about Abby Heller-Burnham is what I see- which has to do with formal elements haunted and "spooked" in her work by an intense immersion in Neo-Classicism, which, metaphorically, paints her into a corner from which she can only create her way out by sheer force of will and determination to develop a new aesthetic, and a fully/freshly contemporary one, out of the (French) Neo-Classicist impulse. Thus, feminism and queerness become modes of thematic rebellion for her, towards her invented aesthetic, and against the phallocentric voices which insist on booming through her forms, granting them rigor. Yet, just as formal rigor is "Primary" on the Purification Chain, this combat turning commerce Abs is engaged in may be the most enduring element of her art, with its singular ambiance of the spectral and of desolation, perhaps a byproduct of the loneliness of her fight, also a hinge to possible definitions of Neo-Romanticism.