A Detailed System
Every exhibit exists at the convergence of multiple parts. Artists, concepts, viewers, work, all spilling into the framework of a physical space and viola! There is a moment in every exhibition installation when all of the parts, fit together just right for the very first time, and I take a step back and say, “I think we may have just pulled this off.” That moment is the greatest part of my job, the most fulfilling quiet second where it all makes sense.
Here is the part where I wanted to add a photo taken during the installation of Small Systems by Stephanie Holmes and Autumn Wright and say “this is what that looks like, right here!” but when I scroll through all of my installation photos of this exhibit, there isn’t a picture of that moment. I guess those kinds of moments in life there are more important things to be taking in instead of taking photos of.
So maybe I can’t show that moment to you, but I can show you the result of it, which is the beautiful exhibit Gallery360 opened to viewers on February 20th, on view through March 17th. It is, of course, a convergence. Two artists who happen to be friends, who have lived together, worked together, and influenced each other for years came together with two new bodies of work and were presented with an empty Gallery360 and the challenge of creating something amazing.
One of the most interesting comments I’ve received from viewers about the exhibit is that the two artists’ work goes so well together that they couldn’t tell the difference between the two at first. Standing back with a fresh set of eyes, I can see what they see: an array of complex spaces and shapes, altogether familiar but somehow unrecognizable. This is where the individual characteristics of their separate bodies of work diverge and, taking the words directly from Stephanie, can be seen as a difference of space and form.
A Happening, Stephanie Holmes At the Edge of the Field, Stephanie Holmes
Stephanie Holmes’ mixed media work has consistently felt like a world of it’s own exists within each piece. In her biography, she cites her childhood home in the forests of Southern PA as one of the biggest influences in this work. Having shared a very similar upbringing of running like a wild girl through the forest, this work feels like home to me. Each one of the pieces on paper is layered with a mixture of media including chalk, charcoal, ink, acrylic paint, and found objects that create a textured and rich surface that the viewer can get lost in. Though it may be an often-used comparison in art, Stephanie truly has created larger than life worlds for each person to explore, worlds devoid of overwhelming modern diversions, a place for solitary introspection. When I reread that last bit, it occurs to me that I’m describing something incredibly desirable, which is possibly the best way to describe Stephanie’s work. No longer a two-dimensional surface, but a place I want to be.
(photo courtesy of Stephanie’s blog here) Found Nest, Stephanie Holmes
The process of painting those spaces is as intuitive as I can manage… it makes painting feel like I’m discovering those spaces instead of fabricating them. I become an explorer.
In my mind I’m often thinking “If only I could convince everyone that this is how the real world should look, then everything would be better”, but the paradox of a utopia is that it is specific to the person dreaming the place.
The watercolor-fueled work of Autumn Wright is a curious thing. It’s a delicate system of interlocking parts, unsettlingly human and foreign at once. As a viewer, there are shapes and combinations I seem compelled to return to, with my nose a centimeter from the glass and my brain wanting to make sense of what it is, how it works, and where it came from. I want it to work, to suddenly come alive and start pumping blood.
Untitled detail, Autumn Wright Neural Plexus detail, Autumn Wright
In speaking with Autumn, I was intrigued by her personal connection with some of these shapes that she found while researching the biology of the human body as a result of illnesses in those close to her. That detail helped it all make so much sense to me. The need to know, to make sense of things, is one of the most human traits. It is only a matter of time before our search for information, for a reason, leads us to some of the smallest common denominators on a physical and even cellular level. It is the convergence of an inquisitive imagination, the pursuit of the human element at its most basic level, and just the right amount of strange to keep the viewer coming back for more.
Parts of the Whole installation detail, Autumn Wright
It is an exhibition of many parts that have to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately I can’t properly give you my “ah ha!” moment, but isn’t finding it for yourself the best part anyway?
Thanks everyone, for making it all worthwhile.
Green Bed, Holmes Reproduction detail, Wright