Twenty Six National Artists Make Their Mark at Hera Gallery....
The Mark, juried by Anne Rocheleau
27 April - 25 May, 2002
Opening Reception: Saturday, 27 April, 5-7 PM
For more images in the exhibition, click here.
Hera Gallery, Hera Educational Foundation presents The Mark, a multimedia exhibition drawing from a national pool of twenty six artists selected by Juror Anne Rocheleau, an artist and Director of the Rhode Island Foundation Gallery, Providence, RI. This exhibition is sponsored by the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts.
This exhibition explores the use of mark-making in art. Mark-making is an elemental component of almost any art form, possessing what Juror Anne Rocheleau describes as "an eerie presence, even by its very absence." Artworks in the show use gesture, mixed media processes, handwriting, handprints, and other visible marks as the primary means of constructing forms and suggesting ideas. This exhibition shows how patterns, systems and processes of mark-making, and the time it takes to make a series of marks are integral to the value and meaning of contemporary art.
While each artist expresses a highly individual perception and use of mark-making, several thematic connections emerge from this diverse pool of artists, who work with one or more interrelated ideas. Gallery Director Katherine Veneman says, "Looking at the exhibition as a whole, it is evident that mark-making has so many facets that it is ambitious and perhaps even impossible to call it one topic. Instead, it is better seen as an umbrella for several related artistic explorations."
"Without pigeon-holing artists into categories, each of them work with one, or often several, overlapping ideas: the development of language, use of historical processes, impacts of technology, transformation of the built environment, the relation of art to natural processes or as a record of the passage of time, and the human body as a vehicle for or extension of mark-making," Veneman explains.
This exhibit is the fifth major topical show Hera Gallery has assembled in the last year. The gallery has been aggressively assembling shows of noted artists from across the nation as well as from Rhode Island to provide the state's citizens with an opportunity to view the latest trends and works of both promising and established artists and acquire their works.
Participating artists are: Babette Allina, Rachel Bers, Shant Beudjekian, Diana Budde, Jennifer Buley, Cindy Cohen, Marcia Cooper, Georgeanne Gonzalez, Sarah Edmonds, Todd Fairchild, Louise Farrel, Frank Gasbarro, Christy Georg, William Holton, Janet Hansen Kawada, Richard J. Keen III, Carole Kunstadt, Dennis Lo, Chrigi Lyons, Doug Navarra, Duane Paxson, Dorothy Powers, Michael Rich, Nicholas Ruth, Michael Smithhammer, Max White. Eighty two artists from twenty states submitted 240 artworks for consideration in this exhibition, which features paintings, drawings, multi-media works, collages, and sculptures by artists from ten states and Mexico.
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Thematic Currents: Language, History, Technology, Built Environment, Natural Processes, and the Human Body
Several artists in the exhibition explore what a connection between mark-making and processes of spoken and written language. Marks such as pictographs can form a series of encoded signs and symbols, to be connected to, exchanged with, and built into visual structures or images through a process which functions similarly to constructions of grammar in language. Artists Georgeanne Gonzalez, Rachel Bers, Jen Buley, Carole Kunstadt, and Nicholas Ruth loosely work with ideas relating marks to language.
Over a ten year period, Georgeanne Gonzalez, a painter and teacher born in Venezuela and residing in Mexico City, worked on her artist book, Man and the Other Side of Man (image at left), as a way to "articulate the play between thoughts, words, symbols, visual constructs, and physical matter, and show how the boundaries between these elements can be broken down." Initially inspired by both Octavio Paz's poems and Chinese calligraphy, Gonzalez's book evolved into a creation of a personal visual language, related her experiences of nature, history, and "elements of human expression that connect man across time and culture." Using seals, threads, earthen materials, water, and text as visual elements upon torn paper, Gonzalez's process of mark-making explores symbolic representations of man's journey through earth, and of the earth itself.
Providence painter and printmaker Rachel Bers also investigates language in her work. Her scrolls, canvases, and works on paper are filled with delicately rendered, often partially obscured fields of text, which form a landscape of subtly layered structures. According to Bers, her works depict "the shifting border between word and image."
Bers exhibits one of her long, screen-printed vellum scrolls in the Hera exhibition. Describing her processes, Bers says she encompasses viewers "with the gestures not only of the hand writing, but of the mind thinking, deciphering, encoding and decoding-talking to itself. The script is private, but the act of writing is a public gesture that stakes out territory, inhabits it, guards it, and lets others in."
Bers receives her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design this spring; she holds a BA in Semiotics and French from Brown University.
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One artist in the exhibition who views mark-making in conjunction with historical processes is Brooklyn Artist Douglas Navarra, who exhibits three gouache and pencil works from his Deed Americana series. In this series, Navarra starts by collecting manuscripts from the 15th and 18th Centuries, and selects papers that contain elements such as "inscriptions, stamps, seals, stains, tears, or a gestural style of writing that ma describe a personal feeling or timely event. To this inherited history of circumstance I add my own formal response." Navarra relates his working process to that of earlier artists, who spent their lives creating illuminated manuscripts, and sees his works as creating a connection to the past while reflecting his own 21st Century perspective.
Navarra holds an MFA from University of Minnesota, and a BFA from the Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has garnered several awards, including a Pollack-Krasner Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and a Fullbright-Hays Fellowship in Venice, Italy.
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Impacts of Technology
Numerous artists in the show view mark-making in conjunction with technology or science. Diana Budde, Christy Georg, and Dorothy Powers all work to some degree on this topic.
Wisconsin artist Diana Budde works in photography, mixed media and painting, and exhibits a large oil and enamel canvas, Spring Memory. In her artworks, Budde strives to challenge our perception that technology creates a truthful, accurate representation of reality, whereas subjective experience is widely perceived as inferior or "tainted." Budde's goal as a painter is to present works that mimic the process of a photocopier.
To that end, she uses grids to "regulate, dissolve, crop, or reveal the images. Also, through layering images, my photographically derived marks are continually distorted and grafted to other information. In the end, these paintings record things that are thought to be elusive, beyond the interest of technology."
Budde is an Assistant Professor of Art at University of Wisconsin Marathon County, Wausau, Wisconsin; she holds a MFA in Painting from University of Cinncinnati and a BS from Ball State University in Indiana.
An artist who works with machinery, Boston artist Christy Georg is one of a minority of sculptors included in the exhibition. Wait/Hate (for Nauman) at left is composed of steel, wood, paper, and machine parts, and is reminiscent of early printing presses found, say, in the early 19th Century section of the Smithsonian. George explains that when turned on and activated by a hand-operated crank, the machine "pounds out a repetitive gesture of waiting, drumming of fingersâ¦.aside from the blurry text (HATE) drummed out by the fingers, a literal mark of drawing with space and time is made by the paper, which builds up on the floor, documenting the action."
George is a candidate for an MFA from Massachusetts College of Art, and received a BFA from the Kansas City Art Insitute.
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Human Impact and the Built Environment
Some participating artists view mark-making in conjunction with the built environment, or man's impact upon our surroundings. In very different ways, Cindy Cohen, Todd Fairchild, and Louise Farrell touch upon this vein.
Taking a different approach from the many process-oriented artists in the exhibition, Pennsylvania photographer Cindy Cohen documents graffiti artists at work in her color photo, Sidewalk Marksmen. Cohen's works explore "the local color and landscape of Bucks County and the surrounding area." Cohen describes herself as largely self-taught, and holds a BFA from Syracuse University.
Also forgoing the studio to explore and critique the built environment is Boston photographer Todd Fairchild. Instead of looking to his process of art-making to provide marks, Fairchild depicts elements of his surroundings. In his examination of public spaces, Fairchild's photos often reveal human residue such as trash, footprints, and graffiti. He describes this evidence of human presence as "claims to space which we can't own," and is interested in revealing ways in which we mark and define terrain in shared, public arenas.
Finally, Brookline, Massachusetts artist Louise Farrell submits her powerful pencil drawing, This is What
5444, 4041, 3880, 3094 Looks Like, which uses marks to depict the impact of destructive forces, in this case, the results of the terrorist attacks of September 11, upon our built and human environment. Farrell describes her artwork:
"This pieceâ¦is updated periodically as the final number of dead is updated by The New York Times. My mind was unable to grasp how many people had died. I needed to make a mark for each one so I could understand it. Each mark is a person, a symbol, a totem. As the numbers go down, I erase from the bottom, leaving a ghost."
Farrell's documentary piece can be seen as a commemoration or memorial-at the very least, it is an individual expression that serves to help us comprehend the scale of a loss that is shared on a colossal, and public scale. In her studio, Farrell has used the most basic, elemental communicative device possible in order to convey the impact of an historical event that is both immediate and far-reaching.
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One of the strongest currents emerging this exhibition is that of artists who use mark-making as connected with layering, and natural processes. Exploring the broad and fertile connection between art-making and nature and its processes are: Babette Allina, Sarah Edmonds, William Holton, Janet Hansen Kawada, Dennis Lo, Chrigi Lyons, Michael Smithhammer and Janet Hansen Kawada.
Bloomington, Indiana artist Sarah Edmonds' mixed media work, Shallow (at left) , combines several techniques of mark-making including intaglio printmaking, graphite, sewing, and the use of fabric in it's 7"x7" surface. Shallow is part of a series inspired by flowers and seeds collected from a glacial area of the Yukon Territory and Northern British Columbia. Edmonds views these plants, with their parts serving distinct and vital functions, as metaphors for the creative process. Interested in uncovering the hidden potential similar to what she has observed in these natural forms, Edmonds artwork is built with tangible layers which "allude metaphorically to parts of a complete and seamless cycle of growth, thought and being." She details her process as follows:
"The embroidery, both by hand and by machine, uses stitching and line to represent time and action. The translucent and transparent layers of material, mylar and paper overlap, conceal and reveal in order to get at the meaning of thought, memory and the inner dialogue present in humans and nature. These physical layers of marks and materials attempt to mirror the multiple layers in everything, every person, every act."
Edmonds is currently a candidate for her MFA in printmaking at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. She holds an BFA from Kutztown University, Kutztown, Pennsylvania.
Also working with a process of layering is Boston sculptor Janet Hansen Kawada, who like Edmonds, incorporates fabric and other materials such as wire, and cane into her multimedia work, Empty Shell. Hansen Kawada's piece is a study in contrast between the soft folds of felt, and the bristling wires protruding and intruding upon its surface. Mark-making is integral to the artist's process on many levels, just as her work is itself layered materials. Kawada details some of these components:
"Consistent in the work is the marking of time: frozen time, moments of time, perception of time. Reaching back through time layered, textural, surfaces evoke a memory: a smell, a touch, a sense of longing. Mark-making on the surface reaches through the layers built up in the work. While the layers are not always evident, the layering is an important process in the work and parallels the complex make up of human nature. We mark ourselves with tattoos and jewelry; we mark ourselves with scents and perfumes. We try to leave our mark on the world."
Hansen Kawada teaches at the Massachusetts College of Art, where she received her BFA. She holds an MFA from Vermont College, Montpelier, Vermont.
Philadelphia painter William Holton's work, Garden, combines his interest in natural growth and his investigation of the formal concerns of minimal process art with a romantic use of color and texture. His textured, multi-layered surface is built through a cumulative process of adding (and occasionally removing) layer upon layer, first of acrylics, then of oil paint in order to get a precise effect with his surface of enticingly tactile dots. Holton describes his art-making process in natural, almost scientific terms:
"I use cells and nets as both subject and substrate, the flesh and bones of the painting. Universal forms repeat themselves in all spectrums of nature, from macrocosm to microcosm, from astral bodies to living tissue. As technology progresses and our collective perception as humans broadens, these forms are increasingly revealed to us. It is my interest in universal forms that drives the imagery in my paintings."
Holton is currently a MFA candidate in Painting at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA and holds a BFA from Atlanta College of Art. He has exhibited extensively and has been awarded honors such as a Southern Arts Federation/NEA Regional Visual Arts Fellowship.
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Gesture or the Human Body
Many of the artists above, who explore the natural realm through mark-making, also have an interest in its connection to the human body. Broadly stated, many of the artists in the exhibition delve into gesture painting in its Post-Modern incarnation, or use the body as a tool to make art, or generally convey a sense of our relation as physical beings to mark-making. These artists include: Marcia Cooper, Shant Beudjekian, Richard J. Keen III. Chrigi Lyons, Duane Paxson, Dorothy Powers, Max White, Frank Gasbarro.
Most directly concerned with the human body as a vehicle to make marks is New York artist Marcia Cooper, who displays Rubber Heart #4, #5, #6. Cooper's serial of three small, sloppily square "body prints," are actually impressions of the artist's hand and arm, which have been coated in silver ink and stamped on rubber. Cooper describes her work as a questioning of the boundaries between the external world and one's inner being. She says:
"I view the resulting images as internal reflections of our body; which in this case is that of 'organs'. These internal 'organ' images are imposed upon materials and colors commonly associated with the daily world around us."
Cooper holds a BFA from Queens College, CUNY, in New York, and has studied at the Art Students League.
Alabama artist Duane Paxson's untitled pencil drawings reveal fantastical, complex, and animalistic forms that are at first glance similar to Celtic art or other highly ornamental representations of natural or human forces. The detailed drawing in this exhibition seems organic, alive, and animated, despite the complex, geometric rendering of its form, outlined sharply against a white background and centered on the page.
The artist explains that the key to this almost magically, certainly paradoxical sense of movement is his depiction of "concave chambers. The form in this drawing struggles with movement, in its isolated space, as it becomes a dissected landscape bending to natural forces as it seeks the path of least resistance."
Paxson currently teaches at his alma mater, Troy State University, Troy, Alabama. He holds an MFA from the University of Alabama.
Exploring the use of gesture is Connecticut artist Dorothy Powers, whose explosive diptych Double Twist depicts balls of hastily composed, unraveling and rewinding balls of twine, which have been super-sized through the use of a Xerox machine. Like many artists in the exhibition, Powers is interested in using technology to change her perceptions of visualization, and makes huge copies of her small, hand-made drawings in order to render her own marks as "completely unrecognizable." To an artist who has long explored the potential of gesture and hand-made marks, this sense of removal of herself from the scale of her work offers new pathways for exploration.
Powers has exhibited extensively in New England and her work is in numerous private and corporate collections. Her exhibitions have been reviewed in Art New England, Art News, The New York Times among other illustrious publications.
This exhibition proves that mark-making covers vast tracts of pictorial and thematic terrain, and is cornerstone of nearly every artistic process-all evident in one exhibition in Wakefield, Rhode Island.
The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts sponsors this exhibition. Hera Gallery is handicapped accessible, and all exhibitions are free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday, 1-5 PM, and Saturday, 10AM to 4PM. For more information, contact the gallery or visit www.heragallery.org.
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