Galleries : Invitation For A Dialogue
When we see a piece of art hanging on a wall in a room, or resting on a pedestal, we seldom think of the steps required to create it. What did it take for these fibers to come together and this clay to harden? More often then not we see art as it exists in the moment, and miss out on its journey to that point, or to the life after that moment passes. Neither exists in the viewer's consciousness.
"Art in Action" offers the opportunity to experience the work of five Island artists in an interactive setting that illuminates the process and shows us what it takes. All the women are demonstrated experts in their fields, and each is willing to share how she conceptualizes, how she solves problems, and how she presents her work to an audience.
For over a decade Sandy Bernat, Eva Gallant, Jennifer McCurdy, Julia Mitchell and Heather Sussman have been meeting together to support each other's artwork. Each woman works in a different medium: paper, ceramics, mixed media, and tapestry. As a result their meetings are less about critiquing and more about problem solving and supporting their respective creations.
In 1999 the group came together for a collaborative art project in which they all contributed to building one structure that was displayed at the Featherstone Center for the Arts. Almost 10 years later, the group decided it was time to bring something to the community again, and again Featherstone will house the exhibition portion of the project.
The initial idea was to have a show together. But as their meetings progressed, a consensus rose that they wanted to do something more. They presented a proposal to the Martha's Vineyard Cultural Council for a grant to support an interactive exhibition. The idea became, as their proposal states, "to raise public awareness of how the creative process works."
"Art in Action" goes beyond the exhibition at Featherstone Center. The artists are giving demonstrations, showing slides, holding workshops, and offering studio visits in order to create a fuller understanding of where their work comes from; the philosophies and atmospheric influences. The goal is not to provide answers, but to raise questions about the process.
Photo by Lynn Christoffers
Ms. Mitchell, whose painterly tapestries are nationally recognized, comments, "How do we get out of bed and into the studio? What motivates us? These are unanswerable questions, but we want to open a dialogue."
At the exhibition Ms. Mitchell will be hanging smaller works she refers to as, "a cloud study." They will be hung just as they hang in her West Tisbury studio, with pins, almost like a storyboard outlining a greater work ahead.
Art doesn't just happen in one day. Ms. Bernat, whose papermaking studio Seas-tone Papers is on Christiantown Road in West Tisbury, says, "We want people to be involved in understanding what it takes. Some of us have been keeping journals and diaries logging our process, which some will share."
The studio visits in particular invite people to take a step outside the gallery and into each artist's unique world of creation. There is a vast difference between Ms. Bernat's papermaking studio and Ms. Mitchell's tapestry studio. The smells, the colors, the textures and the organization of each studio are integral to the creation of each art form. Ms. Bernat's studio is draped in pulp and fiber and long pans of wet pulp. Her pieces hold the memory of their components. Likewise, witnessing the grandeur of Ms. Mitchell's loom brings a new perspective to the majesty of her tapestries.
The project also includes a video. Videographer Richard Skidmore spent an hour in each woman's studio and masterfully edited all the footage into a cohesive documentary that visually articulates the artist's process. The video, a work of art in itself, will play at the exhibition.
Art in Action is an invitation to an art conversation. Regarding audiences, Ms. Mitchell says, "I want them to know me and to understand the work without being intimidated. I think art should be accessible."
This project is an all-access ticket into the life of a work of art before it reaches the gallery. It reminds us that art is infinite; a constant evolution that starts long before it is hung on a wall and lasts long after it is taken off the wall.
"Art in Action" opens Sunday, July 13th. The workshops and exhibitions continue through August 8th.
Adriana Stimola divides her time between West Tisbury and New York, where she is an actress and performing singer-songwriter.