March 21, 2015

Discussing Instigate. Activate. With Sondheim Semifinalists

The 2015 Janet and Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize Semifinalists have been announced and AAC is thrilled that three of our currently exhibiting artists, Maggie Gourlay, L.E. Doughtie, and Samantha Rausch, have been included in this prestigious class of artists and are now in the running to compete for the $25,000 fellowship.  As semifinalists, the artists will exhibit at the Maryland Institute College of Art during Artscape this summer.

Doughtie, Gourlay, and Rausch, along with 13 additional rising artists, are taking part in our current exhibition, Instigate. Activate. |new curators, new ideas. (on view until April 4)This is the inaugural exhibition for our Emerging Curators Spotlight program, which offers an opportunity for artists to showcase new work, but focuses resources and extensive support on independent curators as they conceptualize and stage their exhibitions.  Megan Rook-Koepsel, who curated Homeward (BOUND) as part of Instigate. Activate. explains the process below:

Starting with the application process back in May [2014], to the various meetings we had, to the individualized support we got from the staff at AAC, Instigate. Activate. is much more than just an exhibition.  The program offered support for us in our meetings, where we were introduced to experienced curators and writers who offered us advice and critiques, as well as through the continued support and attention that the staff offered us.  The workshops and meetings helped me to see some of the issues I would be facing with my concept and the work I had intended to include.  The dialogue that happened at the meetings and workshops with the staff at AAC, the invited guests, and the other curators was always great, everyone had awesome advice and ideas and we also really got to know each other’s projects, which was really fun.

Rook-Koepsel’s Homeward (BOUND) explores the theme of home and Maggie Gourlay, whose intricately embroidered work is featured in the exhibition, says: “I loved [Rook-Koepsel’s] proposal and how it dealt with a more nuanced idea of home, in terms of memory, time, and place, and used a multi-sensory approach—using sound and texture as well as visual elements.”

Among the collection of installations in Homeward (BOUND), Gourlay’s delicate, threaded architectural plans present an alternative, yet evocative, representation of home.

Maggie Gourlay, Architectural Plan Plan IV A (construct), screenprinted thread on architectural vellum. Variable edition of 3. 24 x 26 in., 2014. courtesy of Adah Rose Gallery.
Maggie Gourlay, Architectural Plan Plan IV A (construct), screenprinted thread on architectural vellum. Variable edition of 3. 24 x 26 in., 2014. courtesy of Adah Rose Gallery.

Gourlay asserts that she hopes “viewers will be drawn to the materiality of the works…that they note the use of thread to draw house plans and the texture of the paint as it is chipped away on my work, and how that materiality gives them a different entry into the pieces.”

Installation in the Tiffany Gallery of Mariah Anne Johnson's "And Time for all the Work and Days of Hands 5" (left) with Joseph Hoffman's piece "Grisha" (center), and Maggie Gourlay's works on vellum (right). Photo by Greg Staley.
Homeward(BOUND) installation in AAC’s Tiffany Gallery of Mariah Anne Johnson’s “And Time for all the Work and Days of Hands 5” (left) with Joseph Hoffman’s piece “Grisha” (center), and Maggie Gourlay’s works on vellum (right). Photo by Greg Staley.

She also adds that she wants “viewers [to] see the connections created between the artworks as they have been arranged in the gallery; in particular, how one work addresses the other and is made richer by the association.”

You can see how Gourlay’s work connects with her exhibition-mates Joseph Hoffman, Mariah Anne Johnson, Ron Longsdorf in the Tiffany Gallery.


Rook-Koepsel, on the other hand, hopes to inspire viewers to “think more deeply about space and place and its impact on the emotional journey that we take as people.  Our familiar spaces can buoy us, but they can also take a real toll on us as well, and I think we don’t often realize that this silent actor can play such an important role in our lives.”

Guests contemplate the landscape created by Doughtie, Howng, and Rausch,
Guests of the opening reception contemplate the landscape created in AAC’s Truland and Experimental Galleries by Doughtie, Howng, and Rausch

Semifinalists L.E. Doughtie and Samantha Rausch were invited to showcase their works in curator Caitlin Tucker-Melvin’s exhibition, No Place, No You or Me, along with artist Phaan Howng, which also explores representations of space.

On the development of the exhibition, Doughtie says, “Caitlin gave me a lot of space and freedom to create a new installation. I wanted to use that challenge to push some ideas that I have been working with in the studio and with a previous installation I had done for another show.”

Rausch explains that she and her fellow artists want to give viewers “a panorama into our own little worlds,” emphasizing Tucker-Melvin’s role: “[Caitlin] cared enough to have the many conversations involved in trying to better understand where our work was coming from, and she was instrumental in being our translator, helping our voices as artists come through in harmony in her write up.”

In the exhibition, Rausch, who created the public art piece on our lawn, hopes her work “brings a colorful enclave, full of a playful joy that will bring people in to look as they explore it.”  On the viewing experience, she further asserts: “I am interested in the act of sharing an experience, of creating spaces of memory moments, creating worlds or environments that have the potential for contemplation play for others.”

Samantha Rausch, The Wormhole (Rainbow Worm), installation at AAC. 2015. Photo by Greg Staley
Samantha Rausch, The Wormhole (Rainbow Worm), public art installation at AAC. 2015. Photo by Greg Staley

With the naming of the finalist for the Sondheim prize still months away, Rausch acknowledges that simply being chosen as semifinalist is an accomplishment: “Even the honor of being associated with [and] accepted amongst the gathering of such strong artists in the community has been a reward… To have the positive stimulus of this feedback and recognition is exactly what an emerging artist thrives on.”

Advice from the experts

When asked what other advice she has for emerging artists, Rausch said, “Rejection and failure are part of any artist regardless of the time in their career, what counts is perseverance and vision…This path is not the same for any person, but it is enlightening to ask every artist and creative thinker how they have juggled making things work.”

In line with this, Gourlay says that consistently working and applying for exhibitions is also crucial as “Artists need time to play with materials and test out ideas, and when those ideas work, the work must leave the studio.  Other eyes are important for feedback, and you get that in spades when you exhibit.”  As a result of exhibiting at AAC, Gourlay has already been reviewed by the Washington Post, and has received invitations for future exhibitions.

L.E. Doughtie, Gap Cave (Nowhere), installation at AAC. 2015. Photo by  Greg Staley
L.E. Doughtie, Gap Cave (Nowhere), installation at AAC. 2015. Photo by Greg Staley

Also keen to showcase more of his work, Doughtie offers one last piece of advice to other artists: “Take on challenges, because why not?”  Ultimately, AAC is thrilled that Instigate. Activate. has been a such a success, and that these brilliant rising artists are receiving much-deserved recognition.

Come to our next gallery talk on March 28 at 1 – 4 pm when Doughtie, Rausch, and curator Tucker-Melvin will be on hand to walk visitors through No Place, No You or Me and discuss their work. You’ll also hear from curator Ellen Chenoweth and the artists of Wrapped and Wrought in Instigate. Activate.

We also want to take a moment to give a shout-out to AAC Resident Artist Pam Rogers, also named as a 2015 Sondheim Semifinalist! Stay tuned for details on Pam in the next few weeks…

written by Narwan Aimen, journalist and AAC volunteer

In Conversation: Nekisha Durrett + Zaq Landsberg

Saturday / April 27 / 1pm-3pm

Innovation Studio + Store

Join artists Zaq Landsberg and Nekisha Durrett for a conversation about the rewards and challenges of public art and the complex nature of monuments and memorials.

Performances by Isa Leal & Liz Ensz + Skye Fort in conversation with NO GRIDS NO MASTERS

Saturday / April 20 / 6pm-8pm

MoCA Arlington

An evening of performances by Isa Leal and Liz Ensz + Skye Fort in conversation with Ensz’s exhibition NO GRIDS NO MASTERS currently on view at MoCA Arlington.

2024 Art Classes for Kids, Teens, and Adults!

Register now! Classes begin April 7!

Less than 2 weeks left to register! Sign up today to secure your spot in one of MoCA Arlington’s award-winning programs! From drawing and painting to ceramics and mixed media, you are sure to find an inspiring art class. Enrich your creative journey with our talented instructors and explore the world of art in a fun and supportive environment.