March 31, 2015

Sending off Instigate. Activate.

AAC director Stefanie Fedor and director of exhibitions Karyn Miller chat with artists Maggie Gourlay and Jacob Rivkin
AAC director Stefanie Fedor and director of exhibitions Karyn Miller chat with artists Maggie Gourlay and Jacob Rivkin

With a close date of April 4th looming, we recently held our second gallery talk associated with Instigate. Activate. in hopes of sending off this inaugural show with a fond farewell.  Boisterous receptions can be a great way to take in exhibitions, but the crowds and conversation often distract from the work itself.

Gallery talks, on the other hand, are so rewarding because of the intimacy they create. Organic conversations between artists and visitors are fostered, and guests are invited to interrupt at any time with a question.

As a result, viewers are immersed in a contemplative environment in which to analyze works, and offer their thoughts and questions to the very artists who created the art.

On hand to lead visitors through the gallery spaces, curators Ellen Chenoweth and Caitlin Tucker-Melvin offered an in-depth look into their deliberations in selecting artists and arranging their respective exhibitions, Wrapped and Wrought and No Place, No You or Me.

Many of the artists involved in Instigate. Activate., including Nicole Salimbene, Jacob Rivkin, L.E. Doughtie, and Phaan Howng, were also in attendance and provided insightful, inspiring discussion of their showcased works.

Olivier Giron, 'Something Out of Nothing, Site #42405' terrarium and archival print
Olivier Giron, ‘Something Out of Nothing, Site #42405’ terrarium and archival print

The opportunity to hear the backstories from the artists themselves is another perk of our gallery talks.  Giving inanimate objects life and context, these stories are always fascinating and just as often inspiring.  Olivier Giron, who has five photographs and five terrariums displayed as part of Chenoweth’s Wrapped & Wrapped exhibition, shared with visitors the circumstances which led to his photographic series, Something Out of Nothing. 

Recalling a trip to Peru, during which he encountered a dumpsite of red garbage bags nestled deep in a forest near Machu Pichu, Giron shared with the audience how the experience prompted him to “delve into [humans’] interactions with the landscape.”

The jarring juxtaposition of heaps of trash among Machu Pichu’s natural beauty moved Giron to explore “a larger conversation about [manmade] waste.”  Though presenting viewers with a grim reality of their surroundings in Something Out of Nothing, which captures dumpsites and destruction in local areas, Giron’s work still manages to highlight beauty blooming in unlikely places.

Artist Phaan Howng discusses the mysterious post-apocalyptic environment she created in AAC's Experimental and Truland galleries along with artists Samantha Rausch and L.E. Doughtie
Artist Phaan Howng discusses the rad landscape she created in AAC’s Experimental and Truland galleries along with artists Samantha Rausch and L.E. Doughtie

Like Giron, artist Phaan Howng similarly confronts viewers with her apocalyptic-esque landscapes in Tucker-Melvin’s exhibition, No Place, No You or Me.

An explosion of color and frenetic energy, Howng’s work is a stark contrast to Giron’s, but is no less effective in conveying the “downward spiral of self-destruction” that is currently taking place in the world.

Catastrophe Will Befall Us, with its neon tones and large size, is a highlight of the collection, and provides the perfect visual counterpart to L.E. Doughtie’s black and white installation, Gap Cave (Nowhere). 

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

Goaded by conversations with Howng over what might happen when the world ends, Doughtie was also influenced by nature—in this case, by caves and a visit to Cumberland Gap—and sought to convey a sense of ambiguity and the unknown in his interactive structure.

While some artists hope to incite change with their work, others simply aim to take visitors on an emotional journey.  Nicole Salimbene’s standout piece, Knowing Your Water, does just that.  Knowing Your Water resulted from a serendipitous encounter in which the artist rescued a sixteen foot canoe from her neighbor’s trash.

Artist Nicole Salimbene discusses her piece 'Knowing Your Water'
Artist Nicole Salimbene discusses her piece ‘Knowing Your Water’

Unsure of what direction to take next, Salimbene, who has a background in poetry and was inspired by Alice Walker’s writings on a Hopi Nation poem, began thinking of the canoe not just in terms of a physical vessel, but an emotional one as well.

Hoping to craft an assemblage of memories, Salimbene painstakingly hand stitched photo negatives to cover the entire sixteen feet of the canoe, and collected water samples from local rivers to explore the “poetic relationship between relational water and the actual waters that nourish us. What results is a moving exploration of human spirit and memory.

Marking the end of our gallery talk, lingering conversations over a spread of wine and cheese hopefully provided visitors, artists, and curators food for thought long into the night.  All in all, Instigate. Activate. was a smashing success, and anyone hoping to catch one last glimpse of the exhibition can do so until April 4th.

We can’t wait to see you next time.

Mariah Anne Johnson 'Of A Port In Air"
Mariah Anne Johnson, ‘Of A Port In Air’ installation in AAC’s foyer. 2015.


There’s still time to see this set of four intriguing exhibitions, and to meet one of the artists.

Mariah Anne Johnson, who is part of Megan Rook-Koepsel’s Homeward(BOUND), will be conducting a drop-in workshop on First Thursday, April 2, from 5 – 6:30 pm. This workshop is free, and open to the public.

Johnson will describe her process, and lead participants in the creation of a temporary installation in AAC’s foyer.

written by Narwan Aimen, journalist and AAC volunteer

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